Elevation: 1,450 ft
GPS: 48.65, -119.44 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 28,370 total · 394/month
Shared By: applewood on Jun 18, 2013
Admins: Scott Coldiron, Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick


McLoughlin Canyon is the jewel of the Okanogan - it doesn't always have the best quality rock in the region, but the combination of variety of routes, easy access, beautiful scenery and wildlife habitat (still stunning even after the devastating fires of 2007 and 2015), and colorful history (site of the 1858 Caribou Trail Indian ambush and skirmish - with BC bound gold miners) make for a great all round experience.

It has wonderful opportunities for hiking and climbing, and although much of it is private land with the boundaries on the ground mostly unmarked, it is an easy place to explore and do some great climbing. (Consult the drawn map in the photo gallery here, and also it is recommended to look at the aerial photo of property boundaries on the Okanogan County Assessors map, especially when heading for the Northern Crag.)

The canyon cliffs are gneiss, and over 400' tall in areas. Most of the rock on the north and east sides of the county road is private, although there are small sections of cliff around the trailhead, as well as an extensive section of cliffs to the far north which are public. There are also several good bouldering sites on both public and private lands.

Note: with a few exceptions ALL the rock north of the county road is private and thus off bounds for climbing. All the rock south of the road is public (BLM), and there are many cracks and corners that can be led with gear. Most of these old school trad routes have no publicly shared beta and so provide a true sense of adventure. But be careful, especially if you plan to explore these lines ground-up; be aware of the abundance of dirty, brittle and/or loose rock, bring a full rack of cams and nuts, some long slings, a wire brush, helmet, and trusted partner! The new face climbs (many bolted) are concentrated in the more remote South Canyon and other lesser surrounding crags, leaving the Main Canyon for the trad inclined...

Also, be aware that the few remaining snags along the valley floor sometimes fall over, and no matter where you hike or climb here be alert for rattle snakes (especially from early April to late October).

* Note to all climbers, this is both a rural neighborhood (lots of locals drive through the canyon daily), and a popular public hiking destination, so please do your best to minimize your impact and presence; pack it in/pack it out, and leave no trace. Potential route developers, please follow BLM guidelines and don't place bolts next to possible gear placements, or crowd routes too closely together, make any bolts or top anchors camouflaged, use stainless steel hardware as much as possible, and don't mix your metals, and of course, don't place permanent anchors on private property. Any comments and input on existing or new routes is much appreciated.

* Note - a key to route descriptions;
NAME; grade and quality (* - good, ** - very good, *** - great, **** - world class classic); length; type of pro. used - G = natural/gear, F = fixed (b - bolt, p - piton, fn - fixed nut), M = mixed; TR = toprope, R = ("runout") potentially dangerous, PG 13 = ("pucker grade") scary/risky; Route description;

The various areas open to the public and covered here include (from north to south);

Northern Crag - SE Face - The northernmost SE facing cliff, which is quite impressive. About a two mile (40 minute) hike in from the county road, this area is best approached from the west via the dirt track across private property along the open western flats.

Northern Crag - North Central Slab - This is a smaller low angled cliff in the middle of the Northern Crag area.

Northern Crag - SW Buttress - The west end of the northern crag.

Lower West Wall - The first small cliff visible on the right on the drive up McLaughlin Canyon Rd from the Okanogan Valley.

Parking Lot Rock (aka Corral Wall) - The small south facing cliff to the north of the main BLM parking lot on the north side of the county road. The left and right ends of the cliff are on private lands.

West Wall - The small west facing cliff on the east side of the county road directly across from the south parking area. Only the first couple of faces and corners of this cliff are on BLM land.

Main Canyon (aka Main Wall) - The deep east facing canyon south of the county road. Includes three subsections; Near Wall (first series of walls on the right as you enter the Main Canyon south of the small parking turnout to the huge Dihedral corner), Main Wall (the huge wall on the right beginning at the Dihedral and continuing to the first large gully), and Far Wall (the large face at the south end of the Main Canyon to the SE Buttress).

Little West Canyon - The very small canyon on the slope west of the Main Canyon, has some short climbable east and west facing rock.

Main Canyon - SE Buttress - The huge S and SE facing wall where the Main Canyon opens up.

