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Best 2 months of the year for Seattle-based climbing visit?

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Fraser33 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 5

Next year, I'm hoping to take a couple of months off work here in the Scotland to visit Wa. and am most likely to be based in the Greenlake area for at least part of that time.

I was wondering which (consecutive) two month period is recommended for climbing / general visiting. My US-based wife thinks September is probably starting to get slightly too cold for the 'general tourist' side of things, but I assume it's the best time for a climbing trip! Ideal operating temps for me are say 18-20°C, which I reckon is high 60s in old money.

I've had a trawl through the route database here on MP and it's great to see there should be no shortage of lines to jump on. It's mostly sport climbing I do, with a bit of trad and bouldering thrown in. Sport-wise, I'd hope to o/s 5.11d-ish (as long as no cracks are involved as my skills in that department are predictably rubbish!) and working up to say .12d for projects.

So, wise people of Mountain Project, what are your recommendations please?

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480


FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I'm not in the Seattle (or Washington state at all) area, but I'd go with July and August. I'd think the best chance for dry weather is the summer.

A local with chime in.

Drederek · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2004 · Points: 315

August and September. August will have some hot days, Squamish ,the Exits, WA pass, Nehalem and Index. September is when Index shines and if its wet its another 1 1/2 to Leav on the dry side of the mountains. Should be cool enough at Vantage and Tieton by then as well.

Jacob Smith · · Seattle, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 230

For alpine climbing, June-August, earlier will be better for the glacier climbs, later is better for the rock climbs.
For crag climbing, September. The weather's a little more of a risk, but lowland crags in August are hot, you'll be doing the morning-evening routine.
And FWIW, Washington has amazing sport climbing, Little Si, Equinox, Mazama, Vantage, Tieton, plus a lot of the newer routes at Index. All of those places will be better in the fall.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Dave Schultz wrote:Mid-July through mid-September. I also may not know anything because sport climbing did not interest me while I was there; but it also did not attract me while I was there, either ... Your sport areas are really Mount Erie (not a good destination, good if you need to climb sport and live around the area), the Exits (32 and 38; not super high quality, though a few good lines), and ... that's about it. I personally lived there for two years and never even thought about going to the Exits, and only went to Mt Erie once (it is in a rain shadow, so interesting geographical location).
Interesting that you talk down on 32, then note that you've never been there...

Dave is right in saying that Washington is more notable as a destination for trad (and bouldering), but I would say that there is still plenty of good sport climbing to keep you interested. World Wall 1, at Exit 32, is a top quality cliff with good 12+ projects for you. The quantity isn't huge but the quality is good. It gets good there starting at around 12c, so many climbers may not enjoy it. For 12c and up it is great. There a several other excellent Washington sport crags that are quite good but somewhat under the radar. I won't discuss them here, but once you're in Seattle info is easy to find if you ask around.

A stay in the northwest without spending significant amounts of time in Squamish would be a serious error. Again, best known for trad and bouldering, but there is a lot of good sport climbing too. It is 3.5 hours from Seattle.

Mid July to mid September is the most reliable dry weather. It can be a bit hot for hard climbing mid summer. May-June is cool and cloudy, not great for vacation, but often good for hard climbing.
Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

If you want to crag July and early August are hotter than ideal. Good time to get in alpine routes at WA pass or the enchantments, but south facing routes will still be hot as shit.
Early morning at Index or late evenings at world wall can still be decent.

Ideal cragging is in September to early October temp wise, doesn't mean the rain will cooperate. It's still perfect temps for touristy things, honestly it does not get too cold in western WA even in the dead of winter.

