Three O’clock Rock is a large dome of compact high quality granite off Mountain Loop Highway south of Darrington. With routes up to 8 pitches in length, Three O’clock Rock offers a nice day out for those seeking beautiful granite, clean slabs, and cracks. 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.
The Darrington area offers many choices for the aspiring climber, including Exfoliation Dome, Witch Doctor Wall, Squire Creek Wall, The Comb Buttress, and Green Giant Buttress. Three O’clock Rock is a good choice for your first visit to the area offering high quality climbing, an easy approach, and many routes to choose from including the classics Silent Running and Total Soul.
The first climbing done here was in the summer of 1970. The original routes went up the dirty brushy cracks. These routes Big Tree One and Two have been mostly forgotten. In 1973, an important shift in attention to the clean high quality slabs of this dome was realized. Over the next 30 years, many high quality routes were added. Many of the climbs were put up on lead venturing out onto featureless slab without the benefit of today’s sticky rubber. This hand drilling off bad stances is highly commendable and represents the highest standard of establishing new climbs.
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.
3 O’clock Rock has many routes including the following. Many are unpublished and unknown. Here are the well known ones.
Access to Three O’clock Rock 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 right here. At mile 6.1 you will come to the Eightmile Creek Trailhead with a pullout on the left hand side. Note that this is not labeled as the Squire Creek Trailhead as described in Selected Climbs.
Hike up the Eightmile Creek Trailhead towards Squire Creek Pass. The trail follows an old logging road for the first half mile. After this the trail climbs steeply up through more old growth timber. The trail breaks out into a boulder field after 1.5 miles. For access to Silent Running and Total Soul, stay on this trailhead until it meets 3 O’clock Rock right at the base of Silent Running. For Total Soul, scramble up 100 yards to the left from Silent Running on a climber’s path. For the rest of the climbs here, a different approach is used. Just after entering the boulderfield look on your left to find a climber’s path exiting into the woods. Hike up this path to the base of the Great Arch area.
When To Climb
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 3 O’clock Rock climbs are all east facing and receive lots of sun. This helps to dry out the granite early in the day. Shade is hard to come by until late in the day. Remember to bring sunscreen and lots of water on hot sunny days. This is not a recommended area during periods of high heat.
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.