South Canyon - The long east facing cliff at the south, shorter and more open, end of the Main Canyon provides some excellent climbing. Not as intimidating as the Main Canyon, and more removed from the county road, includes several subsections as well; Upper West Side, The Mid West, and Lower West Side.

South by SE Face - This is the long south facing cliff that begins at the SE end of the South Canyon and runs east for half a mile or more.

The Far South - Not really part of McLoughlin Canyon, this is an isolated crag about a 2 mile hike (50 minutes) south of the Main Canyon parking area, or 3/4 mile (20 minutes) from the river road on the W side. This rather extensive and distinct area now has its own MP area with over 2 dozen established routes ("Chewiliken Creek Crags").

Getting There

From "The Junction" in Tonasket travel south on Hwy 97 for 4 miles and turn left just before the Janis Bridge. Follow Janis Rd for 0.3 miles, and turn left up McLaughlin Canyon Rd. Park on the right after 1.6 miles (elevation 1450'), and enjoy the gentle mile long trail down the main South Canyon, which was devastated by fire in 2007 and 2015, but still makes for a beautiful hike.

86 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket) Change
Type:  to 
Sort by:   then:

Classic Climbing Routes at McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket)

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
More Classic Climbs in McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket) »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season


I’m afraid that James Moore has done a disservice to the climbing community by posting the above information about McLaughlin Canyon on this web site.

First and foremost Mr. Moore has demonstrated disrespect for an almost 40 year history of “leave no trace” climbing tradition and practice; in other words showing no “respect of local etiquette.” His recording that there is “33 total routes” reflects an ignorance or disregard of over 465 established routes, the majority of which were ground-up routes climbed with stoppers and hexes. And furthermore, Mr. Moore’s action reflects a disinterest in or unawareness of the BLM climbing management of this area (an area of both historical and wildlife importance) which again is “climbing is permitted as long as the climber leaves no trace.”

Further disservice is done by the advice (posted on a different web site) that “camping is possible at all these crags as they are on public lands.” Camping on BLM land in McLaughlin canyon is strongly discouraged. First, once again, the canyon is an important wildlife corridor and human occupation would quickly become a disruption to the animals that use this habitat. Second, only the greenest of the green horns would fail to consider the dangers of camping beneath the hundreds of dead, burnt snags, or the severe wildfire dangers presented by the tall, dry grass. Third, there is no water or sanitation facility and any campers should be prepared to pack their bowel movements home with them (good training for Big Walls, or climbing in the Tetons!). And finally the BLM doesn’t want to be forced to manage camping, and the cluster of problems that can accompany this human behavior, in McLaughlin canyon.

I have heard of the climbing in McLaughlin canyon as having an aura of “secrete” crag, a place that the locals wanted to keep for themselves. The truth of the matter is that the climbing in the canyon has always been open for anyone who was skilled enough and willing to undertake the risks and adventures of climbing on “unknown,” potentially loose and dirty rock in an unpopulated setting. It was the belief of the pioneering climbers and the generation that followed them that more valuable than another developed/published sport climbing venue (where one has to queue-up for routes) was to preserve the peace and quiet, the wildness, and the habitat for a host of mammals, birds and reptiles. There are many places to boulder, numerous small crags to top rope climb, and hundreds of trad routes that were climbed years ago with just natural gear. The only request from the locals is leave no trace, respect the wildlife (from rattlesnake at your feet to eagle nest on the cliff) and enjoy and preserve the feeling that you are going where few humans have gone before.
-Phil Gleason Apr 13, 2014
I agree, Phil. It seems disingenuous to talk about "leave no trace" and then proceed to blast in 11 bolts on a 90' scrubbed section of rock in what had been a carefully nurtured area that has a 40 year history of no bolts and 465 trad routes. I'm puzzled by James' comment "...if local legends are to be believed...". Does he doubt the voracity of local climbers' accomplishments?

After all, doesn't James know you guys personally? I recall seeing him bouldering a few times. He seems to distance himself from any acknowledgment regarding local ethos. Isn't it also true that Robbins, Hill, Long and other well known climbers have visited the area? This would seem incongruous to the comments alluding to efforts to keep the place "secret".

Given the archaeological sites and historical significance of "the Canyon", and the fragile nature of the place, I say we lobby the administrators to delete this entire Area from MP's website. Was it too much to ask that at least one climbing area be kept in as pristine condition as possible?

If anyone should write about this area it should be you, Phil.

