Frenchmen Coulee
November 11 - 12, 2006

After days of rain, thanks to a Pineapple Express, I had to see the sun once again and feel some dry air on my arms. Fortunately, there is Vantage and its wonderful cliffs. The annual Turkey Climb was going on and I joined a group of 15 friends for climbing during the day and fried turkey and fixins in the evening. Once over Snoqualmie Pass, the weather got better and better until there was blue overhead by Ellensburg. For a change of pace, we headed out to the Far Side for some climbing.

After warming up on some easier climbs and getting top ropes hung, the group splintered a bit with people spread out along the wall. In the below photo, you can see the entire complex, with Sunshine Wall on the far end of the picture.

Here Jim cruises on a 10b that I would later fall off of and aggravate a harness burn that I had gotten a few days earlier at Edgeworks in Tacoma. My climbing was done for the day, but the day was almost over so it wasn't a huge deal.

After eating my first fried turkey, and mashed potatoes, garlic-almond green beans, stuffing, salad, cheese, pumpkin pie, and brownies, washed down with several cans of Steel Reserve and red wine, I finally succumbed to sleep. In the morning, some of us hit the Feathers for some close-in cllmbing. In the photo below, Steve rappels down after cleaning a route that John, below, had led.

Here is Chuck leading a 5.5 on the Feathers. Chuck is about to turn 70 and climbs mountains like a 30 year old. With maybe one or two exceptions, Chuck could outpace anyone I work with, regardless of their age, in the mountains.

Chuck and I have been alpine climbing on a several occasions, including Lundin Peak, South Early Winters Spire, and Mount Washington. I hope to be on a lot more climbs with him, as he always has a good word to say, never gets down, and is always safe. Plus, he keeps my ego well in check. Here is is finishing up a 5.6 that Julie had just put up.

While Chuck, Julie, Steve, and John continued to climb, I milled about looking to for things to take pictures of, as I wasn't about to get back into a harness. I don't know why I thought a picture of a van from Walla Walla College would be attractive.

Now, lichen on the other hand is intrinsically interesting. This green stuff is all over some parts of the Feathers. Without my fake macro lens and a tripod, this was about the best that I could do. For you photo geeks out there, this is taken hand held with a cheapo 50mm f/1.8 lens, about as basic as you can get, and a Nikon D70. This is a 100% crop, giving you some idea of how much detail you can record with such a lens is.

And finally we have a look toward the Columbia Gorge. The mesa on the left is one side of the plateau near Sunshine and you can see how much lichen there is over there. That big ditch in the middle, that is the once mighty Columbia. With only the 50 mm lens, I had to take two pictures and stitch them together, which is where that big, obvious vertical line comes from. Look at the horizon and see the transition to different colored clouds, mountains, and scrub. I should probably buy a wide angle lens, but don't really want to drop $500 on one.


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 The Far End, pass the big monolith and hike up onto the mesa. Pass a few signs. Walk for about 10-15 minutes until the trail drops you down to the wall, past Third Gully. 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 and 5.11 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.