Midway Route, Castle Rock

This spectacular three-pitch climb (5.6) is located on one of Leavenworth's oldest and most famous crags, Castle Rock. The rock stands above Highway 2, about three miles west of Leavenworth in the scenic gorge of Tumwater Canyon.

Midway features moderate climbing combined with comfortable belays and terrific exposure. The climbing involves a variety of crack and face technique and offers great excitement and challenges that will be new to many beginning and intermediate climbers. It is a popular climb, and you may have to wait in line. It is worth it.

The climb is very well protected with standard rock climbing equpiment, but it is a "trad" climb. There are a few bolts at belays, but otherwise it is entirely protected by nuts and cams and old pitons dating back to the 1950's. If you have it, bring gear for cracks up to 4" (gear to 3" would be OK).

  The route starts at "Logger's Ledge," where Castle Rock is broken at mid-height into two distinct portions (upper and lower Castle Rock). Here, a 100' high rock tower, "Jello Tower," leans against the cliff. The fifteen minute approach trail leads directly to this large ledge, where the casual hiker may find the exposure enough to turn around and parents may fear for their kids. Be careful not to drop anything; it may hit somebody on the head as some of the routes below are quite popular. Beyond this point, the main trail continues around the rock to climb up the hillside south of Castle Rock for access to the top.

Midway's first pitch actually starts about 25 feet above Logger's Ledge, on a small ledge next to the Jello Tower's south face. The first pitch has some awkward chimney climbing, much of which can be avoided by using face holds on the wall to the right though some of it is best climbed by facing the wall on the left side of the slot.

This first pitch ends right on top of Jello Tower, where there are some very large bolts and chains in place so a retreat from there is relatively simple.

  Above Jello Tower, the route becomes more committing. The second pitch starts with a wild step-across to a face with down-sloping holds. Above the step across, there are three options and the middle one is recommended (it is described here as option number 3).

(1) After reaching the comfort of a small ledge system ten feet above the step-across, the route guidebooks show as "Midway" traverses rightward 20 feet and then continues upward through an awkward chimney.

(2) Instead of traversing rightward after the step-across, the route guidebooks show as "Midway Direct" continues more or less straight up the corner system directly above the step accross. A brief detour onto a rib on the right leads to a large ledge perhaps thirty feet above the step accross, and Midway Direct continues upward to a small overhang above, where it jogs slightly left, right and straight up again, about 90 feet above the step-across (exposed, and runout on sketchy pro, this option will scare most beginning to intermediate leaders).

  (3) After the step-across, the best option starts up "Midway Direct" but rejoins the "regular" route about fifty feet up. Start directly up the corner system above the step-across, as in option (2), taking the brief detour right and pausing on a large ledge about 30 to 40 feet above the step accross. Here, leave the corner system a second time to climb up and right, pasing an old piton in a vertical crack and traverssing rightward beneath a small diagonal roof. There is an exciting step-up or step-across to reach the Midway corner system, above the squeeze chimney. This option is well protected and barely if at all harder than the "standard" but it is not correctly shown in guidebooks.

With a 60m rope, it is possible to climb from Jello Tower to the top of Castle Rock in one pitch, but a better option may be to set a belay where there is an old bolt, 100 feet above Jello Tower (good gear placements are nearby). A belay at this point keeps the leader in better contact with their partner as they grapple with the crux of the route.

The pitch above this optional belay is one of the most enjoyable in Leavenworth. Wildly exposed but easy, wide cracks and ample ledges zig zag to the summit of the Rock. This is a climb not to be missed!


Click HERE for Topo.


Note: Castle Rock is easily descended by walking off the back. Sandy slabs quickly give way to a dirt trail (also sandy), which leads back down to Logger's Ledge from where you came.