I say chop the bolts. Apr 17, 2014
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
While I applaud Mr. Gleason's passion for the local climbing history, wildlife and human safety, I believe that his concerns are unwarranted - and that more generally, there seems to be some basic misunderstanding of BLM climbing policy. To begin with, yes, there has been a long history of trad climbing in the area (I also did several unrecorded ground up trad ascents here more than 20 years ago, but was not overly impressed with the overall quality of the experience). There was also rumored to be a history of some bolting in the area, only to have the bolts chopped. Alas, apparently the bolting ceased out of fear of reprisal from the founding trad climbers. ‬

Based on information from one of these founding climbers, the South Canyon area that I've recently been developing is not one of the areas where these old "465" trad routes were done - and its obvious the newly bolted routes had never been climbed before. Therefore, Mr. Gleason can rest assured that there are still plenty of opportunities for trad climbing to continue - although for safety sake I'd still recommend pre-inspection of the potential route on rappel due to the brittle and/or loose nature of the local rock. It also turns out that most of the old lines are on private property and so not available for public access. It would be great if he wants to share some information on the specifics of these routes, which is exactly what this site is for. An unfortunate consequence of not sharing local knowledge is that old lines will eventually be reclimbed, renamed and possibly bolted by people unaware of the history.

BLM policy is very clear; it allows route development and permanent anchors with power tools as long as it is done carefully and with minimal visual impact. This is why using camouflaged bolts, anchors and slings is recommended, and why it's important for concerned, local climbers to get ahead of the inevitable new wave of route development, and establish reasonable standards. That is exactly what I have been attempting with these posts.

Secondly, this is public land and available to the public for a variety of recreational opportunities. I understand the value placed on wildlife in the area, but apparently, the BLM values recreation here as well. Why else would they construct and maintain a hiking trail (following the route of the historic Caribou Trail) through the middle of the canyon? This is a popular area for both local and visiting hikers, and it's mentioned on several websites and at least one printed hiking guide. On any given day, one may also encounter gun enthusiasts sighting in their rifles and doing target practice from the parking area.

I can't agree more with Mr. Gleason when it comes to public safety regarding snags. I first became aware of them when my family and I volunteered to help the BLM with their fire restoration efforts here in the spring of 2008. This is why I cautioned about them in the original intro to the area, and would also suggested camping in the open areas at the south end of the canyon if visitors want to stay overnight. In the original post I clearly advocated a low impact, pack it in/pack it out policy. One must also keep in mind that the snag hazard exists for anyone climbing and belaying in the Main Canyon. The bolted routes on the south end of the canyon are free from hazardous snags. In addition, unless designated otherwise, dispersed camping is allowed on BLM managed lands, but be sure to check with them ahead of time for any seasonal restrictions on use of campfires.

McLaughlin Canyon (which is not designated Wilderness) is something of a natural treasure for Okanogan County. And now its able to offer climbers of all skills and interests, both local and visiting, opportunities for wild adventurous, and safe high quality climbing. I would like to emphasize that there is plenty of room for climbers, traditional or sport, beginner or expert, local or visiting, in the Okanogan Valley. Respecting and honoring our differences and our resources is part of what makes for a great climbing experience.

Ps. in response to Keith's comment. I actually don't believe we've ever met Keith - hi. Maybe you're getting the wrong impression about the recent developments here. I'm well aware of the trad climbing accomplishments (and have never said there are only "33 total routes" here - that is just Mountainproject's tally of recorded routes), in fact I've asked Phil in the past to help communicate about them to the larger local climbing community, since they are a bit of a mystery. Where I've been developing isn't an area that was ever climbed in the past.

As for chopping bolts on public land - well, a bolt chopping war is the worst thing we all can imagine, and seems especially hypocritical since the neighboring Burge Mtn. crag was initially developed (and often over bolted - close routes with dense bolting, sometimes beside good cracks...) by the same folks who are adamant about preserving McLaughlin exclusively as a trad site, and it is public domain as well... Also the current local climbing community includes people who enjoy and appreciate the bolted routes at McLaughlin. Times change; shouldn't it be the actual users who help determine how it's used?

It is good to remember that this is a public destination, and will be when all of us are long gone. People will come and climb and hike and are free to write about it as they want. It already has been written up as a hiking and climbing destination in several books and websites. I don't see this being reversible. In fact, recreational adventure tourism in Okanogan County is just going to increase, as it should. Thats why it's important to do it right.

