With more than 70 routes and some great entry-level cracks, the Royal Columns is the historic heart of Tieton River climbing. It's still the most popular crag in the area.
About every five years or so someone touts the Columns as a "new" area. There's a lot of history here. Washington pioneers Tom and Meade Hargis cut their teeth at the Columns in the 1960s. In the 1970s, a talented group of Yakima climbers including Paul Boving, Matt & Jamie Christensen, Matt Kerns, and Kjell Swedin explored the crag before leaving their mark at Leavenworth, Index, and beyond. And, contrary to its reputation as a "trad" area, sport routes were being established at the Columns (and elsewhere in the Tieton) in the 1980s, before the first bolts were ever drilled at Little Si, Exit 38, or Frenchman Coulee.
The rock at the Columns is well-featured with horizontal edges, making for some fun footwork along the cracks and fun crimping on the face routes. The rock is generally quite solid, although there's a fair bit of loose stuff on the slopes above the cliff. Keep an eye out for rock fall when people are above the cliff, particularly if (or rather, when) an instructional group shows up.
In summer, the crag is shaded and cool in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. Be alert for rattlesnakes on the approach hike and along the cliff base. If you run into a snake, please leave it in peace.
The Columns are directly across the Tieton River from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area headquarters, about 3 miles west of where Highway 12 splits off from Highway 410. Park either on the broad shoulder along the river, or in the huge Wildlife Area lot across the highway. If parking in the lot, you'll need a Department of Fish & Wildlife Stewardship decal on your window ($10) or you'll risk a ticket. This is the same decal you need to park at Frenchman Coulee.
Cross the Tieton River on a nifty new footbridge, then follow the signs and cut to the right through a gated fence to pick up the Tieton Nature Trail. In a few hundred yards, the trail to the crag branches left and heads up the hillside. Please use this trail both getting to and leaving the crag. The trail reaches the crag around the area of Orange Sunshine.
The division between the Main Face and the Orange Sunshine area is where you scramble over (or around) a nose of rock. You can see it in the photo where the cliff is divided into a shaded side (Main Face) and a sunny side (Orange Sunshine area). In terms of routes, the Rap Route would be the last route in the Orange Sunshine area, and Slacker the first route on the Main Face.