Elevation: 6,120 ft
GPS: 48.546, -120.648 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: slim on Aug 6, 2017
Admins: Scott Coldiron, Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick
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Cutthroat Wall is a large, West/Northwest facing granite buttress that is detailed in Blake Herrington's excellent "Cascades Rock". The layout of the rock is such that it has a somewhat 'climb anywhere' feel to it, yet there are numerous roofs and other features that require a bit of routefinding work. Overall, when you take into consideration the approach, climbing, and descent it provides a pretty good single day adventure.

While the moderate grades may be attractive, there are additional considerations that may not make these routes 'date routes'...

Getting There

I'm not going to sugar coat it here. The approach and descent, while fairly short, are a bit rugged... We did the approach/return trip 4 times and completely different each time. I will describe the best (ie least worst...) approach below. No matter which way you go you will see some cairns. Pay no mind to these as they are just memorials to other folks who were just as lost as you are.

APPROACH: From the parking lot, walk a short ways past the kiosk on a wide dirt trail. In a 100 feet or so, there is a left branching trail at a large wooden trough structure. Take this left and follow it for about a 1/4 mile until you see a well marked (large cairns) trail that cuts into the forest on the left. Take this left and head in there.

The trail starts off good and quickly falls apart into 'moderate' bushwhacking that basically links generally more open (or perhaps less closed...) areas. Try to keep trending right - the buttress you are ultimately aiming for is at the right side of the large wall. If you are lucky you will run into a somewhat open wooded area that seems like it was burnt out. This will lead to the lower talus field, and then another more open wooded area. A bit more slide alder will then lead to the upper talus slope that makes it's way to the buttress. Along the way, there is a steep slabby creek that will be a couple hundred yards to your right - if you get to this you are a bit too far right.

The base of the buttress has a set of really cool giant step features. This is the general area of the two existing routes that I am familiar with.

The Cascades Rock book says the uphill bushwhack will take around 45 minutes, which is probably a wee bit optimistic. From the car it is between 1.5 and 2 miles, depending on your path.

DESCENT: It is pretty key to nail the descent, or it can suck.

From the topout of the routes there is a minor notch that separates the westernmost buttress from the higher central buttress. At this notch there is a slung horn/tree. A single rope rap (over a chockstone tunnel, which is a potential snag on the rope pull) leads to a dirty ramp with a big cave.

THIS IS WHERE IT PAYS TO STAY ON TRACK WITH THE DESCENT (unlike i did when i botched the descent and dealt with a lot of crappy loose gully action).

From the base of the rappel, look down/left for an upward trending gully or ledge system on skiier's left. It may be a bit inobvious, as it looks more straight forward to go straight down the gulley. Instead, take the skiier's left gulley/ledge system and ascend a bit on 3rd class with a few cairns. It will curl clockwise and traverse around the head of another gulley. Keep traversing, head through some trees, and you should intersect a grassy low angle gully that will wind down into the main basin. It should spit you out pretty even with the start of the route, so traverse hard skiier's right to get back to your stuff.


Another very short rappel off a slung evergreen bush/tree drops you into the upper part of the gully. The scramble down the gully starts not-too-bad, but quickly becomes steep, exposed, and loose. It is very loose and any rock you disturb will fling itself down - be really careful here.

When the gully begins to merge with another gully on skiier's left, cut down and across both of them (semi-exposed, loose). There is a tree with a sling near the junction of the two gullies that can help.

When you get to the skiier's left side of the far gully, carefully make your way down. We stayed way left and used the trees as terrain fencing against exposure, as well as to stay out of the bowling alley. There are numerous trees with slings to facilitate this. Be careful with the rope as there is a constant threat of creating rockfall.

After about 600 to 800 vertical feet of gully surfing you should drop down onto some lightly vegetated slopes. An easy traverse around the buttress will return you to the start of the routes.

2 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Cutthroat Wall

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
The Perfect Crime (with variatio…
Trad, Alpine 5 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Perfect Crime (with var…
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 5 pitches
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Marlin Thorman
Spokane, WA
Marlin Thorman   Spokane, WA
Descent beta. Do NOT go down the sketchy gully as described above. It is loose, dangerous, and not pleasant. Instead follow the descent beta from the Cascades Rock book. From the end of the rappel, hike slightly uphill (100 feet) and then contour across the gully on a pretty good ledge (we built carins in Sept of 2017). This will take you to the ridge on the opposite side of the gully. From here just work your way down and skier's left. We opted to stay pretty high for the traverse and it worked out really well to get down to the main gully system. There was no sketchy downclimb, minimal loose rock and very easy route finding. Once in the main gully we just followed it back down to the base of the climb. Sep 7, 2017
thanks for the info marlin. i am kind of confused though. at the end of the rappel (assuming the second short rappel off of the bush), i don't remember there being an option to hike uphill (?). i remember just being in a steep gully with nowhere to go but down. i think i recall on the way down this gulley there was another narrow gully that shot up to the left, but it didn't look very promising.

also, i don't really remember there being a ridge across the gulley, but more of a really steep hillside (?).

did you do any raps off of any trees, or just hike down the whole way? Sep 8, 2017
Nathan Stegenga
Spokane, WA
Nathan Stegenga   Spokane, WA
I climbed with Marlin in Sept on Easy Getaway. We made one 55-60 meter rap from the top tree anchor angling skiers left down the gully ending with about ten feet of free hanging rap at the mouth of a sort of cave feature. At this point, the second rap station (which I believe is the bush rap station you refer to) is about 15 feet up skiers right and is more or less inaccessible from where we ended. There is a dense grove of evergreens that you need to decide to go left or right around near the end of the first rap. If you go skiers left, you end where we did, if you go skiers right, you will get to the second rap station.

If you have a 70, or even a 60 with knots in the end, I would recommend doing the one rap and angling skiers left and unroping at the mouth of the cave feature after the short overhang. Looking down from here you will see an obvious large buttress feature directly below you that sort makes an island in the middle of the gully. Do not go down that way, but if you do, definitely DO NOT go down the skinny skiers right option. Good way to get hurt. INSTEAD, from where you are standing you can traverse skiers left and then go up through some rocky 3rd class terrain for about 100 ft. (there ought to be cairns). At this point you will sort of be at the head of the wide gully (going up higher will be obviously treacherous) and the easiest option is to make a clockwise traverse across ledges and easy terrain (again, we built some cairns) around the head of the gully. Once you make it into the trees, stay high and keep traversing, but just pick the path of least resistance. Eventually, you should intersect a grassy low angle gully that is not going to scare you and just wind your way down it into the main basin.

As you probably found out on the approach in, be ready for some bushwhacking on the way down too. Eventually though, if you can reconnect with the boulderfield, you should be able to find your way down the climbers trail.

  • Also, a note on finding the rap station, as our buddies following behind ending up getting epic'ed due to some confusing beta for the top out. Once you reach what appears to be the top of the last technical pitch, keep scrambling (roped or unroped) for 100 feet or so till you reach what is obviously the summit. It is a big flat bench at the top of the main buttress you have been climbing. There are other, taller features to your east that are connected, but don't climb up those. Walk east on the flat summit for maybe 50 feet (should be cairns) and you will see the gully down and to your right (SW) and a slung tree at it's top. Rap down the gully and watch for loose rocks. We cleaned a lot of the crap, but still a lot rock up there that is loose.
Sep 25, 2017

Thanks a ton for the good info - I will update the descent info this afternoon. I remember looking up that gully (that we should have taken), and for some reason thinking it didn't look very promising. It all makes better sense now. Sep 25, 2017