This past week was frigid. Having spent most of the dawns running around the creeks near Factoria, I was ready for some sun. Forecasts were calling for a brilliant weekend, and urbanity has not been to kindly to me of late. So I did the heroic thing and ran away; I rented a car and headed up north to Whatcom County.

Having grown up on an island with a 45 mph speed limit, flying down the freeway at 80 was an adventure in itself. Fortunately, highway 11 slowed me down and brought me through the somewhat familiar territory of cattle ranches and wide open fields. I had been hearing rumors for weeks that there was seaside bouldering near Bellingham, but even Mountain Project was cagey about the details. Not being one for detailed planning anyway, I set out and hoped for the best.

And boy was it.

The best…


One of the first features we ran into. Almost every outcropping of rock looks like this. The top out is a bit freaky fragile highball to burly bushwhacking, so we spared ourselves that bit on our first trip.

… thing I’d seen in months! Unreal holds in an unreal landscape. It appeared reminiscent of Hueco Tanks. The holds were solid too, but they were just completely covered in sand. Climbing on chuckanut sandstone, it turns out, is a bit like crawling on a shuffleboard table.

Another feature, as seen from below.

Another feature, as seen from below.

Who cares it was beautiful. And there was rock for miles, literally.

A new friend of mine joined at the last possible minute, and I was happy to have him. Together we pushed for a while down the shore, climbing on whatever we could find.


River and the Sound.

The closest thing we had to a guidebook was a WWU student who said the cave problem we were trying was a V7. Sadly it was more of a V0 kind of day.


At the mouth of the cave was this huge dino-chickenhead feature. The start was way in the back. Apparently a V7, probably assuming the holds are brushed clean.

Scrambling around the shore was fun in any case. We caught these rocks at low tide, but as the tide came in we moved up into the hills above the Sound.

At about 1800 ft, the Rock Trail is a brand spanking new trail that starts from the ridge and descends past some enormous rock. I heard rumors that some bouldering might go down up there, so off we went. The rock was pretty epic, but mostly wet, mossy slabs that were probably unprotectable and certainly too high to be called boulders. But there were a lot of tempting Huecos.


Giant, echoing huecos made for goofy layback traversing. They were filled with crumbly dirt and spiders though.


A blank face near the trail. Pictures just can’t do this place justice. We were expecting short little walls, we got intergalactic slabs.

There were massive slabs in the forest below that must have tumbled down eons ago. Most of these had not been cleaned (probably for good reason).

A few of the boulders had been worked on. Regrettably, we had only a toothbrush, Stinger Waffles and a setting sun. So we climbed on whatever looked reasonable. Yes, footholds did break. But unlike the beach, the landings here were really causal.

Despite the mess, the moss wasn’t too bad. Still, one highball-y problem was meticulously cleaned, and were were grateful to the soul(s?) that scrubbed it so. It’s like a couple of V0 moves to a scramble, but it’s always fun to top out.

Pulling the first of two V0 moves.

Me after pulling the first of the two moves on the problem.

River topping out.

River topping out.

After another hour or so of climbing around, we got back to the ridgeline and proceeded to stare dumbfounded into Mt Baker for a solid ten minutes.

We drove back down to the beach and bounced amongst the rocks until sunset. Kids were panicking in Honnold Half Dome formation on little micro ledges with parents looking on trying not to laugh. Nearby some teens were blasting country music and top roping barefoot on a huge slab above the water. Perfect. I got a bunch of ridiculous sunset photos of the north Sound.


Gratuitous sunset photo.

With the sun down, we scrambled southwards down the beach. The tide was still high, but thanks to the outrageous holds and good weather, it was easy to stay above the water. The only technical bit was an eight foot scrunchy traverse using a little, sandy horizontal finger crack. No big deal.

Beer and dinner ensued. It was a good night. A good night to be in a bivy sack starring up at the trees. A good night to spring forward. (And, apparently, for owl watching. I was woken up by a chorus (okay, maybe two or three) of owls some time after 3am)

The next day we woke up early and ran back up to the ridge where we meet up with the rock trail again. It didn’t seem so steep at the time, I just figured I was out of shape, but that first 1.4 mile gains about 1100 feet. It was vicious, especially the downhill. So vicious and so fun that I neglected to take too many pictures, although here’s one of Fragrance Lake (about halfway down from the ridge).

And finally, here’s my happy Hokas glad to be out of the Issaquah Alps for a bit.

Happy feet.

Happy feet.

TL;DR: Get out to Larrabee! It’s worth the 90 minute drive.


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