Photo: Marc Dilley climbing Red Gravy, a 5.10c sandbag. We’d rate it 5.10d.
Ten of us from the Wednesday-Night-on-the-Rocks climbing group assembled this week at Crack du Jour to test-drive this new crag listed in the newest version of the Leavenworth Rock guidebook. The crag has a combination of one-pitch climbs on quality granite. Those climbs offer a mixture of sport routes, trad climbs, and climbs using a mixture of bolts and gear.
As has been our experience at a few other new crags listed in the new guide, the ratings at this crag seemed out of alignment. Among some route developers there seems to a desire to underrate their new routes – which means there are going to be climbers who get sandbagged at crags developed by such climbers. Furthermore we’ve been finding new routes that don’t adequately rate the consequences of a fall. Consequently, a sandbagged climber could be in double jeopardy of broken bones or a broken body.
As much as we appreciate the hard work of route developers who have opened up new playgrounds for less ambitious climbers to enjoy, we wonder what’s going on the heads of those who consistently underrate their climbs. Is there a permanent stigma of wussiness cast upon a developer if one of his/her routes is ever downrated? Or are underrated climbs a form of ego inflation? Maybe such route developers imagine sandbagged climbers exclaiming, “The guy who put up this route was so good that 5.10b feels like 5.9 to him.”
We enjoyed climbing at Crack du Jour – the crag is worthy of a visit. Nonetheless we think our Ratings du Jour are more in line with the way that most climbers will assess the difficulty of these routes.
Access. From the west end of Leavenworth, drive up Icicle Canyon 7.0 miles from Icicle Junction (the intersection of Highway 2 and Icicle Creek Road). Roughly 100 yards before the turn-in to the Eightmile Campground, park in a small pullout on the left (south) side of the road. The climber’s trail starts on the other (north) side of the road and climbs steeply up the fall line about 300+ vertical feet to the Veteran’s Club crag. From the top of the Veteran’s Club crag, go straight uphill for another 200 vertical feet and then traversing to hiker’s left in a northwesterly direction across a ravine and then keep traversing another few hundred yards to the crag. Waypoints: Parking: 47°33.057′ N, 120°45.707′ W. Veteran’s Club: 47°33.130′ N, 120°45.644′ W. Crack du Jour: 47°33.237′ N, 120°45.758′ W.
Map: See our topo map to access this and other crags in the Upper Icicle.
Gear: 60-meter rope, a standard rack, and 10 quickdraws
Descent. Easiest to lower off the routes (they have two-bolt anchors with chains).
Photo: Ron Marotta following Dollars for Donuts. The guidebook calls it 5.9; we say 5.9+.
The Lower Tier. Crack du Jour has a few tiers. The lower tier is the lower part of our picture and currently has three routes. Most of us did the left-most route called Apple Fritters, which is straight below Route 1 and hidden behind the tree in our picture. Start up a little crack to a bolt, then do a finger traverse to the right past a fixed pin to get onto a slab. Follow the slab past 4 more bolts to the anchor. This was rated 5.8, we’d call the delicate move beyond the fixed pin 5.9. Some of our party tried another route on the lower tier (up and then slightly right of where people are standing in the picture). They were looking for Tid (5.8, gear to 2 inches), but found the found harder and mossier than expected and were not sure if they were on route.
The Upper Tier. The picture above gives our ratings. The written description below lists the guidebook’s rating first followed by our rating).
- Dollars for Donuts (5.9 – 5.9+), 2 bolts, gear to 1.5 inches, bolted anchor, 70 feet. The route starts on the left side of the crag. Start with face moves to a finger traverse; then an awkward crack moves over a bulge.
- Crack du Jour (5.8+ – 5.9+), gear to 3”, bolted anchor, 70 feet. The obvious, right-leaning, crack. An excellent route but the crack needs more cleaning at the top.
- Clean Bright White Light of Forgiveness (5.11a -5.11b), 5 bolts and gear to 1 inch for a placement in Crack du Jour. No one in our group could do this on top rope even though one our climbers leads 5.11a sport climbs.
- Red Gravy (5.10c – 5.10d), 6 bolts and small wires and/or cams, 70 feet, bolted anchor. The guide mentions only bolts but without intermediate placements (e.g. between third and fourth bolt) the route deserves a PG rating.
- Golden Grits (5.8 – 5.8), gear to 3”, bolted anchor. Finally, we agree on a rating. Easier at the bottom with a few harder moves to reach the anchor.
- Flapjacks (5.7 – ?), gear to 3”, bolted anchor. The crack behind the big pine tree. Not many of us did this one so we withhold our rating.
The guidebook lists two additional short routes that are a little right of Flapjacks. We didn’t climb these. First is Sidesplitter (5.10a-?) – use gear to 1” to protect a left-leaning crack and then climb past 2 bolts on a slab. Starting near the same spot but going right is Jewel of Denial (5.8 – ?) — use gear to 1” for the first moves, then slab climb past 5 bolts.
Additional Information: Leavenworth Rock by Viktor Kramar has the best and most complete compilation of climbs around Leavenworth.
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.