The Feathers and Sunshine Wall, Frenchmen Coulee
September 29 - October 1, 2006

Rather than trying to string together a narrative for a trip where I walked almost nowhere, I'll just add a few descriptions of various pictures. Frenchmen Coulee is a rock climbing area just across the Columbia River from I-90 in sunny central Washington. There are many bolted routes and the area is quite large, though some areas are more popular than others. The below photo shows one of the most popular: The Feathers.

There are plenty of good beginner routes on the Feathers, along with intermediate and advanced routes. Here Bill is leading Don Coyote (5.8), our first climb of the day.

Unless you're careful, you'll blow your arms mid way up. Bill looks pretty confident, though.

The confidence seems to be disappearing a wee bit. Perhaps Bill is a little tired.

I think Bill forgot that swinging upside down on a rope is considered poor technique in rock climbing.

Alright, so that last sequence of photos was completely staged and Bill didn't fall off or pump out. Indeed, there was a 1-2-3 count before I started blasting away with the camera. Below is Peter on a 5.5 on the other side of the Feathers where it is nice and cool. This was also my second ever lead.

There are a lot of butt shots in sport climbing photos, but this should give you an idea of the verticality involved in the climb, and also all the big places to put your feet and hands.

On the far side of the feathers is a tight (for me) chimney route (about 5.4) with plenty of bolts. Once you're up, you pretty much have to down climb. Bill is getting dangerously close to being upside down again.

Now, now Ed, where is your skid lid?

After climbing most of the day, the best thing to do is to eat a ton of food and drink plenty of beer. Chuck did a lot of the cooking, while John, Chris, and myself stood around and watched. I also drank beer. Peter might dispute that, as he doesn't think that Steel Reserve should really be called beer.

An hour later the food is ready and the crowds gather. I almost proposed to Joy after trying some of her homemade brownies. I'm something of a desert snob, and these things were about the best I've ever had.

Of course, sunset in the desert is something magical to behold. I thought the wind turbines on the horizon actually added to the appeal, instead of detracting from the marvelous glow.

In the morning Peter, Bill, Joy, and I headed out to Sunshine Wall, where the routes were longer and the sun stronger. Although a crack-of-dawn start was thought about, we didn't get around to moving until nearly 9:30. Here is Bill on Ride 'Em Cowboy (5.9). He is sitting in the saddle, doing the riding thing.

I don't think Joy was especially impressed by Bill's antics, but then again it must take a lot to impress a woman nicknamed Muscles.

Now its Joy's turn on Ride-Em-Cowboy. The arete (fancy word for corner) isn't super easy to climb as there are lots of bulges in the rock to climb over or around. After Joy gets a little higher, she's going to move off the arete, across the face, and into a nice, big crack for the last 10 feet. Bill did it, I did it. Peter didn't get the memo and climbed the arete the entire way.

We climbed a couple of other routes and then headed for home. By We I mean the others. I mostly sat around and wondered why I drank so much Steel Reserve the night before. Here is looking back to Ride 'Em Cowboy, with Don making his way up.


From Lakewood drive I-5 north to SR 18 and take that to its junction with I-90. Drive on I-90 to exit 143, a few miles past the Columbia. Exit and make a left onto Silica road. Drive about a mile to the first house and make a left. Drive another mile until you reach a rough parking area with some outhouses. The Feathers are the big, obvious rock formations. To get to Sunshine Wall, hike on an access trail past the big monolith and up onto the mesa. When you get cliffed out, spot the slot heading down to the right. Hike down this to get to the wall. Most routes are bolted, but there is plenty of trad climbing as well. There is a nice collection of beginners routes, varying from 5.2 up to 5.9, along with some advanced 5.10 climbs. You'll need a $12 state game and wildlife pass, available at local stores (Fred Meyer, GI Joes, etc). A pass issued by the feds (Northwest Forest, Golden Eagle, etc) is of no use here. There is no running water at Frenchmen Coulee. It gets pretty hot in the summer time, so be sure to drink plenty of water and cover up from the sun.