On October 8, we finally headed east after a fantastic summer season in the Cascades. After a week-long stop at Frenchman Coulee, we drove into Spokane where we were to meet Gary and his colleagues at Omega Pacific, who had graciously offered to give us some of their gear to try.

From Spokane, we continued east to Missoula and to a climbing area we had heard good things about, Blodgett Canyon, just 40 miles south of town. Blodgett is home to several awesome granite buttresses, with traditional multi-pitch climbs up to 900 feet high, in a beautiful setting. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, there is a fair amount of loose rock, and protection is sometimes difficult.

On October 20, we got up early to attempt the Southwest Buttress (5.10) on Nez Perce. This turned out to be a bad choice. The route is difficult to follow, and we found ourselves on tricky, hard to protect 5.9 terrain on the second pitch. Not sure where to go, and not really enjoying the climbing anyway, we decided to bail. A few days later in Missoula, we found a local guidebook that confirmed our impression of the route. If I remember correctly, it quoted one of the first ascentionists describing the route as "the scariest thing I have ever climbed!" I guess we made the right decision.

On the approach that morning, Eric was feeling a bit down. Sure enough, the next morning he woke up with a nasty flu which kept him in bed for the next 4 days. By the time he felt better again, the temperatures had fallen sharply and were hovering below freezing during the day. To make things worse, our heater had broken down again, only a week after replacing the control circuitry. Instead of waiting for better weather, we headed back to Missoula for a few days to fix it.

On the 27th, the weather improved again. We were psyched about a couple of routes after chatting with other climbers in Missoula. We found ourselves back at the free campground in Blodgett Canyon that evening. The next morning, we hiked the long approach to Shoshone buttress to climb the standard route, an easier and much more popular route. The weather did not look so good though. We arrived at the base of the rock in freezing temperatures and a gale force wind. Clouds were moving in fast. We weren't anxious to freeze our butts all day on an exposed buttress. We gave up again. A few minutes later, it was snowing.

Enough of this already. I guess the season was over. We needed to be in Banff, Alberta by early November to attend the Mountain Film Festival (and hopefully start the ice climbing season) so it was about time to start thinking about heading north anyway. The weather had turned really cold (10 F at night). We stop in Missoula to drain all our tanks as it was becoming impossible to keep them from freezing. The heater was working again, but since we can't afford to run the heater much at night for fear of running our batteries down, temperatures inside the bus dropped well below freezing every night. Dry camping from now on, then.

After a very cold Halloween night, we left Missoula. We made it to Banff the next day.

Washington State to Canmore, AB

November 1-2, 2003
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Driving through Idaho...
 
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...and into Montana.
 
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Beautiful Blodgett Canyon.
 
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Early morning approach in Blodgett Canyon.
 
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Nez Perce Buttress.
 
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Lucie leading the first pitch of the Southwest Buttress on Nez Perce.
 
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A bit of publicity for our sponsors (we like their motto!).
 
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Downtown Missoula
 
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Pumpkin carving.
 
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Trick or treat!
 
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Steep passes through Kootenai National Park, British Columbia.
 
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Arriving in the Canadian Rockies (Highway 93 North through Kootenai).
(high res. images are about 300KB)