Ticks and Snakes. Snakes and Ticks.

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Part time climbers. Full time goofballs.

Four days and three nights later, we had our first mini road trip with Big Bettie/Bette, the burgundy van. Survived the Coquihalla(!), survived all that nature threw at us (read wood ticks, ants, pine needles and rattle snakes), climbed till our finger tips were raw and our feet ached; and worked out all the kinks with Bette.

Our mini road trip took us to Skaha Bluffs, near Penticton, located in the beautiful British Columbian Okanagan Valley.

Neither Laura nor I had ventured out to Skaha before, a blasphemy of sorts, as Skaha is an incredibly accessible crag, surrounded by beautiful nature. Whilst driving to Skaha, I began to understand exactly why the BC license plate contained, the catch phrase “Beautiful British Columbia”. We picked an excellent weekend to head out to Skaha.

Truth be told, it’s never really a “bad” time to go to Skaha, as it is a desert there. This meant that there would never really be a shortage of bad weather to climb in. However, this did mean we would encounter nature at, in my opinion, it’s scariest- being incredibly weary of snakes, and as I was to find out, wood ticks. These two forces of nature had me incredibly paranoid throughout the entirety of our trip. First, that we would run into a snake, or two, while exploring a crag; and second, that we would be the unfortunate victims of wood ticks- spider look-a-likes that, if given the opportunity, burrow deep within your skin, thirsting for blood. Painting a scary enough picture? Awesome, now you understand how those three climbing days in Skaha felt.

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Wandering the Skaha Bluffs

Getting to Skaha from Vancouver takes approximately 450km, or about five hours. We got there relatively quickly, and upon a suggestion from a fellow climber, and friend, stayed at the Banbury Green RV Park and Campground. I was throughly impressed with the site and facilities. For $10 a night, per person; we received a site right on the lake, with a hot shower and clean facilities. Not dirtbag enough? Well, it was that, paying $35 a night at a provincial park or illegally camping in the parking lot at the Skaha Bluffs….which was the better option? You decide.

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Camp set up, we’ve got this down pack

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North Bay, Site 30. Right on the lake.

Each day consisted of getting up early in the morning, making camp style coffee and pancakes, lunch; and hustling out to the crags to maximize daylight, as well as to climb as much as possible.

The climbing in Skaha was much different that in comparison to Squamish. Skaha climbing was incredibly skinny, edgy, thin, crimpy and technical. On the routes we got on, exposure was a real and serious thing. Climbing outdoors, isn’t necessarily all about physicality. It’s one part physical and one part mental. The exposure of some climbs, as well as the commitment needed with some routes, can have you seriously wounded up in your head. Sometimes, you know the movement required, to get to your next quick draw, but you can’t do it. All because of fear. Paralyzing you. Coursing through your entire body. I could write an entire post, on how one route brought me face to face with my internal struggles of being high on the wall. Grading here felt stiff. A simple 10a, felt as if it could be an 11a in Squamish, although I’ve heard Squamish climbing to be graded rather softly.

What this all means in non-climbing lingo? 
That the climbing here was -excuse my French- a hell of a lot harder and pushed my comfort zones to the max. It was not my style and “easy” climbs, felt incredibly difficult, and felt as if I need to place a lot more mental, and physical energy on the task at hand.

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Laura, gearing up for a tough crack at a pumpy, fun route

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Just airing them shoesies out after a day at the crag…

The verdict on Skaha? The climbing here was definitely fun and worth visiting, especially as a weekend birthday get away for Laura. We both decided that we would love to come revisit Skaha, and pursue harder routes. The climbing itself was difficult for me, as it didn’t play to my strengths, it did; however, highlight my weaknesses and what I need to work on to improve my climbing game. Laura, on the other hand, looked like a seasoned pro on the routes. I suppose it helped the climbing style played in her favour. I admit, she made me look like a newbie in comparison.

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Happy Birthday, Laura!

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Birthday celebrations. Check. Mascot. Check.

The verdict on our mini road trip? It was a great first experience with Big Bette! With careful thought and preparation, the visions and dreams of Bette was finally put into working order. The van revamp was a success, and I can happily say that there were no real kinks or issues with the van. She ran smoothly, and had lots of storage space, provided you packed accordingly- think minimalist. The only thing that we foresaw as real “issues” were: our music and laundry situation, as well as whether or not we were going to bring my crashpad. All fairly easy solutions.

As for our van name? We finally named her! I personally wanted to call our van Big Bertha, Laura nixed that idea, as she imagined an elderly lady with a mole on her face. Guess she didn’t want that imagery associated with our mobile home. Bettie was our (or shall I say, Laura’s) next option, as we Laura felt our van needed what sounded like a traditional North American name, as she was a good ol’ GMC “truck”. A few good laughs were had, about how we would be patting our van hood, and yelling COME ON BIG BETTE! as she putted her way up a steep hill. I was against the name Bettie, as it reminded me of a family friend; and I was somewhat mortified at the thought of naming a van, a name that induced memories of a sweet, blonde, older lady. I didn’t really want her thinking that our rugged, vagabond vehicle could be a comparison. However,  I was also somehow vetoed down, and the compromise we came to was spelling the name differently than that of my family friend.

The overall experience this past weekend was amazing. I, unfortunately, now have the blues; and am anxiously awaiting my next adventure.
If I could live out any quote, it’d have to be from Jack Keourac “The mountains are calling, and I must go…”

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