Climbing and Camper Life in Tieton River

After a long and very comfortable stint in Alberta it was finally time to hit the road again. Our stay was filled with a great deal of family time, as the Renborg side of the family had gathered from Nova Scotia and Sweden to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. As I’m sure most can relate to, any such family reunion will have highs and lows, but it was a special time and it brought us all closer together. The rest of our time was spent working on the camper and getting it ship shape for the next leg of our voyage.

Heading south from Calgary marked the beginning of a new, more committing chapter of our journey. If things went to plan I wouldn’t see home again for over a year. As I’ve always found when I’ve gotten comfortable somewhere, the prospect of leaving came with its share of feelings of anxiety. There’s something in human nature that compels us to cling to comfort.

A good friend’s father shared this piece of career advice; “Once you stop learning at your job, quit and get a new one”. He’s currently the president and CEO of a large shipping company. It’s worked for him. I think it’s great advice and it relates right back to clinging to comfort, because if you don’t leave your comfort zone, you don’t learn. It may seem odd to interpret this advice as justification for dirtbagging it in a camper for a year, but if you’re interested in stepping out of your comfort zone I can attest that driving the Pan American Highway is a very effective way to do it.

For me, there are few better ways to venture outside my comfort zone than by donning a harness climbing some rock. So it was fitting that our first extended stop would be at Tieton River in Washington to climb some walls with fellow Toyota Motorhome dwellers and totally rad climbers Pete and Patty. For the record, Pete and Patty are are getting after it harder than pretty much anyone I know. They have resolved to work part of the year, and spend the rest of their time climbing the best spots on North America. We met in Squamish, British Columbia and immediately bonded over our mutual interests; rock climbing and living in Toyota motorhomes.

We rolled into Tieton River, and as planned Pete and Patty were there on the side of the road to meet us and lead the way to a beautiful campsite right by the river. It was great to reconnect. We come from different generations, but our vision and philosophies on life are much the same.

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All that reconnecting led to a bit of a late start for our first day climbing in Tieton River, but eventually we got going and headed to Royal Columns, a beautiful wall of andesite pillars. It’s the most popular crag in the area but it wasn’t crowded. We quickly discovered that grades in Tieton River are pretty stiff, or “stoic” as another climber aptly put it. Suffice it to say Tieton River schooled us. Luckily we had Pete and Patty, rope guns extraordinaire, to put us on some really fun climbs. The Royal Columns crag offers a variety hand and fist sized single and parallel cracks, as well as a worthwhile off-width crack. We climbed all afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful sunset as it lit up the rock walls and the long grass in the river Canyon.

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The following day we decided to go check out a wacky looking wall called Rainbow Rock, named so because of it’s multi-toned rock spattered with striking green lichen. The approach was long by Tieton River standards and a bit of a bush wack. We worked our way up to the crag taking in the interesting rock formations along the way. Rainbow rock offered a mix of variable quality climbing ranging from a cruisey finger crack to awkward and techy face climbing. We finished the day off at Bron Yr Aur Brewery in Naches, Wa with some very tasty pizza and IPAs.

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We had a fantastic time at Tieton River with Pete and Paddy, but it was time to hit the road again. They stayed to keep climbing in the area, and we hit the road for the Oregon coast to finally find some waves.

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