Photo: Marc Dilley on Psychopath, a one-pitch 5.11a crack starting right of, but then merging with, Iconoclast.
Snow Creek Wall is an 800-vertical-foot granite wall near Leavenworth that is Central Washington’s tallest ‘crag’ and offers climbs between six and eight pitches in length. Crag is a bit of misnomer here because the base of the wall is about a 2.5-mile uphill hike and the setting is quite wild and mountainous. Still, being home to some of Washington State’s most famous rock climbs, like Orbit (5.8+), Outer Space (5.9), Iconoclast (5.10c), Hyperspace (5.10d)and Psychopath (5.11a), the area is well visited on summer weekends and can’t qualify as a remote mountain wall.
Access. From the Icicle Road Junction on the west end of Leavenworth, drive the Icicle River Road 4.25 miles and park in the Snow Creek Trail parking lot (Northwest Forest Pass needed for parking). Hike the Snow Creek Trail uphill for 2 miles until the trail is opposite the main wall. At one of the earliest opportunities, branch right and scramble down off the main trail into a flat area adjacent to the creek to find the log crossing of Snow Creek. On the opposite side of the creek climb, hike up boulders and talus and then find the climber’s trail that ascends roughly 500 vertical feet to the base of the wall.
Gear: 60-meter rope. A rack with gear to 3.5″ inches will cover all these routes except Hyperspace which should include a few extra larger pieces in the 4-inch range.
Descent: Most climbers walk-off the routes by trending climber’s left at the top and following gulley systems dropping to the south or southwest. This is a moderately long and tricky descent with loose scree and some exposed, third-class scrambling. If you’re unfamiliar with the descent, leave yourself a minimum of an hour to get down. Bring a headlamp if you’ll be cutting the available light close – it’s not a descent you want to tackle by Braille. Occassionally people rappel the Shield. With 60-meter ropes, three double-rope raps get you down the Shield to Two-Tree Ledge. Then scramble over to the regular start of Outer Space, and rap a stretchy 59 meters to a point where some mandatory fourth-class downclimbing gets you to the bottom of the wall.
Selected Climbs. This article doesn’t try to identify every climb on the wall but, rather, what we consider to be the best climbs worthy of your your initial efforts while visiting. We’ve found that carefully studying the wall from afar with the picture below let’s you accurately identify landmarks on the wall that will keep you on route. Incidentally, many visitors find the ratings here stiff. If you’re new to the wall, we’d recommend climbing below your grade on your initial foray.
- Outer Space (route 18), 5.9. Many consider this to be the premier rock route in Washington State. Combined with Remorse (below) for the start, the entire route is seven pitches long and tests a huge variety of climbing techniques. Do the first 3 pitches of Remorse. Pitch 4: Start up a hard crack, make the famous and exposed finger traverse to the right, then move up to the belay (5.9). Pitch 5: Move left from the belay then make easy but exposed face moves to a right-facing corner forming the right side of a rock pedestal. Climb the corner and, at its top, move to the left side of the pedestal to belay (5.8). Pitch 6: Climb the fabulous hand crack leaving from the left side of the pedestal for 150 feet to a perfect ledge (5.7+) Pitch 7: More fantastic crack climbing for another 160 feet to a belay that leaves about a 50-foot scramble to the top (a 5.9 move begins the pitch, the rest is 5.7). Gear to 3.5 inches. More good info about this route from SummitPost.org.
- Remorse (route 19), 5.8. The route starts almost at the very point where the approach trail hits the wall. The first pitch moves up mid-fifth class broken blocks to a good ledge belay. Pitch 2 (5.8) climbs straight up cracks a short distance then starts moving left to a thin flake. Keep traversing left below the thin flake to a ledge belay. The third pitch (5.7) ascends a chimney and some blocks to reach the ledge where Outer Space launches. Remorse carries on to the right of Outer Space, but few people bother with the upper pitches. Gear to 3 inches.
- Iconoclast (route 21), 5.10c. From the wide ledge at the end of pitch 2 on Remorse, move well left. The thin, clean, obvious crack you’ll walk past is Psychopath (511.a). Pitch 3: Just past the start of Psychopath, climb diagnolly left past a bolt and around a bulge into a crack/corner system; climb straight up this corner system to a belay (5.8). Pitch 4 and 5: The corner system gets much harder and goes through a small roof (solid 5.10). Pitch 6: Traverse right past a bolt (difficult, steep face climbing, 5.10c) to reach the chicken heads on the apron split by the Outer Space crack. Climb the chicken heads (runout 5.6 or 5.7) up to Library Ledge. Pitch 7: Finish off on Outer Space or climb the bolt ladder above the left side of the ledge (aid or 5.12) to the top. Gear to 3.5 inches.