What are you looking for in sport routes? Vertical edging and crimps? Thuggish roofs?

blakeherrington · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 1,040

For someone

  • Interested in Sport climbing, and specifically not being a crack climber
  • Based in North Seattle

from a climbing perspective (not general tourism or hiking) there likely aren't many different areas you'll climb or that would interest you, especially not over just a 2 month stay. The presence (and seasons) of the mountaineering or trad/bouldering doesn't probably matter to you, so:

Little Si/Exit 32 - Long, techy, overhanging sport routes on smooth stone. Afternoon shade. 5.11-5.14 45mins drive - Best in April, May, Sept

Newhalem - Vertical granitic edging - afternoon shade and some mountain breezes - 2.5 hour drive - Best in May, June, Sept

Leavenworth/Nason Ridge - Not much here as far as sport crags. Nason has some low/moderate quality jug pulling about 2 hours east of Seattle. Stays dry, gets AM Sun. Best in April, May, Sept, Oct

Index Area - Not a whole lot here will suit a typical traveling sport climber who doesn't crack climb, unless you are into granite subtleties, smearing, and extreme technical routes scattered around on vertical cliffs. 1.5hr drive, and best in April, May, September. Very Sunny and hot in summer, typically very wet mid-Oct to Mid-March.

I'd probably pick May+June if you're stuck in Seattle the whole time and wont have extended trips, or else Mid August to Mid October if you could potentially leave Seattle for a week or two at the tail end, and head to a nearby (and dry) sport center, like Smith Rock or Skaha. Both of those places will be ideal in October when everywhere closer to Seattle is apt to be rainy, but are 6ish hours driving from Seattle.
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

^^^ Blake's advice is the best you're gonna get. It's a beautiful spot, have fun!

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

I forgot to add:

If you're looking for sport definitely drive up to Squamish. It's about five and half hours from Seattle if you don't hit traffic on the S curves of Everrett or Surrey or the border..

Check out cal chek in Squamish Select (guidebook). Lots of good sport!

Todd Anderson · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 160
Bill Kirby wrote:I forgot to add: If you're looking for sport definitely drive up to Squamish. It's about five and half hours from Seattle if you don't hit traffic on the S curves of Everett or Surrey or the border...!
Good news! It's more like 3.5 hours if you don't hit traffic or border waits! Last time I was heading there (late August) some bridge was under construction and it took 7.5 hours, though.
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

The Seattle to Squamish drive is all about timing. If you leave at the wrong time (mid-afternoon) and hit traffic/delays in Seattle, the border, and/or Vancouver, it can turn into a 5+ hour hassle. But if this happens it is entirely your fault-- you blew the timing. if you time it right it usually takes 3:15 to 3:30.

The key is, going in either direction, to leave at exactly 6:30 PM. This is late enough to miss most of the traffic and have no wait at the border, but early enough that you are done driving by 10PM and get a full night sleep. Easy!

Fraser33 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 5

Cheers folks, that's all very useful & interesting information. Slightly disappointing to hear that of the sport climbing in the near vicinity, the quality might not be as good as I'd initially thought, given the number of sport routes listed. Anything new to climb on will frankly be a welcome relief, nomatter what! Being Glasgow-based at present, I've sort of exhausted most of the the doable stuff within a 2 hour drive radius.

Squamish was definitely also on the radar, I just wasn't sure how sensible it would be to try and get a few trips there if I'm not a US citizen and regularly trying to get back across the border. Do you think there are likely to be 'issues' if I'm in and out a few times over the 2 month period? Also, my wife was quite keen for a trip to Alaska, maybe hiring a camper and taking it slowly, so that's always an option to explore further afield.

@blakeherrington: your description of "Little Si/Exit 32 - Long, techy, overhanging sport routes on smooth stone. Afternoon shade" sounds perfect for me. That's the sort of terrain I most enjoy and seek out as a first preference. Having said that, I'm not averse to the shorter, steeper routes so would be happy to get on some of that too. I'd be happy on trad also, but since I'm aiming to travel light I'll only be taking my harness & shoes with me, so no rack or rope I'm afraid. I'll no doubt be putting out feelers for climbing partners closer to the time, and visiting the local gym to see how active the scene is. from what I['ve read online, it looks very promising.

Cheers again for all the input to date.


4th St · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0

For mountain stuff in general, British Columbia beats Washington totally to hell.....Much if it is about a day's drive from Seattle.

Canmore/Banff has stunning limestone.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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