Guidebook author offers detailed descriptions of technical rock climbs, from Index to Liberty Bell.

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Author’s 5 Favorites |

Cover image of
Cover image of “Cascades Rock: Multipitch Climbs of All Grades.”

Climber Blake Herrington has scaled more than 100 peaks around the world, from Patagonia to all the gorges around Chulilla, Spain.

These days, the Western Washington University alumnus is back in his home state, where he learned to climb 10 years ago. He’s written a guidebook, “Cascades Rock: The 160 Best Multipitch Climbs of All Grades” ($39 including shipping), covering everything from roadside climbs to alpine adventures around Washington and Southern British Columbia.

“This is one of the top states for mountaineering and for alpine environment, and it is increasingly being recognized for high-quality, technical climbing,” Herrington said. “Most climbers would consider this among the top three states.”

Growing up in Vancouver, Wash., Herrington, 29, was an avid scrambler and hiker but soon realized that to get to that elusive ridge or atop a majestic peak, he had to learn how to climb. Thus a new obsession was born.

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He climbs up to three days a week, often in or near Leavenworth, where he now lives with his wife, Allison. “If you want to be a climber and want to live in Washington, I don’t think there’s anywhere else that comes close to Leavenworth in terms of access and affordability,” he said.

The 272-page self-published guide is generously illustrated with color photos, topographical maps and route drawings along with detailed, step-by-step descriptions of each climb.

Below, in no particular order, Herrington lists his five favorite climbs in Washington and B.C. Descriptions are his.

Complete North Ridge route on Mount Stuart

Approach: 3½-6 hours, 3-5 miles, 3,000 feet elevation gain. Descent: 3-5 hours. Level of difficulty: Moderate. Season: mid-May to late September.

Northwest Forest Pass required at trailhead. Overnight permits are not required to bivy directly under the routes on Mount Stuart, but a permit is required if opting for a lower bivy in the valley along Mountaineers Creek. A free self-issued permit (available at the trailhead) is required for day trips.

Mount Stuart is one of the most prominent peaks in the range, and the North Ridge is its most striking feature, dividing two steep glaciers and rising from a subalpine meadow for more than 3,000 feet to the summit. Hikers with no interest in climbing should still consider a visit to the lovely valley below Stuart’s north side, accessed via the Lake Stuart trailhead outside Leavenworth. The best time to ascend this route is in late June or early July, when the snow has melted off the ridge but the adjacent Sherpa Glacier is still filled with a soft spring snowpack.

Ragged Edge route on Vesper Peak

Approach: 3-4 hours, 5 miles, 3,600 feet gain. Descent: 1 hour. Level of difficulty: Easy. Season: June to October. Northwest Forest Pass required at Sunrise trailhead.

This route, not included in any other guidebook, brings climbers and hikers to an overlooked corner of the Cascades, near the town of Darrington. It offers memorable and solid climbing at a moderate grade, ideal for new climbers. Hikers with more modest ambitions will be able to ascend to Vesper’s summit via the nontechnical slopes on the mountain’s east and southeast sides.

Springbok Arete route on Les Cornes Peak, B.C.

Approach: 1½-2½ hours, 2-3 miles, 2,000 feet gain. Descent: 2 hours. Level of difficulty: Advanced. Season: June-September.

The road may degrade or be gated. It might also remain open and be passable for low-clearance two-wheel-drive vehicles. Call Cattermole Timber logging company for updates (604-685-7200) or bring a bike.

Just across the Canadian border in the Cascades of southern B.C., the amazing terrain includes the striking granite towers of the Anderson River Valley. Although this route up Les Cornes peak has been known for years, only recently was an excellent new first half of the climb pioneered, straightening the line of ascent and making this an excellent route from top to bottom.

Thin Red Line route on Liberty Bell Mountain

Approach: 45 minutes, 1 mile, 1,000 feet gain. Descent: 1 hour. Level of difficulty: Expert. Season: May to October.

Northwest Forest Pass required at the Blue Lake Trailhead, used for the southwest Face (Beckey route) and Serpentine. No overnight bivy permits needed.

Liberty Bell is an iconic Cascades tower and a familiar sight to anyone who has driven the North Cascades Highway. Climbers in the 1960s pioneered this route by pulling on and standing on gear attached to the wall. Some still climb in this style, but most now tackle the route as a “free” climb, using ropes, harnesses and gear only to keep them safe during a fall, but making upward progress using nothing but the mountain’s natural features. Thin Red Line is the peak’s premier route, offering climbers more than 1,000 feet of steep granite with only a 45 minute approach hike from the road.

Godzilla route on Index Town Wall

Approach: 5 minutes. Descent: 10 minutes. Season: Year-round. Level of difficulty: Moderate.

Just a few years ago, the Northwest’s premier rock-climbing area, Index, was threatened by development of a granite quarry that would have destroyed the climbing and access to nearby trails. Local and national recreation groups worked together to purchase the land, which is being transferred to public stewardship. Godzilla, a moderate, 30-meter climb, is iconic of the area’s high-quality granite and its easy access. (Wait for a dry spell. The moss, rain and old-growth trees typify a temperate rain-forest environment.)

• More information on the guidebook:

Author appearances

“Cascades Rock” author Blake Herrington will talk about his guide in these free appearances:

March 16, Leavenworth: 7 p.m., Leavenworth Mountain Association at Ski Hill Lodge, 10701 Ski Hill Drive. Dinner (by donation) and slideshow

March 22, Seattle: 7 p.m., The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center, 7700 Sand Point Way N.E.

March 23, Seattle: 7 p.m., Vertical World Climbing Gym, 2330 W. Commodore Way

March 24, Redmond: 7 p.m., Vertical World Climbing Gym, 15036 N.E. 95th Street