Full of Bavarian charm, beer, and brats, Leavenworth is a dream. Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Central Washington in the Wenatchee River Valley, many people are drawn to its breweries, festivals, and shopping. Nutcracker museums and Reindeer Farms aside, Leavenworth is a mecca for outdoor recreation, especially for climbers.
With over fifty granite crags within ten miles of town, there’s a reason people travel from all over the country to climb here. Due to its overall popularity and close proximity to Seattle, Spokane, and Wenatchee, Leavenworth gets busy, especially on weekends. Although Leavenworth has superb roadside climbing, even the most sociable climbers would probably admit that a little solace would be nice. With some extra effort and determination, it’s possible to find moderate bouldering, sport, and trad routes with less of a crowd.
There are over a thousand boulder problems to climb in Leavenworth, but many of them go unexplored as popular areas like Mad Meadows, Swiftwater, and Forest Land see all the attention. Though such areas are worth visiting, there are boulder problems strewn up and down Icicle Canyon, Tumwater Canyon, and Mountain Home Road that offer climbing just as good but with far less people.
In Icicle Creek Canyon, seclusion is more likely to be found farther up the canyon. Nine miles up the road is Egg Rock, which offers classic moderates like Smoke Stack Lightnin’ V2, Weather Report V3, and Dark Hollow V6. Although it’s close to the road, it has a remote feeling and is far enough away that it typically won’t be crowded.
In Tumwater Canyon, Driftwood Boulder is off the beaten path and the perfect place to tick off Clipped Wings, Gooseneck, Driftwood, and Bubbleslab, which are rated V0, V1, V2, and V4 respectively. For more guidance on how to find less crowded bouldering options in Leavenworth, pick up a copy of “Leavenworth Bouldering” by Kelly H. Sheridan, an essential companion to bouldering in the area.
Sport and Traditional Climbing
There’s nothing quite like getting into the flow and fun of climbing a moderate multi-pitch route, and Condorphamine Addiction on the Condor Buttress offers just that. Though the approach has been known to be tricky and time consuming, the seven pitches of well-bolted 5.10b sport climbing are worth it.
Value Village is a beautiful granite crag that takes about two to three hours to hike into. It’s well worth trekking in and gaining over 2,800 feet of elevation to climb the classic routes Full Boar and Pulled Pork. A 5.11a/b splitter crack route, Full Boar can’t be missed, and just as fun is the steep and knob-studded 5.10a Pulled Pork.
One of the most popular crags in Leavenworth, Snow Creek Wall, is lined with classics. The approach is long enough (about forty five minutes) to deter some people, but the routes are likely to be favorites regardless. Snow Creek Wall has mostly trad routes ranging from 5.8-5.11. Outer Space is iconic: six pitches of 5.9 with excellent crack climbing. Orbit offers four pitches of 5.8+ climbing, is almost as loved as Outer Space, and has a superb finger crack system running through the hardest part of the route.
The Pearly Gates Crag is full of crack and slab climbing. Located in Icicle Canyon about forty minutes worth of hiking from Snow Creek Lot, this is the place for easy single pitch trad and bolted slab climbing. Whether the preferred method of climbing is bouldering, sport, or trad, Leavenworth has it all. As with any climbing endeavor, nothing substitutes for a written guidebook, so pick up a copy of “Leavenworth Rock” by Viktor Kramar for a comprehensive and more detailed list of all the climbing in the area. Forest Service passes are often required for parking, so be sure to check beforehand, and no matter where you’re coming from, don’t forget to grab a post-send beer; it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Leavenworth without one.