CURRENT ACCESS ALERTS

Maryland Heights, MDSeasonal Cliff Closure for Peregrine Falcons. See our recent post
Franklin, WVNo Trespassing signs appear to go up and come down at Franklin from time to time. Mid Atlantic Climbers has been unsuccessful in contacting the land owner. Despite this, we know of no issues between the land owner and any climbers visiting this crag, and this crag still gets regular traffic from said community.
Governor Stable, PA Issue: BACK AREA (past Pyramid Boulder) CLOSED indefinitely
Latest News/More Info: South Central Pennsylvania Climbers secured a year-to-year lease that grants bouldering access for January-August 2016 from the entrance through the Pyramid Boulder. See their website and Facebook page for more information.
Coll’s Cove, PAIssue: Parking payment required; no parking allowed on entrance to gas road
Latest News/More Info: Please follow the Coll’s Cove Facebook page for the latest info on parking payment. The current situation is described here.

Climbing in the Mid Atlantic

 

Here are some of our favorite places to climb in the region:

MARYLAND       VIRGINIA     WEST VIRGINIA    PENNSYLVANIA

 

MARYLAND

Carderock (MD)

Climbing Style: Top rope

Rock Type: 25 to 60-foot Wissahikon Mica-schist cliffs

Land Manager:

Why We Love It: The 2 minute approach, and the techy slabs!

MAC Beta: These routes are old school. They are hard for their grades (especially at the start) and have been polished over time by contact between the silty soil and the soft rock. Don’t let the ratings discourage you! Carderock has great climbing from 5.3-5.13. Bring a 30’-60’ section of static rope to set up top ropes.

Additional Resources: Carderock Guide by PATC-MS, Mountain Project, Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland by Eric Horst.

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC and the PATC-MS are the official “Canal Stewards” of this section of the C&O Canal Historic Park meaning that these two organization are responsible for much of the maintenance of the area. MAC also hosts an annual Adopt A Crag at Carderock, focusing on mitigating user impacts, trail work, trash pick-up and, occasionally, graffiti removal.

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John Gregory climbing “Elsie’s.” Photo credit: Chris Irwin.

 

Northwest Branch (MD)

Climbing Style: Bouldering

Rock Type: Mica schist

Land Manager: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Why We Love It: A good volume and variety of boulder problems within minutes of Washington, DC.

MAC Beta: Hot and humid in the summer. Unfortunately, a few boulders have been covered in paint, making the problems quite difficult.

Additional Resources: Robin’s Bouldering Page and Dr. Topo

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC hosts annual Adopt a Crags at Northwest Branch, and we are continually working to remove graffiti.

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Long Wall at Northwest Branch. Photo credit: Robin Close.

 

Rocks State Park (MD)

Climbing Style: Trad, top rope, and bouldering

Rock Type:

Land Manager: Maryland State Parks DNR

Why We Love It: Strawberry Jam Pillar is a free-standing spire with several great routes. The park has a great collection of top-ropes, trad lines, and boulder problems to keep all sorts of climbers interested.

MAC Beta: You’ll need a standard single rack for leading. Top roping will require some gear anchors and ~30ft of static rope or webbing.

Additional Resources: RSP Bouldering Guidebook by Crank Climbing, Climb Maryland! by Mark “Indy” Kochte, Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC hosts Adopt A Crags at the park and held the 2012 and 2013 Rockfest events here as well. Projects have included trail work on the climber access trails, “unearthing” the parking lot boulder and assisting the park in the creation of natural play space.

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Moby Dick (V10), Rocks State Park. Photo credit: Katelyn Dolan.

 

Sugarloaf Mountain (MD)

Climbing Style: Trad, top rope, and bouldering

Rock Type: Quartzite

Land Manager: Sugarloaf Mountain is a Registered National Landmarked owned and managed by a private non-profit entity: Stronghold, Incorporated

Why We Love It: A beautiful mountain setting, with great top ropes and some hidden boulders. Due to the abundant cracks, solid rock and moderate grades, Sugarloaf is a favorite spot to learn to place traditional protection.

MAC Beta: Bring a 40+ section of static rope for rigging top ropes. Obey the closing times posted by the the landowner, Stronghold Corporations.

