Nestled in the towering peaks of the Cascades, between Spokane and Seattle lies a myriad of granite boulders, with intimidating alpine environments like Mount Ranier just to the south, this seems like an improbable destination for the boulderer. Instead of overshadowing the small rocks, theses massive peaks create a wild and majestic atmosphere, delivering the essence of the great outdoors. To boulderers, seekers of the driest possible conditions, taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest seems like a fool’s errand, planning months in advance only to arrive at an eternally wet and humid boulder field filled with splitter granite locked in a slimy coffin of grease. This was what I was expecting prior to our arrival. As it turns out, Leavenworth, which lies on the eastern side of the Cascades is actually part of a rain shadow desert, which means that while the western side of the mountains may be having a torrential downpour the boulders on the eastern side of the mountains are bone dry (see the ultra-high-tech map).
The Levels of psyche this meteorological phenomena created were too high for our own good. Armed with plentiful foam and great friends (Andy, Angie, Dave, Peter, and Tony) we took to the boulder field and had an absolute blast. The first three days were spent sampling some of the most classic boulders Leavenworth has to offer, lines like The Sword, Prism, and Premium Coffee.
Andy topping out the "Fridge Right"
Andy on the classic highball "The Sword"
Angie crushing the fridge boulder
Andy flying on "Prism"
Getting used to the view was easy
Gretchen, our trusted Bavarian steed.
After a much needed rest day we heard the West side of the mountains was drying out, following our trusted guide Peter, we made for the West in hopes of touching the legendary stone of Gold Bar. Gold Bar… I’m still not sure if I actually visited the place, the dreamlike setting of the Sanctuary, with ancient evergreens, moss abound, fairies, and sweet effervescence, enraptured me into a state of hypnosis. Beneath a carpet of moss lied the finest boulders in existence, the holds seemed to be covered in 300 grit sandpaper, texture and grips carved so perfectly for humans to grasp that it begs of intelligent design. Yes, heaven exists… an hour car ride from Seattle plus a 45 minute uphill hike will get you there. We squeezed in two dry days at this magical area , all of the climbs were fantastic, but among the best were lines like Doja, Ground Zero, Water, and Lighten Up.
Peter doing the mid-climb mantle
An impressively slick ascent of "Chutzpah" from Dave
"Leggo My Eggo" at the Index boulders
The Last bit of the trip was spent back in Leavenworth finishing up lines we had tried earlier in the trip and climbing boulders we hadn’t yet seen. Spending eleven days in this place leaves you wanting more, we saw most of what was in the guidebook and then some, but the place is far from tapped. Gazing at the mountainsides will make you realize how much rock this area holds and the endless potential for first ascents. Overall Central Washington is a fantastic place to visit, the weather is great, camping is free and aesthetic, and you have hundreds, if not thousands of boulders at your disposal, I hope to be back soon .
- Sam Dospoy