Anything in red on the map below can be "clicked" on for a summary report and related photographs.

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After the North Ridge of Mount Baker, we had enough of slogging up volcanoes for the season. Time to have some fun on the rock again! Problem was that if our legs were strong thanks to days and days of slogging, our upper bodies were about as strong as wet noodle! Before attempting long alpine routes, we needed to find a crag to get back into rock climbing shape. We first tried sport climbing at Skaha (British Columbia) for a while, but it was way too hot there. We then drove back south to Leavenworth hoping to get some cragging in.

We climbed several good lines at Upper Castle Rock, a small granite dome just above Icicle Creek road, a few miles west of town. We found the cragging around Leavenworth pretty limited and/or uninspiring, so we quickly felt like sampling some of the long alpine routes in the area.

The South Face of Prusik Peak would be first, a beautiful 6-pitch line on very solid white granite. According to the guidebook, the rock on that route is the standard by which other Cascade climbs are judged. Wow! Even considering that many peaks in the Cascades are piles of rubble, we had to go try it. Prusik is a remote peak in the Enchantment Basin, a particularly scenic part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, in the Central Cascades south of Leavenworth. Because of the long approach (10 miles, 6,000 ft elevation gain), it is normally done from a high camp below the peak. A great route!

Once back from Prusik, we spent another day cragging around Leavenworth (at a recently developed area called "Pearly Gates"), and also climbed the reputed multi-pitch line "Orbit" on Snow Creek Wall. We did not find that route to be anything special though. Definitely not as good as advertised!

Our next alpine goal was the "Backbone Ridge" on Dragontail Peak. We got a good look at it when we climbed Colchuck Peak earlier that spring. This line is one of the classic ridge climbs of the Cascades. It follows one of the prominent ribs of Dragontail Peak for 2,000 ft and involves a fair amount of climbing in the 5.7 to 5.9 range.

Now for some rest! Overnight trips are fun but they take a lot of preparation. Packing and unpacking gets old. We also desperately needed to work on our website. We were already four months behind!

A couple of days later, now tired of writing trip reports and selecting pictures, we were eager to beat the bush again. We left our quiet camp in Leavenworth and drove to the Teanaway ("Tee-ah-nah-way") River, north of Cle Elum to climb the North Ridge of Mount Stuart and the South Ridge of Ingalls Peak. We were pleasantly surprised to find several beautiful free campgrounds along the Teanaway! A rarity in these days of "fee demo" programs and other double taxation schemes. The North Ridge of Stuart is one of the crowded 50th classics and involves about 18 pitches of technical climbing on extremely good rock. We followed the "Great Gendarme" variation which adds three great pitches of 5.9 climbing and a much more direct finish to the route. The South Ridge of Ingalls Peak is a fun, short mellow climb that we did as a side trip since it is accessed from the same camp.

Stuart was a really long day (19 hours), so we were ready to again increase our climbing to approach and descent time ratio with some "roadside" climbing. One of the rare places in the Cascades that fit that description is the Washington Pass area. The Liberty Bell group offers several striking multipitch lines with relatively short approaches (45 to 90 minutes), thanks to its proximity to the North Cascades Scenic Highway, built in the early 70's through this previously remote area. We climbed two routes on the west side of the North Early Winter Spire: the Northwest Corner and the West Face. Two excellent climbs! In fact, those two routes have the best rock climbing we've found in the Cascades (so far...)! We also climbed the classic line on South Early Winter Spire, the Direct East Buttress. The weather then turned cloudy and unsettled for a few days, so we had to wait a while before climbing Liberty Crack on Liberty Bell, another one of the 50 Classics that had been high on our hit list for a while.

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Our next objective was another of the 50 crowded classics: the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak. This is normally climbed from a high camp in Boston Basin, a partially glaciated alpine meadow with magnificent views. The same camp gives easy access to two other climbs recommended in Nelson and Potterfield's guidebook: the Quien Sabe Glacier on Sahale Peak, and the Southeast Ridge of Sharkfin Tower. And off we went for a five-day camp to attempt them all.

I know I'm repeating myself, but it is just the way it is: after five days in "the bush" and long climbs in the mountains, some cragging felt pretty appealing again. It is only 30 miles from Marblemount to one of the very best rock climbing destinations in Washington: Darrington — aka D-Town — home to several classic slab climbs on remote granite domes. We spent 8 days there, camped in the center of town (!) and climbed three of the classic lines: Silent Running (5.10b, 7p), Total Soul (5.10, 8p), and a variation on Dreamer (5.10b, 10p). All highly recommended.

Cascades Rock Climbs, WA

July-August 2003
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Leavenworth, the Bavarian village of the Cascades.
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In true Disneyland style.
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Working frantically on the website.
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Think the semi is big enough? (this guy was actually camping and kayaking there)
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Movie night in the bus.
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What's in that pack?
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Near Washington Pass.
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Climber's favorite past time (AVI movie).
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Welcome to the Far West! The little town of Winthrop.
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Photo souvenir of Winthrop.
(high res. images are about 300KB)