Crossing the maritime obstacle course of kelp beds, giant driftwood and stony outcroppings the approach to Larabee bouldering was described to me as fourth class on the rocks with a dash of Jager. Really fun, exceedingly beautiful, but it might sting just a bit. Now here we all are, walking single file across a beached conifer, trying our best not to sail off and into the knee-deep and somewhat crabby tangle of seaweed below. With a gust of wind, my crash pad sets me in the exact opposite direction I had hoped for, down. Off and in the spongy weeds, the landing is soft, but my pride feels the sting.
Dashed along the coast of the sleepy town of Bellingham, Washington lie problems of incredible pinches, rippled grit and ocean carved huecos. When the cyclical tides combine with the rare weather window, access to this incredible playground is a bit more involved than just a stroll on the beach. Time the tides wrong and you may loose your option of dry retreat. But if you Google well, you’ll be rewarded with what may be some of the most beautiful problems of Chuckanut Sandstone you have ever set your fingers on.
Nearly all of the boulders here were pioneered by Washington State locals who were looking for something just a little different than the standard alpine locale. Expect cool ocean breezes, rascally sea otters and random orca to be part of this landscape. Despite being Washington’s first state park, there are still plenty of f.a.’s to be had, that is if you’re willing to traverse the coastline far enough. Most of the beachside landings are gentle and flat, allowing for relatively comfortable falls.
If pebble pinching isn’t really your thing, there are more than enough sport, trad and mixed lines in B’ham ranging from 5.6 to 5.12 to keep you busy for a bit. After pulling down, take some time to cool your aching paws with a pint of ale at one of the many brew pubs in town.
Getting There: Nearly an hour and a half equidistant from neighboring cities Seattle & Vancouver, Bellingham can be a great pit stop from I-5 or make it a point of escape from the latte driven metropolises. From I-5, head to Larabee State Park. You should be pulling down within twenty minutes of parking your subaru.
Timing: Typically, it’s best to start from the north end of the park and work your problems while the tide is still out. Finish off the day by heading over to the Clayton Beach for moderate grades and sandy landings.
Where to Stay: Campsites in the park are plentiful and run from $12-$36/site/day. See http://www.parks.wa.gov for details. If you are the type that preffers a roof over your head, hotels abound in Bellingham
Guidebook: Nope. A comprehensive guidebook does not yet exist for the Bellingham area. Your best bet is still Mountain Project or Summitpost
Around Town: One thing that Pacific North westerners pride themselves on is craft beer. The ale practically flows in the streets. Check out Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro. Your welcome.
To see more of Dan’s work, visit his website at www.danholzphotography.com