Royal Coulmns Area

March 31, 2001

It is finally time for spring rock climbing and that means going East. Phil and I decided to drive over to the Royal Columns area over by Yakima to test our skills against steep solid cracks. Leaving at 7am was a nice departure time from Seattle, and we soon arrived in the Oak Creek (?) canyon. We pulled over to the obvious pullout for the Royal Columns area, at an old bridge spanning the river. Aparently this bridge is no longer safe for "the public", and the other posted signs indicated that Golden Eagle nesting was occuring, so no climbing! You would also have a hard time breaking this rule, for the government organization (Fish & wildlife) office is right across the street from the columns! Phil and I exchanged a worried look and drove up the canyon to find other hopefully open areas.

We passed by The Bend, but due to it's only one moderate route (a 5.8), we decided to start our spring rock on something easier. We decided that Moon Rocks was the best place, harboring a .7 and a .6 that seemed to fit the bill. Unfortunatly, everything else in the book for the area was .10a+, but undaunted, we made our way across the river and up the hill to the steep columns.

Everything looked intimidating, from Paul Bovings 140 ft. .11c to the modest but steep .6 "double cracks". It was cold, we were rusty, so we scoped out some non-book cracks on the far left edge of the formation. These were mostly steep hand to fist cracks that lay between the colums, and climbed the height of the cliff. I pretty much drew the short straw, so it was my lead. I headed up a nice hand crack in an open book until it steepened and became off-width. Nervous on my first rock lead since September, I bypassed the 5.9 section above by escaping left to another open-book crack. Upon getting there I was met with another rough, dirty flaring crack. Crap! I didn't want a comitting climb! So left I went again, finally finding a beautiful continous dihedral with nice hand and finger cracks. I ran about half of the rope up this until the drag was undesirable, then set an anchor and brought Phil up. Phil was as rusty as I, and aplauded my segway away from the scary steep cracks. He finished the lead through a short off-width and then up loose blocks to the top. The cracks seemed kind of mossy, who knows if it's been climbed before.

The topo for the 1st route Phil and I climbed. Start just up and left of the chimney route (.7) listed in Smoot's book.

Phil and I coiled up the rope and plodded uphill to some cool looking geological formations that we hoped would yield short fun routes. Phil lead a 20 section of crack on a about-to-fall-on-his-belayer column. We then walked over to a nicer formation (read: more solid), and found a delightful fist crack (~5.8) which we ran two lead/follow laps on. About now we were getting hungry, so we humped the gear back down the hill a few hundred feet in our ever-tight rock shoes.

A quick snack and a short drooling at the long hard routes, brought us around to the far right side where short steep crack systems lead up the height of the cliff. It was Phil's turn to lead, so he headed up a neat slot chimney, and then up steep cracks to a belay at about 100 feet. The climbing here made for strange leading and went as follows: Climb crack to ledge, reach high and place a piece, climb crack right above big ankle breaking ledge, repeat. Eventually wandering around the cliff to "select" the nicest cracks lead to terrible rope drag, and I saw Phil going for moves with a coil of rope in his hands (he thinks: this sucks). But the line he picked was a superb mix of many crack techniques! Squeeze chimney, thin fingers, perfect hands, fingers & stems, and offwidth groveling! As I had sucumbed to earlier, Phil had early season jitters, so I finished off the last two crack/ledges to the walk-off. Overall an excellent route with fairly clean and fun cracks climbing the height of the cliff on the right side of the obvious buttress. Again, not in our book, or perhaps any...

Phil's excellent crack route topo --exclusive!

On the walk off I spied just what I'd been looking for all day-- a short, non-committing but hard finger crack. After scoping it out, racking up in "hard climbing" mode, and eating a packet of GU (thanks Phil!), I sent the very mossy but nice finger-jam crack without falling! It was about 15-20 feet tall and probably .10a/b. The price for this climb ended up being two ticks while I belayed Phil up to the ledge. I thought it was a lot nicer option than broken ankles! :)

On the drive back into Yakima to find some 7-layer tacobell burritos, Phil spied tick on my head. "Don't move! It's not going anywhere," he said, so I calmly pulled off to the side of the road. I got out and beat/scratched at my hair like crazy, but the buggar wouldn't come off! Eventually Phil got out and plucked it off my hair. We then burned it, during which it died amazingly quickly. Fear then set in at the thought of more ticks in unknown places. With the 4-way flashers going and traffic rolling by, Phil and I proceeded to look like a couple of monkeys picking bugs out of each others hair. Luckily no more were found, but the incident has left us paranoid... From what I hear, it is going to be a ticky season. So a few tips: check yourself and partner regularly through the day, especially in the nape of the neck, and any warm hairy place like the back of your legs, arm pits, etc. If you get a tick and it's not buried in your skin, just pick it off. If it's been "at the bar" for a few hours, you'll probably want to be more careful for pulling it out can leave the jaws in you. Try bringing a quick lighter flame onto the tick, and then soaking the area in water to loosen the skin. Then pull out the dead sucker! Check your gear too, for migration of ticks into your home sucks!

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