Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Deep Creek Spokane

Submitted by Ken

A couple of weeks ago I had to take Otis-the-dog to a speciality vet in Spokane to have his eyes looked at. After the appointment I had time to drive out for a quick non-climbing tour of Deep Creek. Like many Missoula climbers, I've been hearing about this area located just outside Spokane, including its selection of bonafide 5.14s (not that I can do much more than look at those). Deep Creek's allure was further increased in June of 2010 when Jonathan "JStar" Siegrist paid a visit (here, here and here) and was seriously tested by the 5.14c "Problem Child." In other words, climbs of world-class difficulty exist barely three hours from Missoula.

So, although I didn't climb at Deep Creek, here are my impressions along with some low-quality cell phone pics.

Using the Mountain Gear store as a "convenient" starting point, and armed with the free Dr. Topo guide for directions, it took me about 25 minutes to drive to the trailhead.

The Main wall seemed the most logical destination, and in 15 minutes walking I arrived at its base. It was about 4pm and the temperature at the trailhead was scorching. In fact the forest looked so dry it seemed a single spark would have in seconds sent all of eastern Washington up in flames. But down in the (dry) creek bed, where the Main wall is located, it was shady and felt reasonably climbable, even at this time of day.

Top of the Main wall as approaching from the south

Main Wall

Though it's hard to get a sense of scale from my pictures, the Main wall is about 70 feet tall. If you click and expand the photos, you can see a number of fixed draws. The best comparison we have to the rock is Alberton Gorge. It's slick, polished basalt, and very blocky in nature, though I did find a number of positive crimps and edges in the first few feet of several of the routes. The angle is perfect sport climbing steepness, around 5 to 10 degrees overhanging. There's a great concentration of enticing looking 11s and 12s on the Main wall and it was definitely hard to leave with little more than a quick check of some starting holds as my sandy Chacos skated off the basalt.

Starting hold of 5.12b "Under the Influence" (I think)

Continuing down creek, in another few minutes I walked beneath the trestle of a public trail system and arrived at the Spokane river. From there I was able to rejoin the main approach path. Ten minutes later I was back at the car.

While no world-class destination, Deep Creek is certainly a regional gem. It would make for a great diversion for a weekend, or a layover stop during a longer trip. But be warned: the nature of the rock --that slick basalt-- will likely mean you aren't going to jump on and easily crank off some quick sends. It's obviously an acquired style that needs some time investment for best results. If I were planning to climb at Deep Creek, I'd likely get in 2 or 3 sessions at Alberton beforehand. I think that would increase my chances of getting the most out of my visit. Deep Creek would certainly be an amazing place to get power-endurance workouts. What I'd give to have that Main wall overhanging the Kim Williams trail! Furthermore, if you're a Missoula climber gunning for legit, high-quality 13s and 14s, it is certainly a viable area with numerous projects to choose from.

Deep Creek is definitely a place I want to climb at. I look forward to returning soon with shoes and rope.