Elevation: 1,167 ft
GPS: 47.597, -120.659 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 1,094,027 total · 58,553/month
Shared By: Daniel Chode Rider on Mar 11, 2021
Admins: Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick, Z Winters

Description

Leavenworth is the hub of Washington climbing and the beginning of cragging as we know it in the Northwest. The town (a faux-Bavarian paradise) is situated at the east end of Highway 2. Surrounding it in Tumwater Canyon and the Icicle Creek Valley can be found tons of climbing, mostly diorite crack/slab and bouldering but with some sport climbs mixed in as well. Tumwater Canyon, along which the highway runs, is home to the dramatic Castle Rock along with other towers and walls, while the Icicle hosts endless cragging on granite-to-diorite domes plus the most concentrated boulders in WA with an excellent approach. More sporty climbing on sandstone and metamorphics can be found as well, and you can't forget the alpine granite playground of the Enchantments and Stuart Range.

Then when you're done, head into Leavenworth for an overpriced beer and spray at the bar, wonder at (and flex for) the tourists/Mtn bikers/skiers/hikers/beer experts, and enjoy the ambiance of a beautiful mountain town.

Getting There

Highway 2, east and west, leads directly to Leavenworth. However, over Stevens Pass it's only two lanes and can get VERY congested. From Seattle it's often faster to take I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass and Highway 97 over Blewett.

History

In the 1940s, climbing was something you did in the mountains, with the Mountaineers or (intrepidly) on your own. Fred Beckey and his partners were at the forefront of cutting-edge climbing throughout the Cascades, so it is fitting that he discovered and first developed the granite walls and buttresses surrounding the town of Leavenworth. 

'I recalled that one day while returning from a rained-out September trip to Kangaroo Ridge, a group of us parked in Tumwater Canyon to take a close look at an imposing rock formation above,' Beckey states in Challenge of the North Cascades. He goes on to relate the raininess of the 1948 summer leading to more cragging in sunny Leavenworth than trips to the alpine.

Castle Rock was the first object of attention, and obviously so due to its prominent position. Classic routes like Midway were established and repeated. Summit bagging was still a preeminent mental state and the towers of Tumwater, as well as sandstone slabs on the Peshastin Pinnacles, were the next goals of Beckey and party. Tumwater Tower, Moss Tower, Chumstick Snag and many others were conquered by aid and free climbing.

When technology in the form of nylon rope and pitons advanced, harder and longer free routes were put up that are now some of the most treasured routes in Washington. Outer Space and Orbit on Snow Creek Wall (the bridge between Leavenworth and the 'Cashmere Crags'), plus shorter leads on Midnight and Noontime Rock got done.

When Beckey took off for higher and farther ranges, Pete Schoening became the forefather of Leavenworth climbing and the resident Cascade hardman. Many Tumwater climbs bear his name as the first ascentist throughout the 1960s and 70s. Development slowed somewhat during that period, as Index was found to be closer to Seattle and hold new, harder potential. 

In 1984, Peter Croft came down from Squamish and soloed several of the hardest routes in Leavenworth, as well as establishing new ones. Croft and the 80s kicked off a new era in Leavenworth. Sport climbing became popular, although it never gained a true foothold in the area, likely due to the absence of walls unprotectable by natural gear. 

It was during this time (especially the late 80s) that those who would essentially reinvent Washington's climbing began their journey in the Icicle. Those like Bryan Burdo, Leland Windham, Mack Johnson, Curtis & Rustin Gibson, Jim Yoder, and Mike Massey learned to climb in the Bavarian Paradise before their exploits in Frenchman Coulee, North Bend, Tieton and Darrington. 

Development of the crags and domes deemed too dirty, chossy, or far of a hike continued throughout the 80s, with a new predominance of bolted friction climbs on domes, and sends of longstanding projects. Jim Yoder and others sent several of the runout, desperate cracks in Tumwater during this period, such as No Such Thing as a Free Lunge 5.11+ R/X, Castle Rock. (With modern gear it is a reasonable lead.)

