Beta on demand has become so embedded in our consciousness that when, every so often, a route not yet posted to the Internet suddenly surfaces, the climbing community takes note. Locals are the guardians of these forgotten classics, and tribute must be paid to gain access. For Leavenworth, Washington, the striking, 110-foot Chumstick Snag pinnacle is one such climb: It’s sought by many yet disclosed by few. Tucked away amongst high-desert hills, the spire juts from the landscape just 20 minutes north of downtown Leavenworth. It has only two climbs: the Standard Route (5.7; pictured) and the Southwest Face (5.6 A2).
In 1950, three years before his astonishing boot-axe belay on K2, which saved his life and those of his fellow climbers, Pete Schoening with partner Tom Miller became the first to stand atop the Snag. As described in the 1952 The Mountaineer journal, their Standard Route was “quite impressive and offering some 110 feet of climbing on soft rock.” On the near-crackless stone, the climbers placed “long bolts for safety and a piton below the [upper east] ridge.” The climb offers unique face moves with groovy pockets and smeary feet to a vertigo-inducing summit. Fred Beckey made his mark on the Snag in 1963 with Steve Marts by establishing the Southwest Face. In his 1965 Guide to Leavenworth Rock-Climbing Areas, Beckey describes the Snag as “a spectacular little sandstone pinnacle that became lost for some years after the first climb.” Beckey’s “well-bolted” line traverses diagonally across the Snag and encourages the climber toward “free climbing whenever possible.”
While neither route is especially difficult, the Snag is tough to access, requiring a circuitous four-mile hike or mountain-bike approach, as the trail follows a path prescribed by the landowners. (A trailhead sign has the beta.)
The Snag is a departure from Leavenworth’s world-class granite. But to split hairs, it isn’t in Leavenworth anyway—it’s in the unincorporated community of Chumstick. Still, the Snag marks a local rite of passage. Fortunately, caregivers have given the spire a recent rebolt, though the original pitons remain. Consumed by the elements, the corroded metal serves as a reminder of our sport’s dynamic history.
Pete Schoening and Tom Miller, 1951