Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pacific Northwest, here we are!!

I left you last as we were spending Labor Day weekend in Vancouver, BC and enjoying the city life! We explored the Gaslight district a bit and saw a steam powered clock along the sidewalk. There were live bands playing all over and I got to do a bit of shopping:) In the West End, they had rainbow colored crosswalks which we really liked! Plus, an amazing Himalayan restaurant. It was delicious food, but also a reminder of the devastation that area received with the earthquake.  The city of Vancouver was filled with amazing culture and unique connection to both the sea and the forests. It was a great place to be!
Driving across one of many bridges in Vancouver:)
On our walk through Stanley Park in Vancouver.

These transport ships are giant!

Sea selfie:)
But we had spent our time in the city and our outdoorsie selves were ready to climb some rocks! Our next stop is a mecca of the climbing community, Squamish. We had heard whispers of amazing things, but have been let down in the past by having high expectations. Carefully, we made our way through the winding road squished between Howe Sound and the rock formations of old. As we turned the final bend, "The Chief" greeted us with his massive stature and cast a long shadow over us. We looked up in amazement and found a campsite just under his watch.
Climbing in Squamish.

Beauty in the small things:)
To be living and being so close to such a huge rock formation was amazing!!! We could wake up and walk to a multi-pitch climb just feet from our campsite! There were lots of other climbers about and as we drove by one of the parking lots, I recognized two bad ass girls we had met a few times before at different climbing places. Tara and Polly take on some epic routes and are really awesome people! It was great to hear what they had been climbing and find out some of the ins and outs of Squamish.
Another person we knew from climbing in California, Michelle, lives in Squamish. She drives a VW Rabbit and I kept an eye out for her car the first few days we were there. Finally, as we walked back to our campsite one night, she was pulling in to go bouldering! We got to catch up and she told us about a yoga class on Saturday mornings at the Farmer's Market. Zach and I ran from our campsite Saturday morning to the class and I got to stretch my stiff self alongside Michelle. I am always the one who needs lots of corrections during the class, but the instructor really helped me do the moves right and it was a lot of fun:)
We ate out for breakfast and said goodbye to Michelle. There is a strong wind that usually blows in from Howe Sound and windsurfing is very popular. Zach and I walked out to watch them and got to see a great view of Howe Sound with "The Chief." This really is the perfect place to be a climber!!!
A nice rest after following one of Zach's leads on a 5.10 finger crack!
Zach and I racked up some proud climbs while we were in Squamish! I lead a wet 5.8 crack that was a lot of fun, but a little muddy. We also shared a multi-pitch climb where I lead a 5.9 pitch and Zach lead the 5.10c pitches above! Its always fun sharing leads and helping to push each other. Our favorite day and climb was "Right Wing." It is on the "Slhanay" formation and climbs a very prominent crack separating the light and dark rock with an added bonus of a giant flake at the top. I lead the first 3 pitches of 5.8 (Eagle Domain) and an aide pitch through wet and slimy rock. Zach took on the endurance pitches called "The Filibusterer" and did AMAZING! He lead these tough pitches with out falling or taking on the rope!! It was so fun climbing with him and we were exhausted at the top!
Zach starting up the Filibuster Pitch!

Zach getting psyched to climb to climb a big crack!!!

So happy with his #6:)
The next day we were so tired and took the day off. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next week showed lots and lots of rain. We decided our time in this amazing area had come to a natural end and we were so happy with what we had accomplished. Squamish, you are our new favorite climbing area!!!
We stressed about getting across the border with our home inside our van, but the US Border Agent was really excited about our trip and only questioned us further because he wanted to figure out how to do it himself. It was a fun welcome back into the US where we could find free camping!!!
My grandparent's friends live in Bellingham, WA and we took one morning to pop in and say hi to Art and Nan. Art took us on a fun drive to view the mountains. Unfortunately, the clouds blocked our view, but we had fun chatting with Art. He took us out to a wonderful lunch at a little diner on our way back. Vanventuring is a great way to connect with people and we enjoy being able to stop in and see friends!
Our morning with Art:)
Our next climbing stop was Index, a few hours outside of Seattle. It was a really great place to lead crack climbs!! It has lots of hard climbs, but I was able to lead my first 5.10a crack climb (Breakfast of Champions)!! I loved it so much and had to try so hard to get it without falling. The gear placements were so fun and the hand jams inside the crack were solid!! It was a goal of mine on the trip to lead a 5.10 trad climb so I was pretty excited to get it! I could not have done it without Zach coming with me, belaying me, and encouraging me up the climb.
This is my 10a crack, Breakfast of Champions!

