“There are thousands of miles of columnar basalt throughout the Columbia Plateau, but Trout Creek is special,” says climber Blake Herrington, seen here on an approximately 90-foot route called Purple Pinky Eater, rated a 5.12. “For just a quarter mile or so, the rock quality is stellar, forming steep cracks and blank arêtes where the holds don’t break, the cracks don’t crumble, and the gear will hold.”
On this trip, Blake and fellow climbers Scott Bennett and Matthew Van Bien were out to spend a few days climbing one-pitch rock climbs. “We wanted to climb in Trout Creek because it is in the middle of a desert yet within an easy drive from the temperate rain forests of much of the Northwest,” recalls Herrington, who had a severely injured finger that luckily did not prevent him from climbing this crack. When not climbing, the group enjoyed hanging out with the crowd of fly-fishermen at the campground and playing desert-terrain bocce ball.
Here’s more from Blake on getting the shot.
Adventure: What were you thinking at this moment?
Blake Herrington: I was thinking that I needed to be careful not to pull very hard with my left finger. I was climbing the route because I had a bad finger injury, and none of the holds are generally large enough to apply much pressure to, which is why I had sought it out. Most of the climb is done via pressing/opposition movements on the two sides of the corner formed by the columns.
A: Tell us about the climb and Purple Pinky Eater.
B.H.: This is a thin corner that begins with a fairly easy-sized crack (it fits hands and feet well), but then the two columns lean together and generally close off the crack. The stand-out crux of the climb involves palming, body tension, and pressing out on both sides with feet and open hands. The climb is pretty standard length for Trout Creek—90 feet or so. It is rated “5.12-” which generally means toward the easy half of 5.12 range (as opposed to “5.12+).
It is called Purple Pinky Eater because when the crack size narrows, it is just large enough to fit in one’s pinky, or, alternatively, these openings can be places to use small pieces of removable rock-climbing protection called cams, which are clipped to the rope and meant to be used (with your belayer) to “catch” the falling climber in the event of a slip. The particular size of little cams that fit in this crack are colored purple.
A: Why is Trout Creek a good place to climb?
B.H.: There are thousands of miles of columnar basalt flows throughout the Columbia Plateau, but Trout Creek is special in that for just a quarter mile or so, the rock quality is stellar, forming steep cracks and blank aretes, the holds don’t break, the cracks don’t crumble, and one can trust that the gear will hold.
A: What brought you out there?
B.H.: We wanted to climb in Trout Creek because it is in the middle of a desert yet within an easy drive from the temperature rain forests of much of the Northwest. On this day, there was a huge storm system dumping rain and snow across most of the region. The scope of the trip was just to spend a few days climbing one-pitch rock climbs. We enjoyed hanging out with the huge crowd of fly-fishermen in the campground, and getting thoroughly destroyed in a game of desert-terrain bocce ball.
A: Did anything go wrong?
B.H.: I don’t recall any mishaps or funny stories, I was just happy to find a route that I hadn’t climbed befor—and one that was challenging and didn’t require using my finger.
A: Where are you off to next?
B.H.: I’m always out climbing or hiking somewhere. The next trip is an early-morning bouldering circuit before work (and before it gets too warm) here in Leavenworth, Washington, tomorrow.