With more than 3,000 routes listed on Mountain Project, all within a couple-hour drive, Leavenworth is smack dab in the middle of the highest density of rock climbing in the entire state of Washington. But if you ask one of the locals about how sick that access must be, you’ll get a sly smile and a comment like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no climbing here. None whatsoever!” The climbing scene in Leavenworth is a brand of awesome that people like to keep secret. The town of just 2,000, 117 miles due east of Seattle, has a Bavarian theme (the fruit of a successful town revitalization plan born in 1962). Some visiting climbers refer to it as “a tourist trap surrounded by excellent sport and trad cragging, bouldering, and alpine climbing on high-quality granite.” But as area climber and mountain guide Jeff Ward says, “Fortunately, it’s limited to downtown. Don’t worry, the mountains are not littered with Bavarian decorations.” The climbing is generally broken into two main cragging areas: Icicle Creek and Tumwater Canyon. These are each composed of numerous sub-crags (the mega-classics are Careno Crag, Castle Rock, and Snow Creek Wall), and are surrounded by the region’s most popular bouldering and amazing alpine rock in the Stuart Range and the Enchantments. Summers can be hot (by Pacific Northwest standards), but rock season comfortably runs spring through fall.
Turbulence (V12). Photo: Aaron Matheson’ title=’Taylor McNeill sending one of Leavenworth’s finest:
(V12). Photo: Aaron Matheson’ slug=’attachment_232488′ id=’attachment_232488′ src=’http://static-dev-climbing.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2.jpg’ />
[stay]Seven Forest Service campgrounds line Icicle Creek Road a few miles south and west of town in Icicle Canyon. All sites are first-come, first-served, require a fee, and are mega-popular on weekends. Climbers should try to arrive midweek and target Eightmile or Bridge Creek campgrounds to be close to the action. Want a roof? Try the Adventure Inn. It’s next to a beer garden and has rooms for as little as $80.
[eat/drink]München Haus has more mustards to choose from than some places have beers on tap, but true to its German aspirations, they also have a wide variety of sausages to accommodate all these condiments—and soft pretzels, too. Grab a table outside with a mountain view and wash it all down with a Khaos Kölsch from Icicle Brewery.
[gear up]Founded and run by longtime locals, Leavenworth Mountain Sports has any climbing or camping gizmo you might have forgotten, as well as the inside track on local beta. Need another crashpad for highballs at Forestland? Rent one (or two!) for the weekend here. You can even rent a Leavenworth Rock guidebook.
[learn the ropes]Take a class (from Intro to Rock to Crack and Sport Techniques to Multipitch and Rescue Systems) or hire a guide from the Northwest Mountain School to help you explore area classics. Got your sights on a bigger objective? North Cascades Mountain Guides has four IFMGA guides on staff and offers alpine climbs all over the North Cascades.
[spend a rest day]There is no shortage of sunny patios in town on which to have a beer, post your sends to Instagram, and consider your projects. But you’re in the middle of an alpine wonderland; go explore! Locals float the Wenatchee (great for a midday cool-down), which flows right through town. Get a tube, rent a stand-up paddleboard, or book a raft or kayak trip at Leavenworth Mountain Sports (see “gear up”). If you’re feeling more terrestrial, take a day hike into the Enchantment Wilderness. Start from the Icicle Trailhead in Icicle Canyon and climb through the pines to a dreamy, above-treeline lake-to-lake tour. Our sister publication Backpacker mapped this 16-mile route. Don’t sweat the mileage: You reach Snow Lakes (perfect for a dip) in about three miles and mind-blowing Enchantment Basin about a mile after.
*Stats are for the immediate Leavenworth area. Get route beta, photos, and topos at mountainproject.com/leavenworth.
Leavenworth ClassicsThe 10 best 4-star problems and routes as ranked by Mountain Project users.
Royal Flush (V2)Tumwater Canyon, Swiftwater Boulders “Gym climbers will hate it; trad climbers will love it. Maybe a little stiff for V2, but super-good hand jamming!”
Beach Arête (V2)Tumwater Canyon, The Beach“Start on a small rock pile at the edge of the water. Grab the starting hold, and make your way up and right with good heel hooks to jugs at the apex. Spicy mantel to top out.”
The Rib (V4)Icicle Creek, The Carnival Boulders“Superb movement with a variety of ways to handle the crux. Start on good edges and feet, and move up the sidepulls, slopers, and edges. The height may get to you if you’re used to short problems, but it’s classic. More fun with a mountain of pads!”
The Physical (V4)Icicle Creek, Forestland Boulders “A beautiful line on amazing rock. Committing, too! Start standing as high as you can, using the slab to the right, and then squeeze and throw your way through the stunning open-handed holds. One of the best V4s this town has to offer!”
Outer Space (5.9)Icicle Creek, 6 pitches“Leavenworth’s most classic route! It starts at the base of Snow Creek Wall and follows fantastic features up through the main shield to the top. The last two pitches make it all worthwhile.”
Upper North Ridge (5.9)Stuart Range, 18 pitches “Excellent! We did it late last July in a heavy snow year. We camped near Ingalls Lake to get a head start on the approach. The Gendarme pitches are among the finest I’ve done.”
The Warrior (5.10d)Icicle Creek, 1 pitch“Previously called The Original Route, this stunning corner crack will test all of your skills and take all of your gear. Layback, stem, face climb, and jam your way up to the crux.”
Hyperspace (5.11a)Icicle Creek, 7 pitches “Lots of physical crack climbing with amazing positions and exposure!”
ROTC (5.11c)Tumwater Canyon, 3 pitches“After more than 30 years of extensive rock climbing, this could be the best route that I have done anywhere. I’m guessing that I have done this climb at least 150 times over the years, and it still rules!” Check for raptor closures.
West Face (5.12-)Icicle Creek, 9 pitches“Spectacular setting with a bull’s-eye view of Mt. Stuart. Hot days in mid-summer are best for this route.”