Pps - 11 bolts in 90' - yeah, maybe it has an extra bolt or two, but why not go climb "One Shot Deal" and see what it's like, see if it is excessive or just safe, and as fun as I thought.... And if it is too safe for you what then? Well, you are always free to establish a bolder line next to it.

And finally in regard to my advice to "leave no trace." I include this in all the MP pages I am regularly contributing to as a general reminder about the ethical guidelines for all outdoor activity, both front and backcountry. It includes these 7 principles - which apparently is also what the BLM has in mind for "leave no trace" since an equivalent version can be found on their website (Copyright: The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.);
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors

Obviously we can't be in nature without having some impact, but that's why I originally wrote, "do your best to minimize your impact." And some of our impact is desirable - such as roads, trails, cairns, trundled rocks, scrubbed routes and sometimes even fixed anchors. I include this generic reminder because it is obvious many people don't follow it - every time I go out I get to pick up some bit of litter that some hikers or climbers have left behind...
Apr 17, 2014
Okanogan, WA
geomark   Okanogan, WA
Wow, there are some angry, closed minded people out there still. Not just in this area of course. James has done a remarkable job of artfully, thoughtfully, generously (time, money), skillfully, openly and always with personal climber safety in mind, created multiple fun climbs in the entire northeast Okanogan County area. Why is McLaughlin Canyon so special that it should be hidden from the entire world. I agree that it is a wonderful and beautiful place. The Trad climbs are beautiful(and should not be bolted). There are areas that have a longer history but went through the same growing pains that MC is now seeing and many others still to come (forever). A few; Yosemite, Eldorado, Red River Gorge, Gunks.........

James is obviously begging for historical information regarding early climbing in the area; FAs, names, topos, descriptions. I would love to here about the 465 trad routs in MC, wow. Please share, I'm not ashamed to look at a guild book or Mountain Project, talk to a local over a beer for climb descriptions. No one what's to graciously help James but some are clearly ready to assault his attempts.

And come on, really, chop bolts. Look at the history of that; injury, death spite, feuds, destroying the rock beauty, waste of energy, jail time... To what end.

So please open your minds, pull out some of your olds photos and slides, share some of your stories. My book shelf is full of historic climbing books and magazines. I remember my first 60m rope, my first couple of WC Friends, my set in stone bad attitude about fixed anchors (pitons, hammered in stoppers, copper heads, bolts).

It was hard to climb that first sport climb. But wow there are so many more FUN climbs out there that could not safely exist without bolts. Have you never enjoyed going to a site with a handful of draws, and light rack, a 9.8 mm rope. What a fast and safe great way to spend a day outdoors with good friends(crusty old trad climbers and new straight from the gym newbies).

God I love climbing, rock, ice, snow (not to much into bouldering(bad back from an old fall)) peaks. Washington, the desert, the California batholiths, the Rockies, North America, hell the whole world.

So smile, open your hearts and Climb-on! Apr 18, 2014
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
Jon Nelson   Redmond, WA  
Myself, I'm grateful that James has done all this work to show us this area.

As far as tradition goes, I don't know who has the authority to decide what the tradition (or etiquette) is or should be for an area, but it looks to me like this area has plenty of room for both traditional climbing and sport climbing. The area I frequent isn't large (Index), and has long had a healthy coexistence of trad and sport.

Moreover, this area is rather removed from any large population center, so it is hardly in any danger of being overrun by climbers. Probably most people looking for a climbing destination who drive out that way continue on to Skaha. At any rate, James's description above is sensitive to the unique ecology of the region.

Any visitor would probably like to hear about these 465+ trad routes. If a visitor can't find the record of the ascent, then the visitor might think he or she did the first. Why create potential for conflict? Either one has to leave a trace of the ascent or leave an account of it where others can see it. Certainly, leaving an account is the better option. If you don't want to post here, then maybe you could point to a readily available source.

Another thing to keep in mind is that an area that nobody knows about has nobody to defend it. What is now public, may not always be. The popularity of Index allowed us climbers to purchase it and preserve it.

Work together and improve things. Apr 22, 2014
Jon Nelson,

Yesterday I met with several of the local climbers who pioneered this area in the early '70s. It is my understanding that the BLM had already designated McLaughlin to be a "no bolted climbing" area and will be posting signs to that effect forthwith.

