When you live 45 minutes from Squamish, one of the best climbing areas anywhere in the world, why would you want to drive four hours to climb in Leavenworth?
The Pacific North West in April can be wet, it can also be cold. There are escape routes, that generally means spending a couple of days watching weather patterns moving from the coast inland and identifying locations that have pockets of warm, dry weather. Generally if you drive over the coastal mountain range(s) the rain will ease off, on this particular weekend in April the best location was Leavenworth.
We started off early in the morning, I had the foresight to make myself some coffee and if I was a better friend I would have shared. The drive from Vancouver is fairly straightforward, down the I5 and turn left, the scenery improves after the left turn as you wind through Wenatchee National Forest and surrounding area.
Before I moved to Canada I thought a four hour drive was long, these days its an opportunity to read climbing guides to try and find a good crag, in this case we were reading Leavenworth Rock. The challenge is finding a crag and sticking to it, especially with four climbers of varying ability, we have a couple of common objectives in wanting to explore the area, check out the type of rock and each of us has at identified at least one skill that we need to work on, you never stop learning!
It didn’t take us long to realise that the climbing areas are spread out and require a little hiking, in the gallery you can see the awesome views but it was a fair hike to the first crag – my fault, it looked closer on the map. After completing the hike and moving between the water runs we found some nice easy sport slab climbing on a couple of 5.9/5.10 routes on the Pearly Gates crag which seemed like the most popular wall. With the sun beating down and a relaxed atmosphere we all had a chance to hone our basic climbing, rappelling and anchor cleaning skills. For our final climbs we hiked back down and headed to the West side of Leavenworth and a crag called Hobo’s Gulch. We managed to kock off a few of the routes, Fine As Wine, Hobophobic, Strike It While Its Hot and I managed to finish at dusk on Thunderbird, a nice 5.10d with a small roof.
Leavenworth Trip 2
Our second trip to Leavenworth had a different goal. We had already identified an area called Dog Dome for the first day, a mixture of sport climbing and the first few steps of trad climbing for a couple of us. The weather was awesome, almost a little too hot, good job the hike was along icicle canyon. At Dog Dome we set about Old Dog New Tricks, a 5.6 crack that requires gear, as its the first trad climb for a couple of us we setup a top rope and had two belayers. After setting the gear and completing the route without any falls we spent some time analysing placements and test the gear while on the second rope. It was a great experience placing the gear but I wanted to get in some harder climbs so we hit up a few sport routes, Hyperhound, Spayed in the Shade and Canine Capers ranging from 5.10a to 5.10c. Every route was a 3 star in the guide book and it was definitely worth the hike. Icicle creek held up to its name and I soon cooled off after jumping in!
Overnight we stayed at one of the forestry service campgrounds before heading out to a seven pitch sport climb called Condorphamine Addiction rated as a 5.10b with 3 stars, what a day! It was easy enough finding the trail head as we only had to turn the car around twice, staying on the trail to the route was way harder. Throughout the hour or two of bushwhacking we could see the face we wanted to climb, it was just a matter of how many cuts and scrapes we would have before we started climbing. It was worth pushing through and getting my first multi-pitch climb under my belt. There was a good range of pitches, a few easy 5.4s and then a few 5.9/5.10s. The three of us took our time to climb each pitch, with the anchors all bolted with three points it made it easier to move around and get all of us up and ready for the next pitch. It was a long day, it probably felt longer due to it being my first multi-pitch and experiencing the feeling of exposure. For this route it is recommended to hike back down over the back of the rock, this was easier said than done and I didn’t even catch site of the rattlesnake.
Looking back at the two trips we took I have an urge to head back to Leavenworth, its still too wet but come March/April if there is a glimmer of sun then I will be down there in a flash! Climb on…..
I’m looking for my camera which has the photos. Fingers crossed I will be able to post them.
Just a few links, there is a ton of information out there so this list may get updated.
Leavenworth Rock Climbing Guide by Victor Kramar.
General info on the towns website.
Forestry service information.