Washington Climbers Coalition P.O. Box 77315, Seattle, Washington 98177

Climbing Area: Leavenworth

Midway, 5.6, Castle Rock, Leavenworth.
Photo by Matt Perkins.
  Leavenworth climbing is in and around two canyons west of town:

Icicle Creek Canyon areas

Tumwater Canyon areas

Leavenworth was once the focal point for rock climbing in Washington state. While it may no longer be the "hub of Washington climbing," Leavenworth remains one of the most popular and varied climbing areas in the state. The area has a variety of crags, with climbs ranging from glorified boulder problems to 10 pitches long. The rock is predominantly granitic, although at least one crag is made up of Chiwaukum schist. Almost every form and angle of climbing is here: trad and sport; tame and adventurous; bouldering; slabs; steep, thin face; a few overhanging jug hauls; and all varieties of crack climbing.

To date, there have been few signs of any impending access crisis at Leavenworth’s public land crags. The Forest Service has expressed some concern over route-cleaning and impacts to sensitive plant species. It's also concerned about noxious weeds being spread with climber traffic.

By and large, however, the Leavenworth Ranger District has remained supportive of climbing. Lisa Therrell, a Leavenworth Ranger District Wilderness Manager, notes:

We have taken an active interest in the management of climbing on this district for 15 years, mostly without a budget to support it. During this time we have done a variety of things to try to improve conditions for climbers.

Examples include building the trail at Castle Rock, providing off-street parking at Barney's Rubble, hardening a number of climbing approach trails, and pulling noxious weeds that are sneaking off the roadway and up the hill towards the rocks. Despite the presence of known rare plant populations on climbing rocks, we have not instituted any restrictions, but rather, put the appeal out to climbers to work with us as they locate new routes so we can survey for plants in cracks.

Access to climbing is only limited in a couple ways on this district. We have a seasonal closure on two adjacent rocks due to raptor nesting issues and we limit overnight use to the Enchantments--a management issue that transcends climbing. Of course during fires there are often other closures to public entry in effect as needed to secure the area for fire operations and public safety. I know that not all climbers agree with the rationale for these restrictions, but I am hopeful that the majority of climbers respect the environmental concerns (and with fires public safety concerns) that prompt these actions.

There have been some bolting controversies at Leavenworth. Some climbers have taken a particularly strong stance with both retrobolting and new bolting at Castle Rock and Snow Creek Wall. The Forest Service has made it clear it doesn’t want to get involved in these issues. We hope climbers handle conflicts reasonably and among themselves.


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