Maybe Mountain Project can support a "no more bolting" policy, for now at least, until the BLM and others can weigh in on this issue. Apr 23, 2014
Jon, thank-you for your caring and concern for the climbing situation and current controversy at McLaughlin canyon. As I sure you are aware, these “bolt wars” are often more complex than they first appear. The issues here are not just simply “Trad vs Sport,” or closed minded individuals who are against change verses individuals with progressive ideas who want to advance their vision of the future. Other than the concerns of local climbers, who had hoped to preserve a 40 year history of “leave no trace” climbing, are the concerns of the BLM, individuals worried about protecting the historical and archaeological values, bird watchers and people who enjoy the unique wildlife habitat, cattlemen who use the grazing rights, your local residents who use the canyon for exercise walks, and the Native Americans who have a historical and possibly spiritual attachment to this area.

For me the first question is do we really need bolted sport climbs in the canyon? If the climbs at Curlew, MT Hull, Whistler Canyon, Burge Mt, Toads Coulee, around Omak, and Fun Rock are not enough to satisfy this increasing need for “safe” adventure climbs, how many is enough? Does every rock between the Canadian border and Pateros need a line of bolts before we’re satisfied?

The next question is who will be allowed to construct these routes? It is one thing if only those who know how to “do it right” are the ones establishing these routes. But who then is going to stop anyone with a Bosh drill and a passion for drilling holes from putting up routes? Will every blank section of rock have a line of bolts before the canyon is done? How will those who go to McLaughlin for historical and other reasons feel when they stand at the overlook and see dots of shinning metal running up these wild cliffs?

Also begging consideration is preserving wildlife habitat. Increase human visitor/days can only decrease an already shrinking habitat. Although one may argue that McLaughlin is far enough away from major population centers to be safe from the hordes, from personal experience I have seen the evolution of many climbing areas. Been to Frenchman’s on a weekend lately? Somewhat different than it was in the 80’s?

Other questions surround Native American values, cattlemen concerns, and local nature walkers’ worries. One has to wonder if these questions were ever considered before the first bolted route was established.

I think we all agree that “recreational adventure tourism in Okanogan County is just going to increase.” With a projected 9 billion people soon to be on the planet I think the above comment is a no brainer. Where the argument lies is do we want to engage in behavior that will speed up and increase this already inevitable growth in climber population? We pondered these questions when we started doing rock climbs in the 80’s. We decided that we owed it to the coming generations to save these cliffs so climbers in the future could have the same fun, adventure and spirit of exploration we had.

So where does this put us moving forward? In other words is there going to be a bolt war? Having been on both sides of several bolt wars from Big Rock in California to Omak Washington (mountaineers.org/nwmj/04/04… ), I agree with geomark that no one wins in a bolt war and the rock always suffers. But I also agree with my more aggressive friends that if someone can feel free to place bolts and effectively spit in the face of 40 years of climbing tradition and culture, then my friends should feel free to chop the offending stubs of metal. But before we go to war, I would like to suggest the diplomatic course.

First, we need to find out what the BLM means when they say “leave no trace” climbing. Although, to me, it seems a common sense designation: leave no sign that we were there. Apparently it can be interpreted that “leave no trace” means it’s OK to put up bolts, establish chain anchors, make cairns, put in climber trails, and publish guidebooks.
Second, we need to get all the concerned parties together and establish a climbing plan for McLaughlin’s Canyon. Not just the individuals who want it to be the next great sport climbing venue and the traditionalist who want to preserve its wildness, but we also need to involve the BLM, the historical society, Native Americans, local residents, Cattlemen, and State Wildlife personal. Perhaps we can determine sections of the canyon (i.e. the South end) where we can have a handful of sport routes, and other areas (around the overlook) where bolting is prohibited.

Finally, I agree with geomark: the solution to the dispute is don’t be angry and open our hearts to find the right course of action. Apr 24, 2014
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
Jon Nelson   Redmond, WA  
Hi Phil,

Those are all nice things to consider, and it seems like you've thought about the issue awhile. So maybe you and some others can organize a meeting group, and plan some "friends of the canyon" type gatherings to discuss things? Maybe include some non-climbers too. At some point, a representative from the BLM might join, but I suspect things could work out fine without them. There is such a wide range of compromises possible. Good luck, and have fun... Apr 26, 2014
James, it was a bold move to spit in the face of local ethics.....especially because you have many other areas that you could develop and improve besides this most treasured local spot. And to post it on Mountainproject, phew, might as well write an article for Climbing Magazine. I'm with the locals who have been climbing this area before I was born, leave it alone, and remove this from MP.

