Dora watching Jim work the crux before she climbs ...
Fossil Rock is a small crag area near the town of Yelm, WA. Primarily a sport climbing destination, on "welded tuffa" style rock. Clearcut wall is the main affair and some walls see sun in the morning, then go into the shade in the afternoon, depending on the time of year. If the sun is out, then it can be found on at least one of Clearcut's several walls as this crag is 360 degree rock that rises out of the top of its small hill. Graded just on being a interesting little area, it is well worth the hike for the 360 degree view and picturesque madrona trees on the plateau of Clearcut wall, as well as unobstructed views of Rainer.
Crowds are generally low, since this area gets a bad rap for stories of bolted on river rocks, manufactured routes and "souvenir hand holds" but its really only found on a handful of routes, which all appear to be long forgotten 5.12 or harder routes and it less trafficked areas of Clearcut wall.
There is very little published beta on this area, as copies of the 1 and 2nd editions of the original guide to Fossil Rock are out of print and scarce to come by (originally published by our favorite FA team, Ford and Yoder :) A few of most popular routes and good approach info can also be found in the guidebook " Rock Climbing Washington" by Jeff Smoot.
There are 2 ways to get here. From Seattle/ Puyallup ect- go from highway 512 through the towns of Spanaway, Roy and east Yelm. From the south ( Olympia) take I-5 and go through the Nisqually Area. Either way, find East Yelm/ Bald Hill road on a map, and get there. Its very straight forward.
Once you reach Bald Hill Road, leading out of Yelm, Continue south on this road, follow Go LEFT at the next split and continue on B.H. Rd. ( Bald Hill rd )
There are 2 approaches to the crag. Decide which you want and then follow either instructions. If you want a flat but a bit longer approach ( great for mountain bikes):
Then continue on BH rd, past the Clear Lake community. When the houses end you will see an obvious parking area on either side of the road, where the Weyerhouser truck road crosses over BH rd. There are gates on both sides, park on either side and be careful not to block the gates. Follow the gravel road on the north side of the road, skirting along the back yards of the lake community houses. From the gate you will go 1.8 miles to the next intersection ( this meets up with the other approach) Here you will go right ( uphill) past another yellow gate and up into the forest.
If you want a shorter but more hilly approach ( good for hiking) then take a left on Pessiner RD at the Fire Station ( before you get to Clear lake Community ) Follow this windy road for a few miles untill you see 1) yellow gate on right side. 2) cross a very small creek. 3) huge gravel parking area on the left side, just after the gate and creek. I think the car road here also turns to gravel and goes uphill to the right, but Park HERE and walk up the gated trail. This is about 1.5 miles to the intersection described above. From here, cross the larger gravel road and go uphill passing the yellow gate and into the forest.
Once you get into the forest, its ALL uphill or at least flat. There are several branches to the trail, but you will stay on the main trail ( if it looks well traveled, you are on the right trail) Don't be fooled by the 2 right branched, just keep going up! You will get to a ridge on the right side with a clearing and a nice northern view. From here there are yet 2 MORE approaches! The Jungle Trail, and the Savannah Trail. They are both good but if you Follow the Jungle Trail it will get you closer to the main walls faster ( BOTB and BB walls) . Just after the view, look to the right and see a dramatically steeper trail. This is the Savannah Trail. This will take you to the "backside" of the crag to " the boulders" "the Hideout" and the Madrona Gully ( to reach the crag summit without actual climbing )
To locate the Jungle trail, simply follow along the main road. It winds up a bit farther to a dead ended, grassy clearing. This is called the "parking lot" in the Smoot book... Don't you wish we could still drive up here?! Are you tired yet? To this point the approach has been 2.95 miles. From here you can see "Tomahawk Tower" on the left side of the hill. Bike riders dismount and lock up here. Take the obvious but much smaller Jungle trail into the forest upwards toward the crag for the final grunt up some slippery slopes. This trail dumps you at the base of "Cave Wall"( a crappy trail goes right up an even worse slip fest to "Hot Dog tower" Where there are about 4 un-named, routes in the 5.11-12 range. This is where to find some routes with bolted on holds, if you wish to see them)
If you go left at the Cave, the Jungle trail takes you north around cave wall, under Tomahawks impressive looking 11b arete and up to the main climbing area, where you will find 3 main walls. Closest to farthest- Battle of the Bulge Right, Battle of the Bulge left, and the largest wall, Boyle bobbins Wall. Continue on up the steeper trail, passing Boyle bobbins wall to get to "Magics mikes Wall" and then the trail evens out and heads south around the crag base to end up in "The Boulders" area, where you can find the Madrona Gully trail to the summit, The Hideout wall, and the clearing that is the end of the Savannah Trail. ( this creates one big loop ) The only area that isn't well trafficked is the trail/ hillside that links the the Hideout wall to the Hot Dog tower. There is a fixed rope to aid in this endeavor.
A note on the trail that loops around the south walls that connects the Main walls to the Boulders-
1) There is a LOT of Poison Oak. Do your research and know what it looks like. Poison Oak sucks.
2) Keep an eye peeled for stray bolted routes. There is currently no posted beta for anything NOT in the Smoot book. ( although we wish there was! ) If your brave, Send it! and report back here with beta. There are plenty of unnamed/ ungraded bolted routes.
3) Same goes with the Boulders-- Lots of possible problems to be "re-unlocked" Take pictures and report back here!
Finally I would just note that all though this area got a bad rep in the past, there could be a lot of potential for retro-bolting, re-grading, and adding beta to existing climbs, as well as cleaning and getting good traffic on these old forgotten routes, OR if you have an out of print guide, help fill in the blanks! The south Sound needs a good crag! I apologize if im stepping on anyone's toes here. Flames/ Beta/ corrections.. let me know!
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Fossil Rock :
Very fun and pumpy climb. Graded at a 11a if you go straight through the bulge, or a 10d if you go around to the left using the easier holds. One of the best at Fossil. Careful not to collide with any climbers on "Express Arete" --These climbs share some holds. * looks like the first bolt may have come out... The existing fist bolt is weeee high, about 16 feet up. ...[more]Browse More Classics in WA