Climbing on Larch Mountain… or at least trying to


Saturday, 01-Aug-2020


Some adventures are clean, clear, and go exactly as planned.

Other adventures are challenges, that are unpleasant in the moment but make memories that last a lifetime.


This adventure lay somewhere in between the two. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as one would have liked.

A quick quote from the trip summarizes it well, “Today isn’t the day that we sent the route. Today is the day we found the route.”

You see, we went looking for bouldering.


By now, I should know better. The Garden. The Rat Cave. Neither “famous, best in the area” climbing areas were easy to find – I still haven’t found The Rat Cave after five years living here. When Laurel and I settled on going to Larch Mountain… I should have been skeptical.

The guidebook seemed to have a good map, and showed solid climbing on good rock. Interesting routes, good moves, and safe landings. You know, all that good stuff that you look for in a bouldering area.

We did find it, at least. It did take a while though.


Thankfully, Laurel did the driving and so we had the four-wheel drive truck to help us grind our way up the questionable trails in Washington State. Nothing was too bad, but I was still glad that the Mustang wasn’t making the drive up, if only for the time savings that a solid two feet of extra clearance give!

So we drove. Parked. Looked around. Drove some more. Got turned around. Backed up down a scary-small road in a scary-large truck, and were thankful for backup cameras.

Finally, we found one extra landmark that made us pretty confident that we thought that we might have found the area we were looking for. Packed up, and started hiking in.

It was a longer, and steeper, hike than I’d expected we’d be taking, but it was a good chance to get some training in, and for us to just hang out and chat – never a bad thing, especially with views of the whole gorge like we had there.

After a while, we found it!


Weirdly, we missed about half of the area though… I think we passed it somehow? I’m not really sure. But we found ourselves hiking into the mid-point, which… you know what? After a hot and dusty hike? Sure. I’ll take it. Sounds good to me. Let’s eat.

The advantage of bouldering is that you bring a crash pad along for safety. Which, interestingly, is just a huge cushion. Sort of like a portable couch.

The disadvantage of bouldering is that you’re in rocky terrain, that doesn’t usually give you a comfortable area to place said couch.

So we settles onto the rocks, pulled out our sandwich parts, and ate.

Then we explored, did some bouldering, and… Man, I couldn’t really tell you what we climbed. Here’s my best bet, though…

  • VB – Two easy / fun routes near the East Fin of the Wild West cluster. Slabby, slightly mossy, but definitely a fun reminder of foot movements and sloper holds!
  • V2 – Meat Cleaver – Maybe? I think we did this one? It was really fun! Must easier if you skip the sit-start, and I couldn’t honestly tell you if I completed it cleanly with the sit start. But We met some cool other boulderers working this area, and both Laurel and I were able to rock most (if not all) of the route, so… I’m happy about it!

From The Wild West, we moved onward. The rock was okay, but the landings were pretty rough – the V2 that we worked was safer, thanks to 3 pads that the other folks brought, but on our own my single pad wasn’t quite enough to inspire confidence with the landings we were looking at.

So we ventured onward, in search for the mythical Leavenworth Boulder…


We did find it. After a lot of dust, small turns in a large truck, and bashing through brambles. We did, in fact, find it. Queue the quote above “Today is the day we found it.”

I’d thought I was smart when I wore shorts – It was going to be hot, so I figured that the less cloth would be a bonus. Laurel thought I was nuts, because she fully expected to be bushwacking and battering through brambles… so she wore pants.

I did not make the optimal decision. But, bloody and battered, I was able to break through the undergrowth to the boulders!


And… they were… interesting. To be frank, the only good route we found for the day was that V2 I mentioned above.  I mean, we did get to do a quick photoshoot for “king of the fairys” Biscuit, but… that was really the highlight.

In the Leavenworth and Black Forest boulder area, it looked like there’d be a ton of great routes… but we figured out that everything was based on it being winter, without the undergrowth clogging the pathways and landing zones. We tried a few lines, just to give it a sporting chance… but luck and climbing was not on our side, and every route just seemed to dead-end.

You know what, though?

Not every trip has to go ideally. Some trips can be challenging, hot, dusty, and have less-than-optimal endings. At the end of the day, we’d gotten to explore. Go outside. And even find a new area I’d never been to before.

And that? That makes this an excellent trip in my book.

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