Show DC’s oldest crag some love next Saturday

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Carderock– Washington DC’s oldest local crag. Famous (or infamous) for its soft, slippery slabs, this section of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal has been climbed extensively since it was first explored by Gus Gambs, Don Hubbard, and Paul Bradt in the 1920s. Those early climbers used heavy ropes, pitons (in stark contrast to today’s sentiments that Carderock does not protect well), and stiff boots to put up many of the climbs we know and love today.

MAC Volunteer Readys MulchIn the 40’s Herb and Jan Conn arrived on the scene and helped put up even more routes, including one of the first 5.9 climbs in the East, Herbie’s Horror. These days, Carderock sees regular traffic from local climbing clubs, guiding services, school groups, and budding climbers looking to get their first taste of real rock.

But the crag needs looking after just as much as its slabs need climbing. To keep Carderock both open to climbing and protect the natural resources of the park, Mid Atlantic Climbers is holding its annual Carderock Adopt-A-Crag next Saturday, September 28th, 2013. We plan to undertake several basic but essential maintenance projects, and perhaps a few more ambitious ones, to keep the Carderock area healthy, safe, and accessible. These include:

-Brushing in social trails: Carderock has an extensive network of well-maintained and marked official trails. But some visitors choose to develop their own paths through the woods, causing great damage to the natural environment. We will close these “social trails” off to aid in preserving the park.

-Mulching: Layers of mulch on establish trails help to preserve and protect the natural forest floor, retain water, prevent weed growth, and insulate tree roots from dramatic changes in weather. But mulch has to be replaced at least annually.

But we also use these events to help inform the local climbing community of growing issues that either threaten access or could degrade the natural experience in the park. Over the last year, climbers have noted large upticks in the amount of trash being left in and around the climbing area, including pet waste. It is important that we all abide by the pack-in/pack-out rules from the Parks Service before climbing access rights are potentially threatened or the park becomes unenjoyable. Graffiti has also been found in multiple locations within the park, and it is important to keep aware for anyone or anything that might degrade the natural state of the park.

MAC Carderock Volunteers get mulch to the cliff baseWe also need to be aware of incidents that might violate the established access rules of the crag or otherwise jeopardize the integrity of the climbing. In April, a local climber found a pair of improperly installed bolts on one of Carderock’s cliffs. Not only is bolting not allowed at Carderock (or Great Falls), but the installation and use of improperly installed equipment creates a serious safety issue for all climbers at the crag. Evidence of dry-tooling activity has also been seen on the cliffs, threatening to both create aesthetic blemishes on the rock and potentially result in the breaking of holds, nubs, or other features that would fundamentally alter many of the climbs in the area.

By attending our fall Adopt-a-Crag event, climbers can show their support for the land and help continue to build a good relationship with park officials.

We hope to see you on Saturday!

By: Travis Senor, MAC Volunteer and Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park Carderock Crag Steward