I haven’t climbed at every destination in America but I sure have seen a lot of bouldering areas over the years. There are only a few places I haven’t spent a good chunk of time including but not limited to, The Gunks, Idaho, and Tramway, to name a few. Until last week, Leavenworth, Washington was on the short list of top areas to check out. I had stopped in Leavenworth ten years earlier on the way from Yosemite to Squamish and tasted just a bit of what the area had to offer but just never got the opportunity to go back for a full dose of central Washington granite.
Leavenworth sits just over the Cascades to the east of Seattle along a beautiful set of rivers. The tourist town has a surreal Bavarian feel and nearly every building reeks of German architecture accented by bratwurst stands on every corner. Along the rivers and up the valleys lie vast boulder fields, littered with established climbs just a ten minute drive from the comfort of our hotel. Brian Runnells and I posted up in the Der Ritterhof Inn and began our tour of the area with high expectations.
My favorite Leavenworth boulder called Turbulence (V12). (Photo: Brian Runnells)
The granite in Leavenworth is very similar to Rumbling Bald in North Carolina, fine grained, forms nice edges and is well featured. There are tons of problems in the v3-v7 range that would keep an intermediate climber busy for a long time. The upper end of the scale was lacking in quantity but for a quick trip there was plenty to work on in the v10-v12 range while we were there. The guide for Leavenworth was published in 2006 and was missing a lot of the newly developed gems that we had been told about but there is a revision in the works with a huge update, so that will help.
Beautification (V11) (Photo: Brian Runnells)
Coffee Cup (V9) (Photo: Brian Runnells)
The tragically chipped, Cotton Pony (V10) (Photo: Brian Runnells)
(Photo: Brian Runnells)
Brian and I spent the majority of our time climbing in the morning and late afternoon when they temperature would dip below 60 degrees. We had a few cold days and the rock turns to Velcro when the temperature dips below 45. Kyle O’Meara gave us the keys to the kingdom and pointed us in the right direction for all the classics in the area. After a week of work, Brian and I had climbed on a lot of great lines and seen a collection of nice projects that would certainly be worth a return trip. Leavenworth is like a mini training ground for a bigger trip to Yosemite to climb on the monster boulders in the valley.
Gunning for the lip on Hagakure (V12). (Photo: Brian Runnells)
Hagakure (V12) (Photo: Brian Runnells)
Leggo My Ego (V7). One of the best in the grade. (Photo: Brian Runnells)
I spent a few days in Gold Bar and Index, an hour west of Leavenworth, over the Cascades in the dense mossy forest along the Index River. The rock in Index and Gold Bar seemed significantly better then Leavenworth and there were more standout lines there. Problems like All of the Above and Hagakure were on my list and I was not disappointed, Index is unreal. The boulders are literally on the water along a beautiful blue green river and the texture of the granite here is very similar to Brione in Switzerland. All of the Above (V13) is hands down one of the best lines I have come across. Twenty feet tall, stand start, immaculate compression features to a glory jug halfway up the block, this climb is as good as it gets. I focused my time on this line and strategically worked it into submission over two days. It feels amazing to set a goal, formulate a plan, and execute without too many hiccups and the reward is huge on such a classic test piece. All of the Above is not featured in this video but will be in another piece I will be releasing in the coming weeks, keep an eye out!
The one and only “Narc”
Brian trying The Prizm (V9)
Index River blocks…
Overall, I would love to go back and work on some projects and establish some new lines in Leavenworth. Seems like the ideal season is late winter to early spring and late fall because it needs to be cold to climb hard on granite so as long as there isn’t snow it should be nice and sticky. There is a great BKB video with a lot of classic problems in it so check that video for more beta and Kelly Sheridan’s new guide to the area should be out within the a year. Next on the destination list is the Gunks and I am headed there in two weeks time. The 2013 World Compression Tour continues and I am headed straight for the Buddha when I arrive in New York!