You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. I have been seeing your routes fly up in the past 3 years. But if you must bolt everything, then I ask for you to slow down and take time to do a good job. I have climbed your routes elsewhere with great discouragement. They tend to be dirty, with bolts in nonsensical spots, (I have even found loose anchors)....like you never lead them maybe? Please actually climb and lead routes so that you can carefully and "artfully" pick bolt placements. Please clean and trundle so that lichen and moss are not on key/cruxy moves, and rocks/pebbles are not falling onto belayer below. Put some effort into the approach too man. With more traffic comes damage to vegetation and erosion. You need to go back to some of your earlier routes make these upgrades before you stitch up every open face in the okanogan. Climbs and climbing areas need maintenance.

Also, if you're going to develop and publicize to the whole world then you better be ready for the impact. Yes, we're way off the beaten track but this page has already seen 2800+ views....all climbers. I hope that when you have 100s of routes bolted in Mcglaughlin and published on mountain project, and the crowds start coming, that you don't just move on to the next crag/county to slam in more routes and instead stick around to advocate for infrastructure, and maintain this area for generations to come. It would be sad to see so much permanent energy be resented by the locals as something that an out-of-towner came along, slammed in, gained whatever personal interest he was looking for, then quickly moved on without looking back. Those situations are always stunning losses to locals.

Once again, quality is better than quantity. Own it like it's your favorite climb in your backyard, that's the least you could do, that's what us local boys would do. Apr 26, 2014
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
Hi Yanis. I understand your position, but you may also understand I didn't intend to "spit in the face" of anyone, or any tradition. You may not be aware of what is happening in the region, but there are now several other websites and groups promoting climbing in the Okanogan (before I ever got involved posting here), and so it is coming. It is my concern to establish some safe and fun routes, and get ahead of the curve so we can all enjoy these public areas while also preserving their rustic natural qualities. If you look at what has been done at McLaughlin recently you’ll see it isn’t where the old trad lines are, and I’d like to see it stay that way, but seriously doubt it will if there isn’t more public information shared about the historic routes. I'm basically a trad climber too, but as I get older and more brittle I find myself enjoying safer bolted routes more of the time, and am very concerned about helping establish local standards of not placing bolts on trad lines or beside possible gear placements, as well as camouflaging them as much as possible.

I always appreciate the feedback on routes. As you may know from personal experience at Burge the local rock can take a few seasons to clean up properly – and when you made the comments a couple of years ago about the route at Burge you had issues with I immediately went back and checked the top anchors, which were sound but did have loose nuts. I replaced the cold shuts anchors anyway with a type less likely to loosen up. And you're right - I never did get to lead that route because I hurt my back soon after bolting it in the autumn of '09 and wasn't able to climb again for a year and a half, but it eventually got its first ascent by some friends in June of 2010.

As for climbing everything... don't worry there is plenty of unclimbed rock in the Okanogan. I too really like seeing unclimbed virgin crags, but also appreciate a well developed area. McLaughlin Canyon and Burge Mtn are the only places in the Okanogan Valley where both the access and climbing are on public land, and so I'd much rather focus on developing those areas, for both myself and others. McLaughlin is not the place I'm putting most of my energy, but it is the closest crag to my home and so important for me and some other locals to be able to enjoy, especially in the cooler (snake-free) months.

Btw, do you know how much time it takes to put up a route on this often really dirty rock? I’d say I average at least 6 hours on each pitch before they're ready to lead, and often go through a wire brush per 100' pitch, and even then more rocks and debris can loosen up and wash onto them each winter. Obviously I don’t put as much effort into every route I do (as with that one star route at Burge you got on by mistake a couple of years ago – and which I think had only been climbed a handful of times), but sometimes I'll go back repeatedly and scrub some more, long after the first ascent. A few times I've gone back and added or changed a bolt placement after subsequent ascents - yep, I also sometimes scratch my head about a previous bolt placement (or lack of!). So anyway, many of these new areas are a work in progress, and any contributions other climbers like you can bring, whether it be just some feedback/constructive criticism, or helping scrub holds, or establishing trails and landings is much appreciated.

