The Snow Creek Wall is a striking granite buttress that is reputed to hold some of the best multi-pitch rock climbs in Washington. Orbit and Outer Space are the two most popular moderate lines on the wall. Outer Space is the better of the two and is deservedly crowded, so plan to be there early otherwise you may have to queue up. Summer is probably not the best time to climb on Snow Creek Wall; the climbs are in the sun until about 2PM and it can get brutally hot! May, June or late September are probably best.
In early July, after climbing Prusik Peak, we hiked up to the Snow Creek Wall to climb Orbit an 8-pitch 5.9 route up the left side of the wall. We must say that we did not find that route particularly enjoyable: the line is not very direct, and the climbing not continuous. We did go back a few days later for the other reputed line on the wall, Outer Space (5.9, 8 pitches). Temperatures that day were brutal. We barely managed to get two pitches up a direct 5.10b variation (RPM), before we were forced to abort the climb in blistering sun.
We came back to Leavenworth to climb Outer Space just before I had to leave for France for my sister's wedding. As usual, the approach took us an hour and a half to the rope-up point. A party of two who left the parking shortly after we did caught up with us as we were refilling our water bottles at the creek. We had no choice but watch them go by... Fortunately, they were here to climb Orbit so we were still first in line for Outer Space.
The weather did not look too good (big dark clouds) but we started up the climb anyway. I led all the pitches except for pitch 5. Since we climbed the direct start (RMP, 5.10b) earlier in the summer, we went up the normal start this time. The first pitch follows an easy dihedral (5.7) to a ledge with a bolted anchor. Make sure you don't continue up the dihedral but follow a short crack veering left to the ledge. Belaying higher up in the dihedral makes the traverse back into the 4th class ramp leading to Two Tree ledge a bit tricky. Once we got to the first belay, it started raining a bit. It stopped after a while so we decided to press on, and reevaluate once on Two Tree Ledge. We simul-climbed the two 4th class pitches and by the time we reached the ledge it was sunny again. I then led the mental crux pitch, the 5.9 traverse. Eric took the next pitch (5.8 corner and easy but runout face).
The next two pitches (pitches 6 and 7) are what Outer Space is known for. Beautiful and continuous hand jamming with great rests on chicken heads! I got to lead both of them and had a great time. Pitch 6 is fun and easy. The seven pitch is a little more difficult as it begins with a few steep moves along a 5.9 finger crack. Some parties bypass this section by climbing the 5.6 face on the left. The last pitch is short and a bit runout but easy (low 5th class). It follows a slab with big knobs to the top. It rained on and off while we were on the upper pitches but we enjoyed sunshine on the top. Having done the descent before, we made it back our packs quickly and watched three other parties making their way up the route. A great climb!
Snow Creek Wall, Leavenworth, WA
|"Orbit" and "Outer Space" are two of the best lines on the Snow Creek Wall (click to see the routes).|
|Mountain goats are frequent encounters there.|
|"Orbit" (5.9) follows an inobvious line up the left side of the wall.|
|Eric leading one of the most enjoyable pitches (4th pitch, 5.8).|
|On the fifth pitch of "Orbit".|
|Lucie belaying high on the wall.|
|The last couple of pitches of "Orbit" follow easy slabs to the top.|
|Reaching the top of Snow Creek Wall.|
|Hey! Look at my funny red shoes!|
|Struggling up RPM (5.10b) in stifling heat.|
|Eric pulling the roof (crux) on RPM.|
|The upper pitches of "Outer Space" follow the classic crack up the headwall.|
|Lucie starting up the 4th pitch (5.9).|
|Preparing to tackle the climb mental crux, the 5.9 traverse.|
|Lucie leading the 5.9 traverse (pitch 4).|
|Starting up the 5th pitch (5.8).|
|High up on the exquisite hand crack of the 5th pitch (5.8).|
|Good climbing makes a happy climber.|