State officials rely on volunteer climbers to manage dangerous terrain | Local

When a column of basalt broke loose and fell last April, it was a reminder of the dangers inherent in climbing the cliffs of the Tieton River Canyon.

Fortunately, the incident occurred shortly after sunrise when no one was around to be hurt or even witness the fall.

It’s also unlikely to stop anyone who enjoys the mentally and physically exhausting sport of rock climbing.

Located along the Tieton River about 20 miles west of Yakima, the Royal Columns soar some 80 vertical feet and their dozens of routes attract scores of climbers.

To ensure climbing could and can continue, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife — which is responsible for the land where the columns are located — is working with groups such as the Washington Climbers Coalition.


Megan Fitz, left, belays while her fiancé Alex Federation, right, climbs at the Royal Columns off of Highway 12 near Naches, Wash., Sunday, June 18, 2017. (SOFIA JARAMILLO/Yakima Herald-Republic)

Most of the department’s coordination with volunteers goes through Andy Fitz, a Yakima native who lives in Tacoma and serves on the board of directors for the all-volunteer climbing coalition. During the nearly month-long emergency closure, he obtained permission to inspect the Royal Columns and concurred with a geologist hired by the…

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