Exfoliation Dome is a massive dome of compact high quality granite off Mountain Loop Highway south of Darrington. This dome is not a rock outcropping, wall, or buttress like the other Darrington climbing areas. Exfoliation Dome is a true mountain and is the most difficult 4,000 foot peak to climb in the state of Washington. The easiest way to its summit is a 9 pitch 5.9 alpine rock climb. The dome is quite elongated featuring wide walls on the east and west sides and narrow ones on the north and south. The west wall is called Blueberry Hill and features several high quality crack and slab / face climbs. The east wall is a near vertical cliff home to several aid climbs, and is referred to as Witch Doctor Wall. This area is not a sport climbing destination. Most of the climbs use a combination of traditional protection and bolts. Runouts of up to 20 to 30 feet are not uncommon and should be considered standard fare. Climbers should be solid at a grade before attempting the routes detailed here. Generally speaking, climbing at 5.9 or higher is well protected on the more popular routes. The first ascent of Exfoliation Dome was done by Fred Beckey following a 5.9 line up the north buttress. This route is no longer popular. The most popular route up Exfoliation Dome is the West Buttress, sometimes referred to as the Blueberry Route. Most of the routes have been retrobolted with 3/8” hardware as well as belay chains with a rap ring. Please respect the style and character of the climbs and do NOT add additional bolts to established routes.
Exfoliation Dome has many routes on both of its faces. Here is a start at an overview. Note that all of the grades except Westward Ho are given for going to the summit. West Buttress – III 5.9 - This popular climb reaches Blueberry Terrace in 6 pitches and the summit in 9 pitches. The climb features almost all traditional protection. Westward Ho – II 5.9 - This 4 pitch 5.9 slab climb goes halfway to the summit and tackles the rock to the right of the big dihedral. Dark Rhythm – IV- 5.10C, 11 pitches – This excellent climb features mostly clean sustained slabs, cracks, and flakes, with a stellar crux pitch offering 150 feet of sustained 5.10 slab. Rainman – IV 5.10C, 10 pitches – This climb tackles the steeper wall left of Dark Rhythm via many pitches of sustained 5.10 cracks, flakes, and slabs. Much more difficult than Dark Rhythm. Jacob’s Ladder – IV 5.11C, 11 pitches – This face and crack climb tackles the near vertical wall well left or Rainman. The crux pitch is easily aidable keeping the route at a more modest 5.10B. Click Here for an excellent route overlay provided by Matt Perkins. Voodoo Wall - IV 5.10 A2 - On Witch Doctor Wall. FA: Dave Burdick and Mike Swanike, October 2003. Beta.
Access to Exfoliation Dome is through Darrington via interstate 5. From Seattle or British Columbia, take interstate 5 to exit #208. Head approximately 32 miles to the east on highway 530 to the town of Darrington. Drive to the center of town, and turn right at the 4 way stop onto Mountain Loop Highway. Head south for 2.9 miles. Just before Clear Creek Campground, turn right onto forest road #2060 which is gravel and dirt. At mile 5.5 you will come to an intersection, go left here. Drive for about two miles past the first washout then park about 50 feet past the second drainage. There is a pullout on the right with room for about 4 cars in the trees here. Look up and you should be able to see the dome if it’s clear. West Buttress Area - Hike up the creak bed heading east. After 10 minutes you will come to a continuous 20 degree slab of granite leading all the way up to the base of the dome. This is known as the Granite Sidewalk. The going is mostly low angle class 2 slab and is easily doable in sneakers. There are a couple short class 3 / 4 sections that need to be scrambled, but they are only about 8’ high. Note that this slab would be very dangerous if wet or moss / snow covered. An alternative if it rains while you are descending is to bushwack your way down through the forest next to the sidewalk. Witch Doctor Wall – Drive approximately 1 mile up the left fork of FR #2060, instead of 2. Look for abandoned path heading to the east. Hike the path and bushwack your way to the northern end of the dome and keep traversing until you are below the steep east face.
The Darrington area is located on the west side of the Cascade crest receiving the full brunt of Washington’s bad winter and spring weather. Generally the best time to climb here is early July to late September. It is possible to climb here in early season during prolonged periods of good weather. Keep in mind that many of the climbs run with water for several days after rainfall. The west buttress area stays in the shade most of the morning, making an early start essential of hot sunny days. A 6:00 AM departure from the trailhead should work great. Avoid climbing here on hot sunny afternoons.
The best option is to camp at Clear Creek Campground on Mountain Loop Highway directly across from the entrance of forest road 2060. Rates for 2005 are $12 per site and $5 extra for each vehicle. Another option would be to bivouac at the trailhead.
Another reference for this area is Matt Perkin's excellent website. I used this as a reference to help build this page.