Zach repelling down after our climb:)
It was raining that day and I was not sure about leading it. I got up early that morning and rain to the base of the climb to see if it was still dry. There was no water running down the route and the rock felt dry. I had been reading my friends posts on facebook about invisible illness week and she struggles with a disease that affects feeling in her hands and feet, among lots of other things. She is a strong climbing, but is limited by the illness. She wrote some very encouraging posts and I really felt like I had no excuse, but to get out there and try this climb. So, I dedicate my climb to you, Ange! Thanks for helping me get out there!
View from the top in Index!
After my climb, the rain turned from drizzling to pouring and we headed into Seattle to meet up with our good friend, Adrian at Seattle Bouldering Project. He hooked us up with a day pass that including SHOWERS!!! I was so very excited and cannot thank Adrian enough:) We had a lot of fun bouldering inside while it rained cats and dogs outside! And the shower. Oh the shower was so refreshing:)
Zach's cousin, Miles, lives in Seattle as well, so we got to meet him for dinner that night! He girlfriend, Kila and her daughter, Aaliyah. We had such a great time getting to know them and completely failed to take a picture with them! Although, I think Aaliyah may have snapped a few on her game pad:) Thank you Dan and Mel for dinner! It was awesome:)
Adrian took us on a tour of Seattle the next morning and introduced us to some yummy food and cool sites in the Public Market. We also had some amazing finds at the Goodwill near the climbing gym. Seattle was a great stop for us!
The only time the Space Needle could be seen out of the clouds:)

Market selfie!

Happy flowers!!!
Now we are hanging out in Leavenworth, WA trying to get in shape for bouldering again. We tried a bouldering day in Squamish and felt very, very weak, but its good for us to try hard and push ourselves, so today I am going to try and send a project I have been working. It is a V5 that is a roof crack with hand and finger jams:) Right up my trad climbing ally! I can do all the moves and just need to put them all together!! Zach already got it done, so once I get that, we can do some more multi-pitch climbing!! We already did a few days of bouldering and one day of crack climbing. Zach did some aide climbing and I tried the aide technique on top rope. Its pretty fun!!
Oh bouldering!

I got it!!

The awkward positions bouldering gets me in:)

Zach looking strong!

My bouldering project, "No Pain, No Gain"
Fall is my favorite season and an awesome season for climbing!! We are so excited about the next few months and all the climbing we have ahead of us!! Our final months of the vanventure begin and I think they will be our best yet!!!
Zach and his aide hooks:) So happy!!

Aide climbing!!

Zach partaking in his cultural heritage:)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

International Vanventures:)

Our time in the great white north has been fun! There is so much climbing up here, yet the weather makes it hard to climb very often. We have gotten multiple days of climbing in and really enjoyed some amazing views of the Rocky Mountains. The other days, we were socked in with low clouds, rain, and even snow one day! Even on the rainy days, the location was superb. My favorite climb in Canmore was "Joy," a 5.8 trad climb that was 9 pitches long. Zach and I simulclimbed a good chunk of it. It was a full day, but we both had a blast. The feature is just begging to be climbed. It was also just an hour from the parking lot to the start of the climb. It doesn't get much better than that!!

After the rain/snow in Canmore.
Some blue skies and a rainbow (didn't come out in the picture)
We also got to spend time with another couple we met in Utah. Tom and Sarah were doing a summer climbing trip through the USA, but are settling back down in Calgary. Luckily, we caught back up with them at the end of their trip while they were spending time with family in Canmore, Alberta. Tom has been climbing in this area for years and Sarah knows her way around as well. It was great! We hiked Heart Mountain after it had snowed and enjoyed a snowball fight on the way up, in August! Sarah was excited to introduce us to Poutine and we got to go to Canmore's best Poutine location. I ordered a bit to much food and ended up feeling very, very full afterwards! It was well worth it though! Poutine is french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds plus whatever else you want to add. I picked hot dogs:) It was a fun Canadian tradition to take part it:) There was also an epic battle of Settlers of Catan and both the Sarah's were victorious!!! It was my first time winning the game and I was pretty stoked:)
My first bite of Poutine!
We also got to enjoy their hot tub a few evenings, which was fantastic! A trip to Lake Louise was fun and we got to enjoy both sport and trad pitches for the day. The lake is situated in a very beautiful setting and the pictures on the signs looked great. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by smoke from the wild fires to our West and could not see very far into the beautiful scenery. Ultimately, the smoke pushed us to move on to another area and try and find fresh air! It was sad saying goodbye to Tom and Sarah, but we can't wait to come back to Alberta and have another Settlers rematch:) Thanks for an awesome time guys!!!
In moving to the West, we found the smoke stayed about the same. What did finally get the smoke to move on was days and days of rain. Thankfully, we got a day in at Waterworld near Revelstoke, British Columbia. It was such a fun day!! The climbs were all below us along the water and we had to repel from the top to get to the bottom and climb back up. The biggest issue to deal with was keeping the rope out of the water as we got close to the bottom. It was pretty funny all the things we were doing to keep it dry, but overall, we were pretty successful! The climbing was very fun, but it did have some loose parts we had to push past. The fact that the water was right below you was pretty comforting and if it had been warmer, I would have happily jumped in. It was one of my favorite days of climbing we have done this trip. I loved the setting and really enjoyed the climbing. If you are ever in that area, check out Waterworld!!

