Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition Open a Unique New Bouldering Area
Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) are excited to announce the official opening of a unique new bouldering area near Bellingham, Washington: Lost Ledge in Larrabee State Park. This cluster of sandstone boulders along the Chuckanut Mountain escarpment provides high-quality bouldering for climbers of all skill levels.
The Bellingham area features incredible outdoor recreation opportunities including paddling, hiking, mountain biking, and winter sports at Mt Baker, but climbing opportunities have been historically limited. Larrabee State Park is known for its small stretch of scenic waterfront bouldering and cliffs along Clayton Beach. However, after the state park completed a new network of mountain biking and hiking trails off Cleator Road, local climbers discovered an extensive new network of climbing off the Rock Trail.
“We always knew the Chuckanuts had potential for new climbing,” says Art Lim, Bellingham climber and advocate. “The Rock Trail gave us that ability to access these boulders and a new ‘lost’ ledge was discovered. The bouldering adds a significant resource to Bellingham’s outdoor recreation and we hope it will provide new adventures for people to share together.”
Over the years, climbers have hosted Adopt a Crag stewardship events to remove graffiti and clean up the shoreline in collaboration with Larrabee State Park. In 2016, WCC and Access Fund reached out to park officials to discuss access to Lost Ledge and offer support with trail planning and future stewardship work. Washington State Parks requested that climbing access information for the new area be kept quiet until our organizations could get in there and build sustainable climbing access trails.
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team conducted a trail assessment in 2018, and WCC worked with park officials to finalize approvals to reroute climber access trails along a more sustainable path into the bouldering area from the Rock Trail.
WCC Board Director Gabe Cisneros helped steer this process. “There are numerous examples of climbing areas being developed, overused, and then shut down due to high impacts and unsustainable trails,” says Cisneros. “When these climbing areas get shut down, Access Fund and local affiliates like WCC have to work extra hard to reopen them. To avoid this from happening at Lost Ledge, we fostered a relationship with Larrabee State Park over the last four years to establish ourselves as a legitimate, responsible user group and build sustainable trails to the boulders, which allowed us to open this area to share with the Northwest climbing community.”
On May 18, the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team and WCC completed three weeks of stewardship work at Lost Ledge, working alongside over 40 volunteers from the local climbing community, Climb Tacoma, Momentum SODO, and Seattle Bouldering Project. This highly technical stewardship project included rerouting a new trail, building 41 stone steps, and a installing a retaining wall. This marquee project is part of the larger Washington Climbing Conservation Initiative, an annual partnership between WCC and Access Fund, with support from REI Co-op’s Puget Sound Market local grant program.
“Washington State has spectacular climbing areas dominated by granodiorite and metamorphic rock; however, sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone, are rare in Washington,” says Cisneros, who works as a geologist. “The Chuckanut Sandstone boulders scattered above Lost Lake give climbers a diverse climbing experience with a variety of holds: crimps, pinches, pockets, huecos, slopers, honeycomb holds, and tiny pebbles on climbs ranging from slabs to overhangs.”
The Chuckanut Mountains feature exciting potential for more climbing access in the future, including a sandstone cliff band that runs for two miles below the Ridge Trail. We hope future stewardship events with Larrabee State Park will lead to more established bouldering areas along the base of this cliff line.
The trailhead is located at the end of Cleater Road in Larrabee State Park. Click here for driving directions and display your Discover Pass in vehicles. Follow signs for the Rock Trail and hike 0.8 miles. Along the way, the cliff band will disappear and you will cross a footbridge. Do not take the first set of stairs after the footbridge, but continue and turn left on a faint climber access trail to reach the boulders. Remember to respect other trail users and follow The Climber’s Pact to minimize your impact. Most importantly, Chuckanut Sandstone is fragile compared to other Washington rock—do not climb if wet or within a day after rain. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.