Photo: Angel Crack (5.10b) is the bouldering start to Angel (the remainder of the climb is 5.7). The crack is also done as a variant start to Saints (starting to the left).
Mid- April. It’s a time of the spring when rock climbing in the Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth Washington becomes so pleasant. The vernal sunshine starts warming the charcoal-colored walls, snow caps the surrounding peaks, the green waters of the Wenatchee River below the cliffs start raging, and the air is sweet with the smell pollen. It’s hard to beat rock climbing on Upper Castle Rock just now — especially on the west-facing routes covered in this installment of our online guidebook to Rock Climbing Castle Rock.
Rock Climbing Castle Rock – Leavenworth WA : Details, Details
Attractions: Saints, Angel, Damnation Crack, Midway, MF Overhang, Winter Solstice are all among the classic trad routes on the west-facing upper wall of Castle Rock. Castle Rock is a 400-foot-high rock tower some 2.5 to 3 miles west of Leavenworth. These routes leave from the left and center portions of the main ledge (Logger’s Ledge) dividing the lower and upper walls.
Skill: 3 (intermediate to advanced). Many of the routes described below are quite moderate (5.6 to 5.8). Midway is a classic easier route (5.4) and a few of the routes listed are solid 5.10s. Most of these routes are two pitches long if you follow them to the top.
Access: From the western edge of Leavenworth, drive 2.5 miles to 3 miles west of town on Highway 2. You’ll see the formation adjacent to the road on the right side. There is an extra-large pullout for parking and trail leaves from the western edge of the pullout and climbs up to the ledge between the upper and lower walls.
Gear. Many of these routes have a placement or two of fixed gear but most of the protection relies on trad placements. Gray Mare protects with gear to about 1.5 inches and is strung out between placements. The Canary options and the second pitch of all these routes protect with a rack up to about 2.5″
Descent. A good descent trail allows you to walk-off the top.
Maps. See our map.
Selected Routes. Our pick of the best routes on the west-facing portions of the Upper Wall (these routes leave from left and center portions of Logger’s Ledge).
- Saints (not numbered but visible in the photo), 5.8+. A top-quality route starting in the shadowed dihedral just left of Angel and then climbing for two pitches up the wall and running parallel but to the left of Angel. Gear to 2.5 inches.
- Angel (Number 3), 5.7 after the 5.10 start. A Castle classic with plenty of variety. Gear to 2.5 inches.
- Damnation Crack (Number 4), 5.9. Strenuous, varied, steep, and a little scary, this is definitely a test piece for the grade. The climb is one pitch long and ends on top of Jello Tower. Gear to 3.5 inches.
- M.F. Overhang (Number 6), 5.10c. Steep, pumpy, and superb for those who can make the grade. End on top of Jello Tower. Gear to 1 inch.
- The Nose (not numbered and a bit right of above MF Overhang), 5.10d. An excellent route linking together thin cracks on the northwest side of Jello Tower. Thin gear up to 1 inch.
- South Face (not visible), 5.8+. A very good route up the steep south face of Jello Tower. Gear to 2 inches.
- Midway (Number 10, the first pitch is not visible in the picture but is on the opposite side of Jello Tower from Damnation Crack), 5.5. A regional classic — how often are climbs of this grade so steep and exposed? Gear to 3 inches.
- Midway Direct (Number 9), 5.6. A slightly harder variation for the second pitch of Midway. Excellent face climbing. Gear to 2 inches.
- Winter Solstice (Number 11), 5.6. A good climb with a wide variety of moves. Gear to 2.5″
Photo by Tom McMakin (used in the 1976 guidebook Rock Climbing Leavenworth and Index, by Rich Carlstad and Don Brooks).
Fees/Permits: No permits are needed to climb here.
Rope. Most of the routes were established here with 150-foot ropes, but such ropes sometimes necessitated a final, funky belay just below the top. 50-meter or 60-meter ropes recommended.
- For additional climbs at this crag see our guidebook entries for 1) Castle Rock: Southwest Face of the Upper Wall or 2) Castle Rock: Lower Wall.
- Our information will supply new visitors and new climbers with the information needed for many days of fun climbing at Castle Rock without any outlay of $. People who climb here frequently and those who climb at a higher grade (5.11 and above), will want to refer to Leavenworth Rock by Viktor Kramar which has the best and most complete compilation of climbs at Castle Rock and around Leavenworth.
Hazards: With river, road, and wind noise it’s often difficult for climber’s to communicate on many routes at Castle. Climbing teams are wise to work out a silent method of communicating (e.g., series of tugs) to signal belay off, climb, etc.
Date: This post was initially prepared in 2008 and updated in 2011.
Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.