Mount Erie, in Anacortes, is sometimes snubbed for being nothing more than the training ground for mountaineers of yore when the weather yielded no other option (now we have climbing gyms for that). But that doesn’t do justice to its modern rock climbing possibilities. Not only do the 1,273-foot mountain’s flanks provide an excellent place for newbs to learn, in recent years Mount Erie has seen the development of dozens of fun new sport climbs, ranging from 5.5 to 5.13.
What Makes It Great
The rock is a quality igneous diorite that is highly texture and features. Most of the routes are face climbs; while the trad climbs are protectable via cracks, they tend to be shallow and short-lived. The crags are mostly short (50-60 feet), cropping up from the surrounding madronas, firs, and hemlocks.
The climbs trend toward being vertical and crimpy, but some walls are slabby and others have overhangs. All of the walls are within a 5-30 minute approach. In addition to several smaller ones, there are four main walls: Summit Wall, the most accessible area, with plenty of mellow, top rope-able climbs; Powerline Wall, a great winter crag; Black Wall, famous for mossy “adventure climbing”; and Main Wall, which has the greatest variation with routes ranging from single-pitch sport to multi-pitch trad, from 5.7 to 5.12.
Because it enjoys mild coastal temperatures and is located within the rain shadow of the Olympics, it is possible to comfortably climb at Mount Erie year round. If you come in winter, avoid the Summit Wall; is shaded and tends to stay wet longer. The Powerline Wall, however, gets unobstructed sun that keeps it warm and quickly dries it out.
For more information, including how to find each climb, the definitive guidebook is local legend Dan Kloke’s Rockin’ on the Rock! A Guide to Mount Erie Rock Climbing, which includes over 400 routes. The physical book is in limited supply, but digital version is available here.
Who is Going to Love It
With most climbs falling in 5.6 to 5.10 range, the routes here do skew moderate, making it a great place for newer climbers. New trad leaders can practice placing gear on “Rogers Ramp” (5.3) at the Summit Wall, new sport leaders can start clipping bolts on “False Impressions” (5.8) at the Powerline Wall, and climbers of all levels and abilities can play around on easy-to-set top-ropes.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There two established parking lots with limited space, one at the base and one at the summit, and a well-developed trail system that connects the road to the climbing areas (and the climbing areas to each other). The Main Wall is most easily accessed from a pullout on the east side of Hart Lake Road, 1/8 mile north of the Lake Erie Grocery Store, by taking tail 248 to an unmarked climber’s trail. Consult the guidebook before you go.