- Psychopath (not drawn in the photo below, see topo farther down), 5.11a. Psychopath is essentially a one-pitch variation to Pitch 3 in our description of Iconoclast above. This variation ascends a steep, clean, difficult finger crack. Gear to 1 inch.
- Hyperspace (see topo farther down), 5.11a. This the longest, hardest, and, some insist, the best route on the wall. As described here it’s a compilation bringing together parts of many different routes. Pitch 1: Use the first pitch of RPM (5.10+) starting on a slab with 2 bolts that’s a bit left of where Remorse starts. Pitch 2: Do the second pitch of Remorse (5.8). Pitch 3: Do Pyschopath or Pitch 3 of Iconoclast (5.11a or 5.8). Pitch 4 and 5 are the same as Iconoclast. Pitch 6: Rather than doing the Iconclast traverse, move behind the massive flake and climb up a left-facing corner using strenuous double cracks (5.10c). Pitch 7: Climb a difficult crack and enter the wild, overhanging, flaring chimney, called the Pressure Pod. Use a combination of off-width technique and crazy stemming (510d). Pitch 8: Traverse left under a roof, then use a hand crack to climb up and surmount the overhang (5.10). Gear to 4 inches.
- Galaxy (route 22), 5.9. Another one of the longest routes on the wall (up to 9 pitches long). The route is not of sustained difficulty or quality with considerable so-so terrain of 5.5 or 5.6 difficulty intersperced with a few very good pitches. Gear to to 3.5 inches.
- Chimney Sweep (route 23), 510b. From Orbit near the base of Mary Jane Dihedral, this meandering route diagnols right for the better part of a pitch before climbing up steeply for a few pitches. From the top of chimney, move left again, using a mixture of slanted cracks and face holds to rejoin the top of the Mary Jane Dihedral. Gear to 2.5 inches.
- Mary Jane Dihedral (route 24), 5.9+. Climb about 2 pitches up Orbit and then, where Orbit diagnols left, follow the prominent dihedral system that stays to the right of Orbit and climbs more directly upward. Follow this for several pitches until it reunites with Orbit two pitches from the top of the route. Protection is tricky in places and some of the climbing is runout. Gear to 2.5 inches.
- Orbit (route 25), 5.8+. Another superb route and the second most popular climb on wall (Outer Space trumps it). At the point where approach trail reaches the wall, look to the left — the skyline closely approximates the line you’ll follow. Walk a few hundred feet left. Pitch 1: Climb fourth-class slabs to a large ledge. Go slightly left and follow a faint corner system up to a belay by a large tree. Pitch 2: A short chimney leads to easier climbing and then an easy ramp slants slightly left to a belay (5.8). Pitch 3: Move farther up the ramp and either ascend short finger cracks (5.9) to a belay or wander just left of the finger cracks on easier ground (5.5) to the same belay. Pitch 4: Move up and slightly right past small overhangs before stepping right onto the main wall. Face climb to a small belay with a bolt and cracks for the anchor. Pitch 5: Face climb up to a left-facing dihedral, climb the dihedral, then move right on to the face (5.8). Pitch 6. A short pitch on the face (runout) leads to a big roof (5.5). Pitch 7: Climb past the roof and straight up on big knobs (run out) to a big ledge (5.5). Pitch 8: Beyond the belay ledge, climb a short chimney before trending left as you climb to reach a wide crack that gets you to the top (5.7). Gear to 3 inches. More good info about this route.
Photo by Tom McMacking from a 1976 guidebook to the area by Rich Carlstad and Don Brooks.
18=Outer Space (5.9).
23= Chimney Sweep (5.10b).
24=Mary Jane Dihedral (5.9+).
25= Orbit (5.9).
Shady Summer Climbing: Begin at dawn or get fried.
More Info: This post will give new visitors to Snow Creek Wall many days of fun climbing without any outlay of $. Also see this article, for more information about climbing Outer Space, Iconoclast, and Mary Jane Dihedral.
1) People who visit the wall frequently or 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 around Leavenworth.
2) Also see the Selected Climbs in the Cascades series by Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield. Volume 1 has excellent climbing topos and pitch-by-pitch descriptions of Outer Space and Orbit. Volume 2 has a good topo and extremely detailed accounting of Hyperspace, whose bottom portion is made up of Remorse, Psychopath, and part of Iconoclast.
Topo: From Selected Climbs in the Cascades: Volume 2. The topos in these volumes do a good job of keeping you on route. Volume 1 has similar topos for Outer Space and Orbit.
Other Considerations. Most on the routes on Snow Creek Wall have either a southeastern or southern exposure so they cook on hot summer days. Very early start times are recommended for mid-summer climbs. Ticks are also an issue in spring and early summer, check yourself well at the end of the day.
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.