Additional Resources: Climb Maryland! by Mark “Indy” Kochte, Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC has hosted several Adopt  a Crags here to remove graffiti, pick up litter, and help mitigate the serious erosion problems on the Green Trail.

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Sugarloaf bouldering. Photo credit: Robin Close.

 

Patapsco State Park (MD)

(Ilchester, Friction Wall, Woodstock, Alberton, and more)

Climbing Style: Bouldering, top rope, some trad

Rock Type:

Land Manager: Maryland State Park DNR

Why We Love It: Great after work cragging with a nearly endless supply of exploratory bouldering. Blue Rose (5.8+) at Ilchester is a regional classic.

MAC Beta: At all areas in the park, stay off of the train tracks, they are private property owned by CSX Transportation.

Additional Resources: John Kelbel’s Detailed Google Map, Mountain ProjectRockclimbing.com.

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC has done several Adopt a Crag events at Ilchester and is actively working with the State Park Service about on access to other climbing areas within the park. For further reading, check out our blog posts.

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Woodstock Cave, Patapsco State Park. Photo credit: Robin Close.

 

Catoctin Mountain Park & Cunningham Falls State Park (MD)

Climbing Style: Bouldering. Roped climbing is allowed at Wolf Rock but requires a permit.

Rock Type:

Land Manager (Catoctin): National Park Service

Land Manager (Cunningham Falls): Maryland State Park DNR

Why We Love it: Numerous high quality boulder problems less than an hour from metro DC.

MAC Beta: Catoctin is now open to bouldering, but there are still restrictions on roped climbing. The park is closed to ‘technical roped climbing’ with the exception of Wolf Rock. To climb at Wolf Rock you must obtain a permit from the park office.

At Cunningham Falls State Park, the Jonah Boulder is easily accessible and contains 10+ quality problems. There are no restrictions to climbing and bouldering at Cunningham Falls State Park.

Additional Resources: Rockclimbing.com, Mountain Project

Stewardship & Access Efforts: In 2016, MAC and the Access Fund worked with Catoctin Mountain Park to re-open the park to bouldering and so far in 2017 has hosted a very successful Adopt A Crag at Catoctin and Cunningham Falls. MAC looks forward to maintaining our good relationship with the park through more stewardship events and continuing discussions of the climbing management plan with respect to roped climbing.

 

Maryland Heights (MD)

(Harper’s Ferry, WV)

ACCESS ALERT: 2017 closures for nesting peregrine falcons have now been lifted (May 2017)

Climbing Style: Trad, sport, top rope, bouldering

Rock Type:

Why We Love It: At ~300 feet, Maryland Heights is the tallest cliff in Maryland. It boasts long trad routes and a handful of hard sport routes.
MAC Beta: The rock at Maryland Heights is south-facing and very dark, making it ideal for sunny winter days but scorching in the summer. Climbers must sign in at the ranger station located in Harpers Ferry, WV (across the pedestrian bridge) before climbing, and sign out afterwards. Since 2015, the park has issued seasonal closures of the cliff for nesting peregrine falcons in the spring.

Additional Beta: Mountain Project, Rock Climbing.com, Climb Maryland! by Mark “Indy” Kochte

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC has partnered with the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park to host Adopt a Crags. We are working with NPS to explore the possibility of establishing an official access trail to the base of Maryland Heights to prevent erosion.

 

Frederick Watershed (MD)

(Bushwhack)

Climbing Style: Bouldering

Rock Type:

Why We Love It: The area features about 70 boulder problems ranging in difficulty from V0- to V8.

MAC Beta: First-timers should go with someone with knowledge of the area. It’s called Bushwhack for a reason.

Additional Resources: Robin’s Bouldering Page

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Flipping the Switch, Bushwhack. Photo credit: Robin Close.

 

VIRGINIA

Great Falls (VA)

Climbing Style: Top rope

Rock Type: Gneiss/mica schist

Why We Love It: Longer and steeper routes than Carderock, and climbing right over the Potomac River in Mather Gorge.

MAC Beta: There is an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle. Consider buying a National Parks pass which will allow you to enter any National Park for free. Don’t get stuck in the traffic during peak visitor season (late spring, early fall), show up before 11:30am on the weekend and you should be good.

Additional Resources:Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com, Great Falls Guide

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC hosts an annual Adopt a Crag at Great Falls and we stay in contact with the park about issues throughout the year.

