Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tieton River Rock Climbing

Looking for some hard edged adventure this weekend, George W and I traveled to Eastern Washington, the land of extremes, to climb rock above the Tieton River (near Naches, WA).

Leaving Western Washington in the rear-view mirror, crossing over to the dry side of the Cascade Mountain Range, we dropped down into a free-wheeling land, hard edged and two-fisted, where the primary roadside business d├ęcor is wall-to-wall mounted animal heads, and where there are a lot of guys named Ernie :-).

Passing Edgar Rock, and numerous other historical monuments, we arrived at the Elk Feeding Station, parked, crossed the fast-flowing Tieton River (pronounced ‘tie-a-ton’) via foot bridge, and hiked a short distance up above the river to begin our rock climbing adventure in an area called the Royal Columns.

The Royal Columns are a spectacular band of towering grey andesite rock pillars, some rising over 100 feet tall. Between each rock tower are long vertical cracks, cracks rising from their base and varying in width – it is these cracks that we climbed, it is these cracks that also happen to be infested with rattlesnakes. During day one on the rocks, we were subsequently notified by another climber that a “rather angry” rattler was spotted in a crack we had recently ascended.

Personally, the scariest moment for me was sitting on a broken stone pillar, 5 stories above ground, half-way up, belaying George as he continued to lead-climb the second pitch up to the top of an adjacent pillar. Let's just say I focused on the anchor assembly tethering me, and mostly avoided gazing down into the river valley 500 feet below.

Well, you won't see many pictures from me capturing this climb, although there are a few below which were taken as we departed. During this trip my mind was much more focused on climbing, and much less capable of comprehending the need to take a picture (there were some choice moments to be captured...). I had a great time climbing and would go again at a moment's notice, but look at that expression on my face in the pics below - I thought I WAS smiling for the camera shots - I was definitely done after two days of climbing.

Note on picture size: Click on picture for LARGER view. In the LARGER view, an orange button will appear in the lower right corner. Click on the ORANGE BUTTON for a Full Screen View.

The Royal Columns (Closeup) Posted by Picasa

Done Climbing (An expression of joy and relief) Posted by Picasa

Done Climbing (There's that same expression) Posted by Picasa

Royal Columns Posted by Picasa

Royal Columns Posted by Picasa

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