While I was in LA I had got a text from my roommate if I wanted to go climbing in Leavenworth, WA that coming weekend. Around this time I was already pretty busy in intense research. I was making a very important discovery in the medical field: The best cure for the travel bug is being broke. But I've heard stories of this interesting small Bavarian themed town before and didn't want to pass on the opportunity. Count me in. What he failed to mention was that we would be climbing with Lisa Chulich, one of the top 20 female climbers in the world, and all the route setters at The Circuit Bouldering Gym.
I had only been back in Portland for a few days. We left late friday afternoon after picking up one of the most adventurous souls I have ever met, Adam Chechire Edwards. The three of us hit the road east out into The Gorge. Fog was laying thick in the slice of earth, so we took our time. Along the way we came across an unusual situation, a car pulled over to the side of the road while another remained parked about 50 yards off the shoulder in the grass. "People must really love exploring new hiking trails in the Gorge, they will park anywhere!" As we got closer to the cars I could see more cars down the road pulling over as well and people running towards the red car off the shoulder. I looked closely at the red car as we drove by. The windows were broken, the car resembled a soda can that had been kicked around. Inside the car was a woman looking around still sitting in the driver seat. She had just rolled her car off the road. We passed more people pulling over and running to the car. I wanted to help but we continued on into The Gorge until we were out of the fog.
We went far east on the 84 to then cut up north through central Washington. This was all new unexplored territory for me. I was a kid with his face pressed up against the window observing the epic landscape. Seeing the Cascades I could almost imagine as thought the world was falling off itself. As though heading south literally meant you were going down. I figured I coast my bike all the way down to LA if I wanted to. A word to the wise, DO NOT stop in Yakima for a late at night beer. Things get a bit weird there after the sun sets.
Once we arrived in Leavenworth in the late hours of the night we were then given directions by Lisa to drive up into the mountains and down a dark dirt road until we came across railroad tracks. Railroad tracks laid down by a man that owns half of the mountain. That is where everyone is planning to set up camp, right outside of his land in the national park. We were the second group to arrive. Throughout the cold starlit night, caravan after caravan of climbers driving in from Portland sporadically arrived at camp as though they have done this before.
The early morning sun and freezing cold temperature had us up at a ridiculous hour. There was something disorienting about arriving at night that threw me off, I couldn't grasp from which direction we came. Although I could see the sun rising in the east, I still felt like it was west. The mountain we were on was surrounded by other mountains, perched up above Leavenworth that lies in the valley below. Growing up in LA I could always tell which way was north by looking for the San Gabriel Mountains. Here in Leavenworth, you are surrounded by mountains everywhere! Very large steep mountains! It was the Matt Bermuda Triangle for not thinking clearly. Well at least this is my excuse for loosing my wallet on the first day. For a solid three hours I existed in an alternate reality where my perception of my future was completely different from how I planned it. There were moments where I was accepting the idea of nature taking my wallet and convincing myself that I didn't need it. That it was for the better, all part of a bigger plan. Turned out to only be a fire drill. We spent a good amount of effort and time searching that damn thing that turned out to be in a secret jacket pocket. The very pocket I put it in with my keys.
Bouldering started no later than 9AM. Along the river banks surrounding Leavenworth are tons of boulders to climb. It is as simple as pulling off the road to park and then wandering into the forest. Eventually you will come across a giant boulder to climb. My roommate, Adam and I were out of our league climbing with Lisa and the setters, but we hung in there. We started off climbing an easy boulder to warm up. This boulder had a thin slab to grab ahold of, almost like an outer rock shell. The other climbers called it a "flake." It was so thin that if you tapped it, the sound given of was that similar to a dinner plate. It was ready to go any second if you put too much of your weight on it, but it was part of the route. That truth is... never trust a flake.
Bouldering can teach you a lot about life. It's not a sport where you can hulk your way through a problem, it requires total control of yourself. Bouldering takes a lot of patience to understand the problem and understand how far you can push yourself mentally and knowing how far you can body realistically can go physically. It can almost be seen as a metaphor for success and how you, as an individual approach "reaching the top." If you haven't bouldered before, I highly recommend you give it a shot.
The second day we were woken up by extremely strong winds that nearly blew my tent off the mountain... with me in it. I could feel the soreness immediately upon waking up! Other than the day before, I hadn't climbed since early Spring. Right when the sun started to come back out in Portland. The soreness was a blessing in disguise. I did do a bit of climbing to stay warm, but mainly held tight to my camera to take pictures of the amazing people who came together for this trip.