Each fall and spring semester the WSU Alpine Club teaches a beginning rock climbing class which covers the basics of belaying and top roping. Some years, if there is enough interest, an intermediate session involving multi-pitch climbs is also done. Originally it was intended that this day would be the trip for the intermediate class. However, weather was not cooperating and instead of going to the South Fork of the Clearwater where it looked like it could be wet, we headed to Frenchman's Coulee where it is almost always dry.

Spring is a nice time of year to see the desert. There was some green, but what was more striking were the flowers. There were places where the clumps of phlox were thick enough that, from a distance, it looked like a whitish-purple frosting. There were numerous yellow flowers of various types as well. The other nice thing is that it was not too hot yet.

The whole climbing area consists mainly of large basalt columns. There are plenty of opportunities for climbs of many different types and difficulties. About the only thing they all have in common is that they are steep. The first place we went is called Sunshine Wall. It is so named because it faces south and gets a lot of sun, I guess. It's a bit of a walk from the parking areas but there were still quite a few people there. It seemed fairly crowded to me, but others told me it was only a medium busy day. No worries though since climbing routes were even more plentiful than the other climbers.

I started out on a short easy climb and then did a slightly longer but not much more difficult climb called "Choss Master." (I have no idea where people come up with the names for climbs. All I know is that typically the first person up the route gets to name it.) From there I went on to do a couple of chimney climbs. Basically you just press your feet against one wall and your back against the other (very close) wall and gradually make your way up. They were not too bad. The last climb I tried at Sunshine Wall I did not make it up. The route can be seen in the picture I took at Sunshine Wall. The climber in black is on the route. If you are good, you just use the crack on the left. Otherwise, you do some stemming (putting feet on each of the rock faces as the climber in the picture is doing) and lots of hand jams. By the time I was able to make it up most of this climb, my forearms were petty much fried and I couldn't hold on to even nice big holds. Rather than make Eric (who was belaying me) wait for a few minutes while my hands recovered, I decided to call it quits for this route on this day.

From Sunshine Wall we moved to a different wall (the name of which I do not recall) and did a couple of easier climbs before leaving. On the way back we stopped for dinner at a small mexican restaurant called Zavala's that has good food. At least I think that was the name of it. The restaurant is run by the same guy who makes "No Joke Hot Sauce" and he had some for sale there. I bought a bottle of the hot sauce, but I have not opened it yet. My last experience with it was a few years back when I had a bowl of chili that made my stomach burn.

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