August 2018 Update:
The second toilet at Frenchman Coulee, near Vantage, Washington, is open for business. Fundraising was jointly undertaken by the Washington Climbers Coalition, the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, and The Mountaineers. With the help of climbers groups, gyms, and equipment vendors, we raised the funds for a toilet here in 2012 and then, when one was not enough, we raised funds for the second in 2017. The building went into operation on August 2, 2018.
This remarkable desert recreation area is a long way from the nearest rest stop. The area is used by hundreds of climbers on busy weekends during the Spring and Fall climbing season, and the first thing many are looking for upon arrival, or when they crawl out of their tent in the morning, is a toilet. There was not one here for many years, and the desert landscape was littered with blowing toilet paper. Climbers have long sought the construction of a toilet here but the land manager, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, did not have funding for new facilities in the area. After twenty years of asking permission to raise money so we could install a toilet, the answer suddenly became “yes” in 2012; we went to work right away.
Supporters included Solid Rock Climbers for Christ, Washington Alpine Club, Spokane Mountaineers, The Mazamas, Bushwacker Climbing Club, Petzl, Second Ascent, Feathered Friends, Leavenworth Mountain Association, North Face, Vertical World, Stone Gardens, Nectar Lounge, Edgeworks, Tri-City Court Club, REI-Kennewick, and Central Washington University.
Installing a toilet is not as easy as you might think. We had to complete a cultural resource inventory and had a septic designer survey four potential sites. The vaults for these toilets are sunk into solid rock and, given the fractured rock we experience while climbing there, you might be surprised to learn that the basalt at Frenchman Coulee is much harder than granite. We took it one step at a time, though, and we know this will make your climbing experience better.
The land at Frenchman Coulee is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are gradually turning toward more active recreation management but they do not have funding or manpower to support the number of visitors at Frenchman Coulee without our support. The Washington Climbers Coalition has been doing trail projects and crag cleanups here for 15 years. We’ve publicized nesting closures and urged climbers to be thoughtful about bringing dogs to the crag. We ask all who use this area to take care of it and we will continue to assist land managers here and elsewhere so that they can support climbing access in a sustainable manner.