I have had some very scary experiences of large holds pulling off at Burge while on lead (even on other people's routes that are popular and climbed a lot), and so welcome a bit more climber traffic, as well as have concerns the routes are safely established and accurately described in the first place.

If I remember correctly the route you got scared on at Burge was unrecorded and so easy to get confused about since the online and printed guides available at the time weren't up to date. So instead of the 5.8 you thought, it turned out you got on an 11b! Its impossible to predict how a stranger will judge or mis-judge a line they come across, but that potentially dangerous situation was a big part of the motivation for getting me to start posting on Mountain Project. So thanks.

PS - (edit 4/29/14) Btw Yanis, before you accuse someone of being ignorant, inexperienced, incompetent, or careless you might want to try giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you come across a bolt on these routes that isn't where you'd want it, it's often a good indication of either of two things; one, that the route goes other than where you expect or want it to go, or two, that the first, maybe even the 2nd and 3rd, choice of bolt placement wasn't possible due to the rock.

I prefer taking this more charitable approach when I'm in such a situation. I also figure the route developer knows the route a lot better than I do if I'm just coming up to on-sight it, since they have probably rapped and climbed it at least twice in the bolting process, and so probably know where most of the holds are (when I might be thinking, "This can't be a 5.7!"), and less sound rock is (which often appears fine until sounded with a few taps of the hammer). And of course route developers make mistakes sometimes... we're all learning, all the time.

My question from all this though is, if it's not always safe to place a bolt on the face of such often questionable gneiss, why would anyone advocate depending solely on putting a cam behind it? Apr 26, 2014
I have been in contact with the Wenatchee Office of the BLM and received the following email. And I quote:

“In general, BLM is asking climbers to follow Leave No Trace principles in the area. Though we have been aware of people rock climbing in the area, up to this point, we haven't had issues brought up regarding rock climbing. The McLaughlin Canyon area is considered a ‘Cultural Landscape’ by BLM, due to the cultural history of the area. In our Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision, we are proposing the McLaughlin Canyon area be designated as an ‘Area of Critical Environmental Concern,’ which will provide some specific guidance…. I'd be interested in getting together with the climbing community up there to hear if there are specific restrictions or management actions you all might suggest for our resource management plan revision.”

At this point the most peaceful path seems to gather together the BLM, climbers and all concerned individuals or groups and come up with a resource management plan. Apr 28, 2014
Hi , I am a local resident ,Tonasket ( Morgan Mountain) .

Can anyone tell me about the Cavern system that is up there in Mcloughlin Canyon ?

I have heard very old legends that claim this tunnel system at one point and time actually went to Republic . That the entrance to this cavern was destroyed to keep people out due to hidden dangers this would pose.

Is there any truth to this Rumor ?
If so , would this be just old water type fissures that at one time held water ?
Or , could this be old Lava type fissures ? I'm curious*

Did Gold Miners Explore this in hopes of finding Gold ?

Please forgive my questions if they sound foolish , I am really interested in learning more about this area.

Where is the entrance to this "closed" off Cavern ?

Thankyou for any information that can be provided.

(Tonasket) Jul 4, 2014
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
Hi Glenda I have been to the caves several times and will be glad to chat with you about them - they are easy to find and still open as far as I know. And no, I seriously doubt they went to Republic since they are really just cracks in the faulted bedrock. I've heard rumors of them going all the way to the river though, but I think you'd have to be more the size of a packrat to navigate the lower crack systems. I will post this here on MP, but am reluctant to say much more publicly since they are on private land. Jul 4, 2014
What a great climbing area! The trail in is obviously well used (hikers and bikers and deer) but the climbs didn't look so well used. The ones we did were fun (safe and well bolted) and the rock great. Nov 10, 2014
Heather, happy to hear you had a good time in McLaughlin canyon and enjoyed the quiet and wildness of this place. Did you happen to see a pair of mountain sheep (a ewe and lamb) which have appeared as new residents this summer?

Congratulations on your ascents. Most likely you and/or you partner did the first lead ascents of these routes.

