The lower Tieton crags (Royal Columns and the Bend) are closed for raptor nesting beginning February 1 each year. Depending on nest location and success, the closure can be lifted as early as April or as late as July.
Perched high on a ridgeline, the South Fork Cliff has a commanding view of the upper Tieton basin that stretches clear to the desert hills of central Washington. To the west, Mt. Adams pops up above the Klickton Divide. It's a gorgeous place to climb.
The cliff has two major aspects. The Astral Wall is a 160-foot blocky sport wall. The Main Wall has scores of vertical columns from 50 to over 100 feet high, with occasional bulges and roofs.
South Fork is a summer and fall crag, with the season starting when the access roads melt out and extending into early November most years. The cliff gets a lot of sun and can get hot, but it's still possible to climb fairly comfortably at South Fork when it's over 100 degrees in Yakima. The main wall comes into the shade in early afternoon.
This is true backwoods climbing. The cliff is remote with fairly limited development.
Plan on a long, very dusty drive on Forest Service roads. While there are quicker ways to get to the cliff (especially if coming from the west), this one is the most straightforward.
From Highway 12 (coming from either the east or west), turn onto the Tieton Road, which is a loop road that skirts the south shore of Rimrock Lake. Once you're along Rimrock Lake, watch for the South Fork Tieton Road (Forest Road 1000) on the left if you're coming from the east, right if you're coming from the west. Turn onto this road. If you're coming from the east, you'll cross a bridge over the South Fork of the Tieton just before the turn. If you're coming from the west and hit the bridge, you've come too far.
Follow Road 1000 5 or 6 miles until the pavement ends. Right where the pavement ends, turn right onto Forest Service Road 750. (At this point, you can see the South Fork Cliff above you.)
Follow Road 750 to the top of the ridge and turn left at a T-intersection. After 1.3 miles, turn left again onto Road 1204 ("Section 3 Lake").
Follow Road 1204 another 1.3 miles, then turn left yet again onto Road 755. Stay left whenever there's a choice, eventually reaching a choice between continuing down a rough logging spur or turning right into a spacious parking area. Turn right and park if you're nervous about driving the spur. Otherwise, continue down the spur another 0.7 miles to its end at a berm. The road is rough, but it's better than the road to the Gold Bar boulders. A Subaru Outback handles it fine. There's limited parking at the end, so park carefully and leave room to turn around.
From the end of the spur, follow the road trace through an old clearcut, then pick up a trail that follows the top of the cliff to a descent gully next to the Astral Wall.
A pitch with very few straightforward moves, highlighted by two sustained technical cruxes. Bring your whole bag of tricks: the route has pinches, crimps, gastons, toe hooks, shallow stems, long lock-off reaches, and a finger crack section to finish it all off....[more]Browse More Classics in WA