Leavenworth Climbing Road Trip: Classic Boulder Problems in the Central Cascades

The picturesque town of Leavenworth, nestled in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, is home to more than 50 different climbing crags. While the area is well known for its world class sport routes, it also has one of the largest collection of boulder problems in Washington.

With this in mind, it didn’t take long for our group of enthusiastic climbers from Spokane to decide on a trip to Leavenworth. When we arrived Sunday afternoon, we headed straight to Tumwater Canyon, located off Highway 2 just past Icicle Road on the left hand side. From the parking lot, we followed the Pipeline Trail over the bridge. Along the trail if you look left you’ll see boulders nestled in the forest. One of these unnamed boulders has a few problems worth checking out, including Rocky, a V2 located on the arête featuring tiny crimps but solid feet (if you can find them). Be prepared to down climb (I recommend heading to the far left by the tree where there’s an aptly named V0 named Ledges).

Located behind this particular boulder is another boulder called The Warmup, which features a number of slabby V0s, including the classic Fountain Blues. Look to the right of The Warmup and you’ll see a small boulder just big enough to contain a lowball V2 known as Bofunk (follow the boulder around to the backside and lie down between two trees to start).

When you’re ready to hit up the beach, head back to the Pipeline Trail and you’ll come across Dyno 101 (V3) on the right. Follow the path down to try and dyno to the top of the classic boulder. Just upstream of Dyno 101 is another classic called the Beach Arête (V2). This overhanging climb is located above a swimming hole. Half the fun of this climb is letting go when you reach the top and plunging into the refreshingly cold water below. Unfortunately, this past summer the water level was too low, so we skipped this one but took the opportunity to soak in the river nonetheless.

Photo: Michael Okamoto

When the rumbling in our stomachs got to be too much to ignore, we headed to the Sleeping Lady Resort, located off of Icicle Road, to hit up the all-you-can-eat buffet. Nothing sounds more enticing after a long day of climbing than the promise of food, and the organic and locally sourced tri-tip, salmon and butternut squash did not disappoint. Following dinner, we took the opportunity to soak in the Sleeping Lady’s rock-lined hot tub and pool. The water in the hot tub was the perfect temperature to loosen up sore muscles, which made leaving hard. When we did finally manage to drag ourselves out of the hot tub, it was back to Tumwater Canyon for some night bouldering. If you haven’t tried night bouldering I highly recommend it. It demands far more trust than climbing during the day but is infinitely more rewarding, as faith in your own abilities grows. Just remember to bring headlamps or you may end up with less faith and more broken bones.

After rolling out of bed at Sleeping Lady early the next morning, we hit up The Sword Boulders and Forestland (both located off of Icicle Road). I recommend finding Underwear Rock (on the right hand side just past Mountaineers Creek Road) for some easy warmups and then continuing further back to find The Slab and The Sword with harder problems. You’ll come across The Prism (V9) and The Hourglass (V7) on the end of The Slab boulder. Around the corner on the right is a borderline highball V1 named X1. To the left of The Slab is another boulder containing a fun V2 called I <3 Jugs on the right hand side. The problem starts on good ledges with a heel-hook up to a side pull and finishes with slopping hand holds. The Sword boulder is located to the right of The Slab and has a number of classic climbs including the self-titled The Sword (V3) and Resurrection (V8 with a V10 variation).

Around mid-afternoon we left the shade of The Sword and headed to Leavenworth’s largest and most popular bouldering area: Forestland. Start at Lower Forestland where there’s an alcove with a V4 titled Toto. Although short, this problem will test your ability as a climber as it forces good footwork on granite that’s been worn smooth. Head to Upper Forestland for some truly hard classics such as The Coffee Cup (V8), The Practitioner (V11), and The Teacup (V13), along with everything in between.

We left late Monday exhausted but happy to have fit in two days of solid bouldering. There’s so much climbing to do in Leavenworth you could easily spend a month there and still not climb it all, but a weekend trip is the perfect introduction to all this amazing area has to offer. //

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