Blake Herrington first honed his climbing skills on a massive Douglas Fir rising out of his neighbor’s yard in the North Cascade Mountains. The evergreen tree—an iconic Pacific Northwest native—proved to be the perfect training apparatus. Herrington took to the tree with carabiners and slings and taught himself to rappel and belay, sparking a love affair with climbing that’s become a life obsession.
Herrington, now 29, is still roping up in his native mountains (though now he’s graduated to towering peaks that dwarf the conifers). He’s also developed a passion for documenting his adventures in writing and fittingly, he just published a guidebook for the Cascade Mountains.
Cascades Rock is a full-color, 272 page guide that highlights 160 multi-pitch routes throughout the range. When asked why he chose to spend the last three years working on a new guidebook for the region, Herrington explained, “no new guide has tackled the range in YEARS and many of the best routes are undocumented.”
We chatted with Herrington to learn more about his latest adventures in publishing and climbing.
How did you get the climbing bug?
I began climbing on mostly solo trips in the North Cascades when I was working summer jobs in a remote town in North Cascades National Park. Most of those early trips would be hikes or scrambles, and then some solo mountaineering outings. I learned to rappel, prusik, and belay using just carabiners and slings, practicing in a Douglas Fir. Now I live in Leavenworth, Washington, with my wife. We love our small community and great friends there.
When I began climbing I thought I would be much more focused on mountaineering and high-altitude snow climbing. Over the years I’ve become more interested in rock climbing, including sport climbing and bouldering. My favorite routes combine amazing mountain landscapes, steep rock climbing, remote locations, and good partners.
Favorite climbing area?
Tell us about your most epic day of climbing.
One of my most memorable days of climbing began in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, at 3 a.m. after I had worked until 11:30 at a fancy restaurant job in Denver. I drove (on no sleep) to meet up with my partner. We hiked to the base of the East Face of Long’s Peak and free-climbed the entire wall, including the fabled “Diamond,” and then descended into an adjacent valley. We then climbed a long route on a smaller peak before descending and making our way to peak #3, which we climbed via a route I had recently established. Finally, we carried our gear up and over into yet another valley and completed our climbing day on a fourth peak. Walls on three of the four peaks make up the three largest walls in Rocky Mountain National Park. After an all-night descent, a fall into a snowy river and a never-ending trudge (now running on 44 hours with no sleep), we arrived back to the trailhead and our car wouldn’t start. I fell asleep in the seat wearing wet boots and a chalkbag.
When did writing become a passion?
My mother was an English teacher and my dad was a newspaper reporter. Even though I studied Economics and Environmental sciences in college, I have always enjoyed reading and respected good writing.
Why the Cascades for your new guide?
It’s my home and I love the diversity and quality of climbing. No new guide has tackled the range in YEARS and many of the best routes are in no guide.
You said the project took three years. Did you ever feel like giving up?
I felt as though I was “almost done” for the entire last year. I learned a valuable phrase to explain this situation. “(90% done, 90% to go …)”
What was the most difficult moment of writing the guide?
Having my computer crash and losing dozens of hours of meticulous writing. And sending large checks to the printing company.
What’s your personal favorite climb in the Cascades that this guide covers and why?
I can’t narrow it down to just one. I include a “top 15” in the book, but no other quality scale.
Any events coming up for the book’s release?
I will be doing a public premiere, slideshow and video presentation from a new Cascades climbing film on Thursday, February 25, at the Seattle Bouldering Project in downtown Seattle.
Who is the perfect customer for this guidebook?
Any climber in the Northwest with an interest in experiencing our world-class multi-pitch rock climbs or mountain climbs, or any climber from elsewhere who needs to come see what they have been missing!
And where can they get this guidebook?
Any big adventures planned for 2016?
A well-deserved vacation climbing trip to Spain!