This page covers covers all rockclimbing areas in Leavenworth with the exception of Castle Rock
and Snow Creek Wall
The Leavenworth area is the most popular rockclimbing destination in the state of Washington. Why? The combination of clean, high quality granite, an abundance of cracks, a complete selection of route difficulty, a selection of lengths from 20 feet to 800 feet, the dry east of the crest weather, and the nice Bavarian town right near the crags are often given as reasons. Leavenworth is a mecca for outdoor lovers with excellent kayaking, biking, hiking, rock climbing, and mountaineering a stone's throw away.
The history of rock climing in Leavenworth dates back to the ascent of Midway on Castle Rock in 1948. Over the next 35 years most of the major crack routes were climbed including the famous Outer Space and ROTC, and testpieces like Supercrack and Never Never Crack. The year 1984 saw visits from Peter Croft who freesoloed ROTC and many other difficult routes. Sport climbing started in the area in the mid 1980s, and has caught on in popularity, bu this is predominately a traditional climbing area.
The rock is a nice solid granite varying from smooth to coarse textured. It is specifically a Quartz Grandiorite. In general the climbing is sustained in nature offering few footholds. The many parallel sided cracks offer generally excellent protection with SLCDs. Leavenworth is a popular destination for both novices and experts alike, with cracks from 5.2 to 5.12D. Many climbing clubs and schools give their students their first taste of the sharp end of the rope at beginner friendly areas like Mountaineers Dome.
You get to Leavenworth via highway 2. Highway 2 is obtained via Interstate 5, just north of Seattle, or via Wenatchee from the east. From downtown Leavenworth, turn south at the gas station just west of town to access climbs on the Icicle side. For Wenatchee side climbs, stay on highway 2 just west of town.
This spectacular tower of granite on the hillside above Castle Rock offers some of the best hard crack climbing in the state. Midnight is vertical to slightly overhanging smooth rock about 300 feet high offering many parallel sided cracks to choose from. The famous testpiece ROTC (Rather Overhanging Thin Crack) (5.11C) is located here and is regarded by some as the best pitch of rock in the state. Other stellar route include Spellbound, Stevens Pass Motel, and Supercrack. Few options for the moderate climber exist with only a few quality climbs below 5.10.
The Pearly Gates is a new area that has received a lot of attention in the last 5 years. The granite here is course textured offering excellent friction. The wall is approximately 175 to 200 foot high offering 2 pitch crack and bolted slab routes. The climbing is generally excellent, and is very popular with its moderate 75 to 80 degree angle and good selection of routes in the popular 5.8 to 5.10 range. This wall is north facing and is usually the last to come into condition in the spring, but features nearly constant shade on hot sunny days.
To get to the wall, take the Snow Lakes trail towards Snow Creek Wall but exit off to the right after the irrigation ditch. Follow this trail to the Snow Creek crossing on logs then proceed uphill along the south side of the creek until under the wall. The approach time is approximately 30 minutes.
Careno Crag is the second largest formation of rock in Leavenworth behind Snow Creek Wall. The rock is located on the south side of Icicle Creek canyon across the street and up the hill from the Snow Creek parking lot. Careno Crag is approximately 450 feet high offering many high quality crack and face climbs up to four pitches in length. The approach takes about 15 minutes to popular climbs like the Regular Route, and the Bale/Kramer Route.
Icicle Creek Buttress
This large 400 foot high roadside buttress holds many popular rock climbs including the super popular R&D, the excellent Cocaine Crack, and many other popular slab and crack climbs. The buttress is generally moderately angled with good cracks. The buttress is located about 6.5 miles from the junction of Highway 2 on Icicle Creek Road.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the Snow Creek Trailhead, and other areas ($5/day or $30/year). Also check the map at this trailhead to see if you will be entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (near Snow Creek Wall). You need a no cost self issued day pass to go there. Most of the climbing area here require no permits or fees.
One easy way to avoid the Northwest Forest Pass requirement is to park on the side of the road near the Snow Creek Trailhead.
When To Climb
Generally, the best rock climbing conditions exist from April through November. It is sometimes possible to find dry rock anytime in warm years like 2005.
Iceclimbing is generally done in January and February at popular places such as Hubba Hubba.
There are several campsites in the Leavenworth area including Eightmile and Bridge Creek Campgrounds. Climbers generally spend the night here during a weekend visit. Prices should be about $12 per site for 2005.
Contact the Wenatchee National Forest at 509-548-6977 for current conditions.
Rock Climbing Washington
from REI. (Only a general guide, get the above book instead.)