OverviewConsisting of a handful of routes and variations on a quarried sandstone hillside, the Cougar Mountain Drytooling Crag is one of a few cliffs of such poor climbing quality that they have been designated for mixed climbing with ice tools and crampons. Given that the area is in Issaquah, this means drytooling, as little, if any, ice ever forms.
Two bolted routes exist, but both of them, and several others, can be top-roped with varying degrees of difficulty. Although the routes are fun, the main function of this type of climbing is to train for mixed alpine routes, which neither normal crag climbing, serac cragging, nor waterfall climbing can really prepare one for.
Getting ThereTake Exit-15 from I-90, turn left on 17th Ave, which will turn into Issaquah-Renton Rd SE, or SR 900.
After around 2.5 miles there will be a pullout on the right with a sign for the Cougar-Squak Mountain trail, if you miss it you should see the crag through the woods on the right, and if you end up at the large-ish parking lot for the same trail system past there you can still get to the crag, but it will be about a mile hike instead of a 2 minute walk.
From the correct parking lot follow a unmaintained, flagged trail that breaks off to the left from the main path almost immediately.
Route DescriptionsThe Washington State Ice website describes three routes, Left, Right and Further Right but there are also two sets of chains at the top of trad-protectable pitches to the left of these. All routes can easily be top-roped, although the Trad Right and (Bolted) Right are the most easily accessible.
Trad Left - M3
Follow one of two crack systems up to the farthest left set of chains (the belay stance is only a few feet from the Trad Right route), pick placements are excellent and the route could probably be climbed with gloved hands. Beware of loose rocks below the crux section. Unlike all the other routes, this one has minimal rope drag.
Trad Right - M4+
Route ascends from a small tree almost directly upward to a set of chains. Several overhangs form the crux sections, but easier and less esthetic variations are possible through brushy, muddy, ledges.
(Bolted) Left - M4
“A moderate introduction to mixed climbing, on sandstone with some cracks and nice features...The crux consists of pulling over a lip using mud sticks.” (wastateice.net)
(Bolted) Right - M4+
“A nice, slightly more difficult line up the crag...The crux is about halfway up, through a steep almost featureless section.” (wastateice.net)
Further Right - “Harder than M4”
“To the right side of the Right-hand lead-bolted line is a more chossy seam...Ascend the seam, typically wet” (wastateice.net)
Essential GearBasic ice-climbing gear
- Technical ice tools, preferably the leash-less variety; models that allow for hand-switching with multiple grip rests will make some moves easier.
- crampons + compatible boots; when dry it would be perfectly possible to climb in hiking boots or rock shoes, but this would rather defeat the purpose of training for mixed routes.
- assorted quickdraws and slings for anchor construction with bolted chains and/or trees
- traditional rock protection might be possible on the two left routes
- standard 60 meter rope (our 70m was overkill)
- helmets (!!! - loose rock is plentiful)