Heather, I feel compelled to warn you not to be fooled into thinking there are “safe” rock climbs. Please trust me, when you are over 20 feet above the ground you are no longer “safe.” Certainly there are some climbs that are “safer” than other climbs. For example, The Becky route on Liberty Bell could be considered “safer” than the North Face of the Eiger, but climbers have been injured on both routes. Several of my friends (a couple of them well known, “famous” climbers) have been injured on “safe” climbs. James Moore himself was dropped twice while on a “safe” top rope.

Safety in rock climbing doesn’t come from bolts or chain anchors. Safety comes from concepts such as: preservation of mind, rapid critical thinking skills under stress, attention to detail, and realistic judgment in assessing ones physical and mental limitations.

What makes rock climbing a great sport is the element of adventure. And, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not an adventure if it’s “safe.”

Heather, please be careful out there. Double check your knots, check your partner’s belay device. Turn your brain on when you start up a rock. And keep in mind, you’re going up that rock face because it’s more of an adventure than just hiking down the trail. Nov 17, 2014
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
I feel the need to make a note about a situation that occurred at McLaughlin Canyon yesterday - not to be overly dramatic or alarmist, but this is apparently just another of the many risks associated with rock climbing in the Okanogan Valley.

Yesterday I was climbing alone at the far south end of the South Canyon, scrubbing a route when I was shot at by someone on the upper road (at least that's where it sounded like the shots were coming from, although that is not the usual place where locals do target practice). I thought at first it was just target practice, but when the bullets began hitting the rock around me and whizzing right past my head I rappelled off the face as quickly as possible and hid behind a boulder at the base of the cliff. For the next 15 minutes I was pinned there with steady rifle fire from what sounded like an AR15 - maybe 50 or so rounds fired all around me, some sounding like they hit within 20' (I could hear bullets whizzing past as well as ricocheting off the cliff above and plopping into the ground on the slope below me). After a lull of about 5 minutes I was able to run down the exposed slope below and escape out the bottom of the valley without any more shots being fired.

At the time I was sure I was being targeted by some crazy person, but it is possible it was only someone shooting randomly into the valley without knowing I was there, possible but not likely given how close the bullets were to me and how obvious I must have looked to someone with a scope (white helmet and orange pack on the dark rock face), as well as having my truck parked at the trailhead. Fortunately I was about a mile from the road so the bullets didn't sound like they were landing with much force and so probably not too lethal, at least thats what I told myself at the time.

So the message is be careful when hiking, climbing or exploring on this public land. And I'd recommend safety in numbers… Nov 24, 2015
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
Jon Nelson   Redmond, WA  
Holy cow, that is a wild story. I'm glad you weren't hit. Did you yell out?

It was no doubt a crazy person. Just shooting a gun off without regard to where the bullets go is insane. A ricochet can be deadly, a bullet falling down from an upward shot can be deadly. If you find a bullet on the ground, maybe the gun can be identified and the person prosecuted. It would take some further investigation, but if it were me, I'd be pissed-off enough to start snooping around, trying to find the nut-case. Nov 25, 2015
This type of action, this kind of behavior is totally appalling. Although James and I might have a difference of opinion about climbing in McLaughlin, the story of this assault sickens me. To think that gun violence in this country has gotten to the point that we can't feel safe enjoying the outdoors is both terribly sad and disgusting.
I strongly encourage that the local community (both climbers and non-climbers) work together and help James in finding the person or persons responsible for this act of violence. Nov 26, 2015
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
Thanks Phil - sincerely. Nov 26, 2015
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
Yes Jon, It is both an unusual and crazy act. I didn't yell out because I felt I was the target, they were so far away, and somehow it never occurred to me to ask them to stop. In retrospect I wish I had raised a white flag on a stick…(another useful item to keep in your OK Valley climbing kit). I've been giving info to the sheriff's office hoping to help their investigation (the Google-earth map here on MP really helps with getting accurate measurements of the distances involved - so thanks for the help!). Nov 26, 2015
Kyle Elliott
Everett, WA
Kyle Elliott   Everett, WA
Several fixed lines on the SE buttress just to the left of the '83 route. looks like fresh hardware. Sep 24, 2018
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
Yes Kyle, a local put up a 4 pitch bolted line on the face 20-30' left of the "Tao of Pooh" corner this fall. They say it is excellent on great rock (and moderately difficult at 5.11-ish). And it looks fun, but they haven't submitted anything yet on MP. Dec 13, 2018