Slab climbing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are someone who yearns for the spicy, delicate nature of good slab route, you are not going to want to miss out on Darrington. This climbing area, in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, is comprised of a series of solid granite domes, all of which require a familiarity with friction in order to get to the top. Remember to pack your stickiest shoes and some bravado.
What Makes It Great
Most of the climbs are bolted, but they are by no means sport climbs. The bolts only go up the sections where there are no other options to plug in some gear – and, at times, the spacing between them will at times feel fairly run out. The bulk of the routes range from two to ten pitches, up to the summit of one the domes.
Many of the routes require fairly serious approaches, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours on rough trails that may include stream crossing, bush whacking, and scrambling. As the most accessible of the domes, Three O’Clock Rock is a great place to start for your first visit to Darrington. There is a good variety of climbs up it, from “The Big Tree” (5.7) to “Masters of the Universe” (5.11a). “Silent Running” (5.10b) is likely the most classic route here.
The burliest of the summits is Exfoliation Dome, which the legendary Fred Beckey called “quite possibly the most difficult 4,000-foot peak in the state of Washington.” The routes up it range from 5.8 to 5.11. Anyone who attempts any one of these routes should be solid at the grade.
You will need a standard rack (though some routes require relatively little gear), including many slings and draws, and two ropes in order to rappel back down (there are no walk offs).
The most comprehensive guide is an eBook from David Whitelaw and Dave Burdick, for which you can allegedly email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy. Falcon’s Washington Rock Climbs book also contains a section on Darrington. This website also has some great information, including some route topos.
Who is Going to Love It
This is the perfect training ground for bigger alpine routes. Just think of the long approaches, scary run-outs, and relative isolation as practice!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Most of the climbs are southeast of the town of Darrington. From town, head southeast on the Mountain Loop Road. In a few miles, you will come to the Clear Creek Campground on the left. To get to the climbs, take the gravel Clear Creek logging road on the right just before the campground.
Five miles up the road, there is a fork: go left to Exfoliation Dome, right to Three O’Clock Rock, The Comb, or the Green Giant Buttress.
The best place to camp near by is the Clear Creek Campground (or bivvy at the trailhead).