Conservation Team Arrives in Washington State to Restore Two Popular Crags

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team arrived in Washington State last month to tackle critical restoration efforts at two popular crags on either side of the Cascades—Tieton in Yakima County and Substation at Exit 38 outside Seattle—alongside our partners at Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC).

Volunteers at Substation at Exit 38 outside Seattle, ancestral lands of Tulalip and Salish. Photo courtesy of Washington Climbers Coalition

The andesite climbing at Tieton on the east side of the Cascades provides an early reprieve from the long and damp Pacific Northwest winters, offering a mix of traditional and sport climbing at a variety of grades. On the other side of the Cascades, Substation at Exit 38 is home to popular beginner and moderate sport routes that are less than an hour from downtown Seattle and popular with guided groups.

Both of these popular climbing areas have seen intense visitation and conditions were beginning to deteriorate. Access trails and belay areas saw dramatic soil and plant loss, which threatens trees and destabilizes slopes.

“These areas have seen little to no stewardship maintenance over the years, and the current conditions are not only bad for the environment, but they could compromise climbing access and the climbing experience,” says Access Fund Stewardship Director Ty Tyler.

Without quick intervention, these two popular climbing areas would have lost a tremendous amount of soil and plant life—leading to more dangerous climbs with higher first bolts and unstable belay platforms. Access Fund and WCC rallied climbers to manage these impacts and help land managers, many of whom are facing shrinking budgets and staff shortages, deal with increased visitation. This work will ensure that these places can be sustainably enjoyed for years to come.

The Conservation Team crew spent two weeks at Exit 38 and one week at Tieton working alongside WCC volunteers and partner organizations to prioritize the zones in greatest need. At Substation crag, the crew worked to save a handful of massive trees that provide critical shade and stability to the belay area. The crew constructed stone walls around the trees and backfilled them with soil to rebury roots that have been exposed by climber traffic. At Tieton, the crew stabilized trails and belay areas with retaining walls and step structures on the approach to Royal Columns.

Surveying roots that have been exposed by climber traffic at Substation, ancestral lands of Tulalip and Salish

The Tieton and Exit 38 projects are part of the broader Washington Climbing Conservation Initiative, a partnership between Access Fund and WCC to bring sustainability to climbing areas in Washington state. The initiative is now in its fifth year, with similar sustainability projects already completed at Index, Fun Rock, Enchantments, Gold Bar Boulders, and other crags at Exit 38. Visit the WCC website for more information and volunteer opportunities.

The Conservation Team is made possible by the generous support of title sponsor Jeep and supporting sponsors REI Co-op, La Sportiva, Clif, Therm-a-Rest, Yeti, Mountain Hardwear, and Athletic Brewing Company.