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Climbers on Romeo’s Ladder (5.7), Great Falls. Photo credit Chris Irwin.

 

Shenandoah National Park (VA)

(Old Rag Mountain, Little Stoney Man)

Climbing Style: Trad, top rope, bouldering

Rock Type: Granite

Why We Love It: Old Rag offers the only true granite splitter cracks between North Carolina and New Hampshire. The routes at Old Rag run the gamut from run-out slabs, to steep sport lines, to parallel sided cracks with ratings from 5.5 up to 5.13.

Little Stoney Man provides some single-pitch traditional and top rope climbing with a short approach off of Skyline Drive. Do not rig top rope anchors across the trail.

MAC Beta: Old Rag is a backcountry area and extreme care should be taken when hiking and climbing there. Old Rag granite is sharp; taping up for the cracks is a must. Old Rag Mountain is a designated wilderness area, so no motorized equipment may be used. Backcountry camping permits are required in the park.

Additional Resources:Mountain Project

Stewardship & Access Efforts: In 2012, MAC hosted our first Rockfest event here. More than 80 volunteers joined us for a weekend of clean-up, trail work, and climbing. MAC also contributed to the park’s Rocky Outcrop Management Plan (ROMP), a management plan designed to balance resource preservation and recreation.

 

Elizabeth Furnace: Buzzard Rocks (VA)

Climbing Style: Sport, trad

Rock Type: Quartzite

Why We Love It: Great slab mixed climbing within an hour and a half of the DC area, ranging from 5.3 to 5.10.

MAC Beta: Parking at the Buzzard Rock trailhead is limited. Consider carpooling.

Additional Resources:PATC-MS, Mountain Project

 

Elizabeth Furnace: Talking Headwall (VA)

Climbing Style: Sport, trad

Rock Type: Quartzite

Why We Love It: Moderate sport climbing within an hour and a half of the DC area.

MAC Beta: This is a small crag. Play nice, share, and watch where you throw your gear.

Additional Resources:Mountain Project,

 

WEST VIRGINIA

Cooper’s Rock State Forest (WV)

Climbing Style: Bouldering, trad, top rope

Rock Type: Pottsville sandstone

Why We Love It: Some of the best sandstone bouldering in the region.  Also popular for top roping and trad.

MAC Beta: Park gate is closed Dec. 31 – April 1 of every year, but area is still open if you don’t mind a 2-3 mile hike in.  Camp in the forest, or at Sand Springs or Chestnut Ridge about 10 minutes away.

Additional Resources:Coopers Rock Bouldering Guide and The Coopers Rock Foundation

Stewardship & Access Efforts: MAC held our 2014 Rockfest and 2015 Rockfest events at Coopers Rock. Volunteers did trail work, brush clearing, graffiti removal, and helped with other cleanup and safety-related improvements.

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Mountaineer’s Route, Coopers Rock State Forest. Photo credit: Arthur Hsu.

 

Seneca Rocks (WV)

Climbing Style: Multipitch trad

Rock Type: Tuscarora quartzite

Why We Love It: Excellent multi-pitch traditional climbing with lots of exposure.

MAC Beta: Seneca is a traditional climbing area. Strong working knowledge of traditional protection and rope systems is required. The majority of routes require gear anchors.

Additional Resources:Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com, and of course Tony Barnes’s Guidebook

Stewardship & Access Efforts: Seneca Rocks is maintained by the Friends of Seneca. Keep an eye out for opportunities to join and support their hard work!

 

Franklin Gorge (WV)

Climbing Style: Sport

Rock Type: Limestone and Sandstone

Why We Love It: A variety of sport climbing (5.8-5.13) relatively close to the DC metro area. This is often where many local climbers cut their teeth on sport climbs.

MAC Beta:  Consider climbing at other areas until access issues have been resolved.

Additional Resources:Mountain Project, Rockclimbing.com

Reed’s Creek (WV)

Mike and Cindy Gray on Superman, Reed’s Creek.
Photo Credit: Tyrel Johnson.

Climbing Style:  Sport, trad

Rock type: Limestone

Why We Love it: Excellent sport and trad climbs from 5.6 to an open project 5.13+, ~3 hours from DC.  The crag boasts an impressive number of high-quality moderates (5.7-5.9).

