Adventuring in the Frenchman Coulee
Washington › Frenchman Coulee
Added by Nick Lake
World-class sport and trad climbing routes. Incredible desert and canyon scenery. Brilliant night skies.
Occupying a cluster of desert canyons and mesas perched atop the cliffs overlooking the eastern bank of the mighty Columbia River, the Frenchman Coulee is a rock climber’s paradise. Featuring dozens of world-class sport and trad routes, both single- and multi-pitch, the climbing around Vantage lives up to its considerable hype for novice and expert rock climbers alike.
Numerous free, dispersed campsites can be found on the south side of Vantage Road just west of the Feathers, facilitating a dirt-bag weekend excursion and providing exceptionally easy access to the best features. If possible, pitch your tent by one of the stone fire rings in a broad basin at the base of the Feathers, a straight line of abutting monoliths studded with dozens of lines of bolts. During the hotter months, climb the southwest side early in the day to avoid overheating then move through the keyhole into the shady northeast side to stay cool in the afternoon. Take it easy on 5.8 Satan’s Little Helper or Jesus Saves, or challenge yourself a bit more on the 5.10b Satan’s Wagon.
More advanced climbers, or anyone looking for a bit of a challenge, should load up and make the short trek over the basin’s western wall on a rough path, following the signs to the Sunshine Wall. After squeezing through a slot canyon, the trail bends around to the southwest along the wall overlooking Echo Basin and lines begin to appear. The Sunshine Wall is aptly named and bears the brunt of the day’s solar rays, making an early start a great idea.
The routes along the wall are a mix of fantastic trad and sport routes sporting colorful names like the 5.8 Party In Your Pants, the 5.11c Crossing the Delaware With Your Pants Down, and the ever-popular 5.9 Ride ‘em Cowboy. Climbers could spend days on this wall alone and not get bored, and as such, the crowds on prime climbing days can attest to this. Look for some solitude on one of the area's other walls, like the M n' M Wall, Riverview and Millenium, or the north-facing Middle East Wall.
Thirsty climbers headed back west on I-90 should make a pit-stop in Ellensburg for a tasting flight or growler fill of Quilter's Irish Death at Iron Horse Brewery
Extensive information about the area and all of the established lines can be found in this PDFTips:
- Temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees on summer days, especially on the Sunshine Wall. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take breaks in the shade. Most climbers aim for cooler spring or autumn days
- Keep an eye out for the occasional rattlesnake
- The area is usually very busy in the spring and fall and during big events at the Gorge Amphitheater—stay on trails and clean up after yourself to reduce human impact on the fragile shrub steppe ecosystem
- A Discover Pass is required to park on WDFW lands
- A privy is located in the main parking area
- Discover Pass
- Climbing Gear
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Lots of water
- Trail shoes
- Camp stove or charcoal grill (fires are prohibited from April 15 – October 15)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Camping, Photography, Rock Climbing
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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