The Pontoon Weekend
"On a pontooooon. Makin' waves and catchin' rays up on the rooooof." That song has been stuck in my head since getting back from one of the coolest adventures, unlike any other, that I've ever been on... And with the planning power of 15 people, we planned out quite the epic weekend.
My group of friends, consisting mostly of rock climbers, headed out Friday night to Banks Lake, a feeder lake near the Grand Coulee Damn in Electric City, WA. The area looks pretty similar to any spot in the eastern or central parts of the state. Gorgeous craggy cliffs with a river running through it, an endless desert hue, and a warm breezy wind. Most of our group arrived at Steamboat State Park to glamour camp for the weekend. We were equipped with our camp stoves, including a high-end propane hibachi grill, marinaded steaks, six dozen eggs, coolers full of beer, and Juanita's Chips & salsa . In the morning, we'd get to pick up our 14 person pontoon and a little john boat to haul our party and our rock climbing gear to crags right off the water.
Saturday morning came fast and we were soon on the river with food, drinks, and climbing gear. The pontoon boat was huge! Imagine a floating couch with enough storage to hold several coolers, climbing ropes, and at least a few trad racks. The sun was shining and we meandered through tight canals until we reached a nice semi-private rock face. We were looking for something that was climbable. Banks Lake is known for is deep water soloing, a type of rope-free climbing over water. If you fall, you get wet. And how far you climb up depends on your courage. We anchored into the river and a few of us jumped in right away. The water was chilly, but I was too high on life to care about anything. THIS WAS SO COOL.
My friend, Bradley, was the first to start climbing. He jumped in and held his hand high above the water carrying his climbing shoes. The vertical wall was probably 90-100 feet tall with deep water flush against its base. It had some jugs, chaucy crimps, and loads of layback pinches that made for a good challenge to climb. Brad navigated his way up 15 feet or so before he let go. And one by one, each of us were jumping into the water with our shoes to give it a go. I'm not the best with heights, unless I'm cinched to a rope, so the climbing was a bit petrifying in addition to a slight breeze and having to let go at the end.
Some of my friends were impressive not only in their climbing skill but with their lack of the fear of heights. I stayed off some of the routes that put me 20+ feet above the water. Yet some of my friends leaped while simultaneously growing chest hair. Yeesh.
Our crew relaxed all day, navigating the lake's channels to other rock faces. We posted up in a cove at one point and explored a wide 20 foot cliff. By the end of the afternoon, almost every single person, including me had jumped. The afternoon carried on and we soon ran out of time and energy to rope climb. We dropped off the boats and headed back to camp for a deluxe dinner of steak fajitas and red wine. The night ended with good conversation and an amazing cotton candy sunset.
Having grown up on the west side in Seattle, I never thought I could love the eastern region so much. It's truly gorgeous, and holds a lot of outdoor adventure that is unlike anything you'd find near the Cascades. I love the desert, I love the rivers, I love the sunsets, I love the climbing, I love the friends who cheered as we jumped, and I loved the new adventure. Cheers to The Pontoon Weekend. This is definitely the start of a new tradition. ⤲
What's next.. I've planned a thru-run & hike of the Enchantments with two of my outdoor chickas at the end of the month. I have done a thru hike there before, which took over 16 hours. I have never tried to "run" that far in my life though. I bought new trail running La Sportivas and have been training a bit with 5 mile runs and the occasional hill run. I'm pretty damn nervous, but I think I'll be ok.