Intro: Rock Climbing at Icicle Creek, Leavenworth

I’ve always loved mountains. Like John Muir, the mountains call me, and I must answer. I’ve dabbled in mountaineering as long as I’ve been able to, but shied away from climbing because I’m not a morning person and getting up at 3 am seems an insurmountable challenge. But I’ve learned there’s a lot more to climbing than clawing your way to the summit of Everest.

I spent the weekend climbing in Icicle Canyon, outside Leavenworth. I don’t normally bring a camera when I do this, because of the concentration required, and because this is how my last point-and-shoot died. Instead, I’m going to share some older climbing photos.

Last year I got into a free rock climbing lesson from American Alpine Institute; they were testing prospective guides for certification, and needed mock clients. The truth is I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all, but saw it as an opportunity to practice my meager rope handling and learn more skills in that regard, which would help with my glacier travel adventures. But it turned out that I loved rock climbing, and had some natural talent. So I’ve been at it ever since.

Looking down from the top, Barney’s Rubble

They started us on some easy to moderate pitches, taught us to tie in and belay, and asked us what we wanted to do. So I told them about a recent trip into the North Cascades; I had stayed at Sahale Glacier Camp, found it easy enough to climb the glacier, and the summit tower looked like an easy scramble. But it looked like the down-climbing would be horrible, and people told me rappelling is the only real way to do it. I didn’t have the gear or the skills to do that, and kicked myself for not climbing a high, scenic alpine peak I thought I would have been able to. So AAI taught me to rappel, and gave me lots of practice. 🙂

Rock climbing is best with a beautiful back drop

Starting an easy friction climb with a top-rope belay

This was a good place to learn, partly because of the available routes, and partly because the scenery is so inspiring. It gets hot in the Icicle, and these days when I climb here, I bring a water purifier and cool off with a cold drink of river water, although that wasn’t on the menu for my introduction to climbing. But seeing a lovely river below, enjoying the scent of pines in the air, and seeing big, craggy mountains all around made for a fantastic day and a wonderful start.

Topping out

I’m about to reach the top


In the interest of full disclosure: I shot the first photo in this post, but the guides shot the other two, which I’m in. Ok, technically that’s my foot in the first picture, too.

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5 thoughts on “Intro: Rock Climbing at Icicle Creek, Leavenworth

    • Hey, thanks for the visit!

      I’ll post some more photos from the Icicle before too long. It’s a wonderful place to climb, with great scenery, more than 200 routes from the easiest warm ups to stuff way beyond my abilities, and some great hiking trails, too. I get the idea that you’re beyond this being much of a consideration, but many of the crags here have easy walk ups for when you just don’t feel like going on the sharp end of the rope.

  1. I love climbing in the Icicle. Actually I just love everything about that area.

    So did you head back to Sahale Glacier Camp and summit the tower?!

    • Sadly, no. Not yet. 😦

      I spent a lot of time climbing this summer, which was great fun, I learned a lot, and developed skills. Even lead some easier routes. But it also took a lot of time that I normally would have spent backpacking and exploring, so it limited what I was able to do. Sahale will probably happen next summer, hopefully with a few others. I just bought a glacier rope, the last of the gear I need to make it happen, and I think I’ve managed to recruit a partner.

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