Cragging along the Tieton River

June 3-10, 2007

We spent a week near Yakima, climbing at the Royal Columns and The Bend, two of the most popular cragging areas along the Tieton River. Short approaches and great crack climbing on basalt columns (mostly trad, although there are also some good bolted faces). There is some info in "Rock Climbing Washington" by Jeff Smoot, but "Tieton River Rocks" by Ford and Yoder is the most comprehensive guidebook to the Tieton area (we bought our copy at the Trout Lodge, on Hwy 12, nine miles from the junction with Road 410).

At the Royal Columns, there is something for everyone; quality climbs from 5.3 to 5.11a are plentiful. Most are really excellent climbs, with what felt like relatively fair ratings. We thought that the lower grades here are probably one grade harder than advertised, in contrast with the 5.9-and-above range that felt fair to soft. Really fun climbing, plentiful pro, and lots of features (edges on faces) in addition to the cracks. Find a few subjective recommendations below.

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The Royal Columns, the most popular crag in the Tieton river area.
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Parked at the large pull-out just below the Royal Columns.
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Great crack climbing on basalt columns.
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From 5.3 (our friend Donna leading "Western Front")...
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...to 5.11 (Eric on "Solar King")...

Our subjective recommendations (Royal Columns):

"Western Front" (5.3), "Good Timer" (5.4), "Double Trouble" (5.5), "Level Head" (5.6), "Bridger" (5.6), "Mush Maker" (5.7), "Little Known Wonder (5.7), "X Factor" (5.8), "Jam Exam" (5.9), "Inca Roads" (5.9), "Orange Sunshine" (5.10b), "Paul Maul" (5.10c), "Solar King" (5.11a).

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...and everything in between - "Double Trouble" (5.5)
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Lucie on "Level Head" (5.6).
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"Jam Exam", a great 5.9 hand/fist crack.
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Views.
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Another good 5.6: "Twin Cracks", just left of "Double Trouble".
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Lucie on the "Cutting Edge" (5.7).
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Starting "Paul Maul" (5.10c), a great, sustained finger crack.
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"X factor" (5.8).
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Eric approaching the crux on "Orange Sunshine" (5.10b).
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Lucie high on one of the best 5.7s at Royal Columns, "Little Known Wonder", just to the right of the classic "Inca Road".

You will almost certainly see ratlle snakes basking in the sun on the trail, or entering their caves at the base of the routes. We saw 5 rattlers during our 8-day stay; more than we ever saw climbing in the southwest. I was climbing "Thriller Pillar Direct", the bolted 5.9 left of "Orange Sunshine"; as I was finishing this climb (at the crux), I heard Lucie scream… WTF? A large rattlesnake had just sneaked past her, right on top of the rope bag and rope, and got into a small cave at the base of the climb… spooky. This was the 4th rattler we had seen in 4 days at the crag! There really are a lot of them here!

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Stemming up "Little Known Wonder" (5.7).
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Eric on another good 5.9, "Developing Arms".
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Lucie on a very good double crack climb: "Bridger" (5.6).
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Going through the elk gate on the short approach.
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Looking back at the crag from the trailhead.

We also spent two days climbing at the Bend. Many good 5.10s there, but we also found a couple of good 5.7s and 5.9s. We have yet to do the classic 5.8 of the area: "Ed's Jam". Hopefully, we will be back! Below are our very subjective recommendations.

Some recommendations (The Bend):

"Private Passion" (5.7), "Hallowed Ground" (5.9), "Mutiny in Manila" (5.10a), "Sugar Kicks" (5.10c), "Heartbreak of Psioriasis" (5.10c), "Pure Joy" (5.10c), Winds of Change" (5.10d).

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The Bend, another great crag along the Tieton River (mostly 5.10s).
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The suspension bridge makes for a straightforward approach.
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Eric starting "Sugar Kicks" (5.10c).
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Lucie on "Private Passion" (5.7).
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"Pure Joy" (5.10c).

We saw two rattlers at the Bend, one basking on the approach trail and another one that apparently inhabits the boulder at the base of "Private Passion". After climbing the route, Lucie went to get her shoes at the base of the boulder. I started hearing a very loud rattle and wondered why screams didn't follow. Then Lucie asked "what's that?"! I thought it was pretty obvious… told her to quickly move back up onto the boulder. A medium-sized snake, obviously bothered by our presence was stationed right there in the middle of the trail… we had to do a high traverse on the rock to avoid it. Wow!

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Just below the crux on "Pure Joy" (5.10c).
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Smiiile!
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Eric on another good 10c, "Heartbreak of Psioriasis".
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Our favorite, "Winds of Change" (5.10d, short crux).
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Hiking back to the car - watch out for rattlers!.