MAC Beta: Reed’s Creek is great for newer climbers and the South-facing cliffs provide nearly year round climbing.  Leading is required  to access the anchors as the top of the cliff is private land.  Carpool and park only in the well-defined pull outs and parking area, not behind the stop sign.

Additional Resources: Digital rakkup guide, mountainproject.com, and thecrag.com

Stewardship & Access Efforts: The trails at Reed’s Creek are maintained by local climbers and route developers through the Smoke Hole Canyon Facebook page, purchases of their digital guide go to crag stewardship and route development.  Keep an eye out for the latest info on access, new routes, and opportunities to give back.

 

Long Branch and The Guide Walls (Smoke Hole) (WV)

Mahtaab Bagherzadeh on Shattered Illusions, Long Branch.
Photo Credit: Tyrel Johnson.

Climbing Style:  Sport, trad

Rock type: Limestone

Why We Love it: Excellent sport and trad climbs from 5.5 to 5.13+, 3 hours from the DC area.  Proof that you don’t need to drive all the way to The New for hard test pieces, with some routes nearly 100 feet tall. The aptly named Sunshine Walls provide nearly year round climbing.

MAC Beta: These areas are more off the beaten path than Reed’s Creek, great for a real Wild and Wonderful WV experience.  Leading is required to access the anchors as the tops of the cliffs are private property.

Additional Resources: Digital rakkup guide and mountainproject.com.

Stewardship & Access Efforts: The trails at both crags are maintained by local climbers and route developers through the Smoke Hole Canyon Facebook page, purchases of their digital guide go to crag stewardship and route development.  Keep an eye out for the latest info on access, new routes, and opportunities to give back.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Safe Harbor (PA)

Climbing Style: Sport and trad

Rock Type:

Why We Love It: Primarily sport, primarily slab, this spot has some great routes in many grades. The walls face west/southwest and get great sun, making Safe Harbor an excellent winter crag.

MAC Beta: Both Safe Harbor South and Safe Harbor North have recently been re-opened to climbing. Keep an eye out for access alerts regarding the seasonal closure of Cemetary Wall for nesting peregrine falcons.

Additional Resources:Safe Harbor mini-guide authored by Eric Hörst, Mountain Project.

Stewardship & Access Efforts:  Mid Atlantic Climbers and Earth Treks Columbia raised money to support the bolt replacement initiative at Safe Harbor. Amenities at Safe Harbor are maintained by Safe Harbor Climbing.

 

Governor Stable (PA)

ACCESS ALERT: Closures & year-to-year lease renewals

Climbing Style: Bouldering

Rock Type: Diabase

Why We Love It: A very concentrated area of quality diabase boulder problems.

MAC Beta:Friends of Governor Stable secured a year-to-year lease that granted bouldering access for January-August 2014 from the entrance through the Pyramid Boulder. A year-long paid membership or day pass was required. Follow their website and Facebook page for news on whether a new lease is negotiated for next season.

Additional Resources:Friends of Governor Stable and the Governor Stable Bouldering Guide (currently sold out)

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The Egg, Governor Stable. Photo credit: Arthur Hsu.

 

Governor Dick Park/Mount Gretna (PA)

Climbing Style: Bouldering

Rock Type: Diabase

Why We Love It: It’s a beautiful forest full of diabase boulders.

MAC Beta: Some of the areas are a bit spread out and there are many trails criss-crossing the forest. The Visitor Center has trail maps if you need one.

Additional Resources:Governor Dick Bouldering Committee and the Governor Dick Bouldering Guide

Stewardship & Access Efforts: Mid Atlantic Climbers has partnered with the Governor Dick Bouldering Committee on trail work and clean-up events including cleaning off new slabs in the Emerald City area in 2015.

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Coleflesh, Mt. Gretna. Photo credit: Arthur Hsu.

 

Coll’s Cove (PA)

ACCESS ALERT: Parking payment

Climbing Style: Bouldering

Rock Type: Sandstone

Why We Love It: Some of the best sandstone bouldering in the region.

MAC Beta: Parking payment is required; there is no parking allowed on entrance to gas road. Please follow the Coll’s Cove Facebook page for the latest info on parking payment. The current situation is described here.

Additional Resources:Coll’s Cove Facebook page

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Thumb Wrestling, Coll’s Cove. Photo credit: Arthur Hsu.