Since Waterworld, we have been at war with the rain. Our tactics have been to pick the climbing area that has the smallest chance of rain. Usually, we can find one that is only 20% or so. We get to the area and hike into the climbs. As soon as we see a bolt or even talk about climbing, small drops of rain begin to fall on our heads. I stubbornly say I'm going to climb anyway, its not that much rain after all! As I put my shoes on and begin climbing up, the rain intensifies to the point I can't really look up anymore with out being blinded by incoming rain missiles. Sadly, I retreat back to Zach who is also getting drenching and we move back to the car to go find a place to dry out. Once, we got two climbs in and would have probably kept climbing except 20 people filed out of the woods and started climbing around us. There were only a few climbs that were not getting wet and waiting in the rain for a climb seemed a bit silly to us. Also, with 20 climbers came 40 dogs, so it was a bit crowded and the dogs were all nice and wet. We moved on, but it was fun to get a few pitches in. 
During our battle with the weather, we moved from Revelstoke to Vernon, to Kamloops and then on the Hope. We traded our climbing shoes in for hiking shoes and tried to make the best of the rainy days. I even went swimming in the rain one day to shake things up:) It was a beautiful river and we were the only ones around. It was a lot of fun to accept the wetness and just dive right in:) We also saw another black bear, which makes four total for wild bears. It was nice to be in our car this time so I enjoyed seeing him a bit more.

As we looked up the forecast for the coming weekend (Sept 4-6), we saw the weather was finally giving way and the sun was winning out!!! And then we realized it was Labour Day (we are in Candada;) Weekend and every one was going to be out in the wilderness with us! As much as we wanted to climb, we decided a break in town would do us some good. Zach found a great deal on a hotel in Vancouver and I did some Groupon shopping for deals on fun things to do.
Saturday, we went  to the World Festival which was free! It was a celebration of food, art, dance, and music. There was a performance of the Chinese Opera, a Native American dance, and an Indain Ballywood dance. We also loved the poetry slam!! One of my favorite bands, Matt and Kim. I love their lives shows and Zach even put me on his shoulders! Kim totally pointed at me and cheered! We had a moment:) It was great!!! Today we are planning to wander around the city a bit. Our holiday weekend should be fun and then we can get back outside when its a little less crazy:)
The Catanese Opera about Princess Ping.

Water sleeves!! These girls did a great demonstration!

Matt and Kim!!!

Kim dancing on top of the crowd:)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Peaks and Valleys

It has been over one year since we set out on this vanventure. In that time, we have toured many states, met loads of great people, gotten married, learned how to live in a van, and learned a lot about ourselves! The peaks have been amazing and filled my heart with the joy and thirst for life I have always searched for! Being able to choose where we go and what we do is a great gift! 
It also makes for a lot of decision making and working together as a team. Zach and I have always laughed when people say they could never live in a van together for as long as we have because it really is pretty easy for us. However, during this last rainy bout we dealt with in Canada, we both got a good picture of what people were talking about. We didn't have an outlet for a lot of our energy and we sat inside the van a lot. There is not a lot of new topics for conversation that come up from staring out the front window all day at the rain. I started looking at our relationship a little too closely and began getting too critical of myself and Zach. It got pretty tense at times and we had some epic battles. The van started feeling pretty small. 
But a huge plus for dealing with relationship issues while living in a van is, you have to deal with them. There's no escaping to work or to a friend's house. There were no other activities to keep us from working on what needed to be worked on. This proved to be both good and bad. I've learned that sometimes its nice to walk away from a problem for awhile and deal with it at a later time. But it can also be good to just forge ahead and deal with the issue all at once. Thankfully, we were able to deal with our issues and make our relationship stronger! 
Living in a van with your spouse has its difficulties, but I feel our home made us deal with our differences and learn how to support each other a lot faster then we might have in a bigger house with other responsibilities. I'm not sure exactly why I'm sharing this on the blog, except that its a part of our vanventures. Lots of people tell us how lucky we are and how exciting our trip is and we agree whole-heartily with them. But it is still real life and there are still emotions and issues that come up for us too. Because we are in our van, we have things we have to deal with that others probably don't, but we also get the benefit of being together to deal with those things. I'm sure there will be more peaks and valleys to come,
and I'm happy to take on them both with my vanventuring husband, Zach:)