When the 90s hit and bouldering pads became commonplace, the true jewel of Leavenworth began to realize its full potential. Countless granite boulders dot the Icicle, with truly great problems of all grades, from the shallow-water-solo The Sleeping Lady v2, to the classic v4s The Pocket, The Fridge Center and the Real Thing, to test pieces Hanta Man v8 and The Peephole v11. During the late 90s, Forestlands and Mad Meadows became the circuit and hangout for the local pebble wrestlers. The crowds have no comparison to what arrived 15 years later, of course. Johnny Goicochea, Kelley Sheridan (the guidebook author), Joel Campbell and many others were the strong new climbers arriving and sending boulders in the mid 00's.

True sport climbing arrived in Leavenworth as well in the late 90s and early 2000s. Rattlesnake Rock and Drip Wall were bolted as primarily sport crags, and the metamorphic Nason Ridge came a little later. Today, the arrival of new boulders outpaces anything else, but locals are still discovering new diorite domes and buttresses and harder bolted climbs being sent. In the last 5 or so years we have seen climbers leave the comfort of Icicle Canyon in search of new blocs; first the Treasury just west of Stevens Pass was discovered by the old Leavenworth crew, and then Smithbrook just east of the pass, by the twin filmmakers Jake and Kyle Love.

1,816 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Leavenworth

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V2 5+
 134
The Hesitator
Boulder
V4- 6B PG13
 165
The Pocket
Boulder
V4 6B
 247
The Fridge Center
Boulder
V4 6B
 260
The Real Thing
Boulder
V4 6B
 95
The Physical
Boulder
V4+ 6B+
 137
The Fridge Arete
Boulder
V5 6C
 113
Footless Traverse
Boulder
V6 7A
 94
The Hourglass
Boulder
V6 7A
 79
The Hole
Boulder
V7 7A+
 79
The Shield
Boulder
V8- 7B
 111
Busted
Boulder
V8 7B
 80
Pimpsqueak
Boulder
V3 6A 5.? R
 76
You Dog You (aka The Sword)
Aid, Boulder
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
 169
Orbit
Trad 7 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 699
Outer Space
Trad 6 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Hesitator Icicle Creek > * Bouldering in… > Barney's Rubble
 134
V2 5+ Boulder
The Pocket Icicle Creek > … > Mad Meadows > Pocket Boulder
 165
V4- 6B PG13 Boulder
The Fridge Center Icicle Creek > * Bouldering in… > Fridge
 247
V4 6B Boulder
The Real Thing Icicle Creek > … > Forestland Boul… > Real Thing Boulder
 260
V4 6B Boulder
The Physical Icicle Creek > … > Forestland Boul… > Physical Boulder
 95
V4 6B Boulder
The Fridge Arete Icicle Creek > * Bouldering in… > Fridge
 137
V4+ 6B+ Boulder
Footless Traverse Tumwater Canyon > … > Swiftwater Boul… > Campus Traverse
 113
V5 6C Boulder
The Hourglass Icicle Creek > … > Sword/Underwear… > Hourglass Boulder
 94
V6 7A Boulder
The Hole Icicle Creek > … > Mad Meadows > Hole Boulder
 79
V6 7A Boulder
The Shield Icicle Creek > … > Forestland Boul… > Busted Boulder
 79
V7 7A+ Boulder
Busted Icicle Creek > … > Forestland Boul… > Busted Boulder
 111
V8- 7B Boulder
Pimpsqueak Icicle Creek > … > Mad Meadows > Pimpsqueak Boulder
 80
V8 7B Boulder
You Dog You (aka The Sword) Icicle Creek > … > Sword/Underwear… > Sword Boulder
 76
V3 6A 5.? R Aid, Boulder
Orbit Icicle Creek > Snow Creek Area > Snow Creek Wall
 169
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad 7 pitches
Outer Space Icicle Creek > Snow Creek Area > Snow Creek Wall
 699
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 6 pitches
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