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  • Kelley Bayern

Mountain Mentors

Spring is a time of the year that gives me life. It's a cue for me to pull out my tent and check my sleeping pad for holes. My hiking boots still have dirt on them from last year. I see my camp stove and start to brainstorm future menus. And I can hear it from my 6th floor apartment. The walls are calling and I must go.

I have been on some awesome adventures already this Spring that I wish I had blogged about. To name a few big ones:

  • In mid-March, Elise and I kicked off the season with an extended weekend of climbing at Red Rock outside of Las Vegas. We climbed under blue skies, hit the night clubs on the strip, and won some money at Caesar's Palace. It was a win-win-win.

  • I took a ski trip into the Mt. Baker backcountry for some wild turns near Artist Point.

  • I soaked in the heavy juniper scents at Smith Rock State Park and climbed with the Tri-Cities crew.

  • Elise and I then tried to scramble up the Rabbit Ears just north of Beacon Rock in the Gorge. We failed. We'll have a vlog on that soon. Click here for more.

My recent adventure to the Royal Columns in Tieton, WA was finally something I felt compelled to write about. The trip had the same elements as all my adventures do - gorgeous mountain views, ropes, and a solid crew of friends. But this time around, I was learning how to trad climb.

For those who have no idea what this is - trad climbing is a style of climbing where the climber places all the protective gear themselves as they climb up. There are no bolts in place to clip in to. That is the difference between trad and sport climbing. Many people get sketched out by trad climbing, not only because there is a higher risk of injury, but because you tend to climb up crack systems, which involves a different technique. The massive element of trust you must have in yourself can also be a barrier. If you fall, you can only hope the gear you place will hold and catch you. The entire weekend in Tieton was devoted to learning how to place gear safely. Thankfully, I've got friends who are absolutely stoked on trad climbing and were willing to show me their ways.

The weekend started in the sunshine. The Royal Columns is a crag that overlooks the beautiful Tieton River and Highway-12 just west of Yakima. The recent April rains had rejuvenated the foilage, which popped against the blue sky. Wild flowers were in full bloom. Massive cracks ran up and down the crag and formed columns stacked next to each other. The cracks were what we'd be climbing. My friend Steve, a chemist by weekday, dirtbag come the weekend, brought all the gear and his rack of cams. He set up a mock-leading system, which meant that we'd be climbing on two ropes. One was set up on top rope to keep us on belay at all times and the other was used to mock lead while placing gear and practicing falls. We did this all afternoon. The temperatures started to rise but I was feeling pretty comfortable with the concept of camming and jamming my hands into very small places.

So why trad climb and add more risk to an already dangerous sport? To me, I see this as a gateway to larger mountain pursuits. If you know how to protect yourself up a mountain, you can essentially explore anywhere. I have goals to send remote alpine peaks in the Cascades with skis strapped to my pack. I won't be limited to developed climbing areas that people have bolted routes on. I can go further into the backcountry and scope out the bears.

I want to give a big shoutout to Steve for willing to take a weekend and mentor me in trad climbing. I know too many people who have paid hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, to learn an outdoorsy hobby. Meanwhile, I have always been lucky enough to find and befriend those to take me out to the walls and up the highest summits in the PNW. The moral of all this is to be a mentor to others when you can. I believe that if the love for your hobby is that strong, you will dive at the opportunity to teach someone about it.

The weekend finished up with Steve's famous breakfast burritos, sandal tan lines over my toes, and a fresh stoke to the fire that fuels my outdoor goals. Cheers to my close community of climbing friends who make all of my weekends into epic adventures. It's time to plan some alpine ascents this summer. I do already have one in mind. In a few weekends, I'll be climbing The Tooth!

#TradIsRad

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