Climbing’s Past and Future in Patapsco State Park part 2

posted in: climbing, Guest blog posts | 0

Mid Atlantic Climbers is excited to feature this guest blog post by local climber John Kelbel. This post is the second in a series focusing on some of the great climbing in and around the Mid Atlantic region, you can read the first post here.


Climbing in Patapsco State Park

Patapsco State Park encompasses 16,043 acres of woodlands along 32 miles of the Patapsco River just south and west of Baltimore, Maryland. The steep, rocky hillsides have attracted hikers, mountain bikers and climbers for decades. Much of the climbing has been documented and collected on my Patapsco Blog. My first guest blog post focused on three climbing areas nearest to Ellicott City, MD: Ilchester, Friction Wall, and Bloede Dam area;this post will discuss climbing at Alberton and Woodstock Rock.


Alberton – Upcoming temporary parking closure (approximately July 2016 to January 2017).

The bridge on Dogwood Road at Alberton is being replaced this summer and work is expected to begin in July and take about 6 months to complete. Please note that this bridge work will close Dogwood Road for a significant period of time and either restrict use of or close the Alberton parking lot for public use. During the construction closure it may be possible to park on the shoulder of Hollifield Road, however, you may need to find a way to bushwhack and cross Dogwood Run Stream.

What’s exciting is that when the bridge is completed, the parking lot at Alberton will be paved and increased in size! This is awesome news as the lot is often packed to capacity as this is a popular paved trail area.

A view of Alberton
A view of Alberton Rocks

Alberton is one of our taller rocks in Patapsco reaching a height of 50 feet. With great beginner and intermediate climbs, it is a perfect area to introduce friends and kids to rock climbing. Keep in mind you’ll need long (65ft) top-system for a top rope set up. For a more difficult climb, drop a rope on “Alberton Roof” 5.9 and check out the boulders on the approach trail.


Woodstock Rock

I’m happy to say Woodstock has been growing in popularity over the past 3 years. It stands at 39 feet tall and offers a totally different style of climbing than that of Ilchester or nearby Alberton. Woodstock offers many blocky, jug-filled overhangs. In fact, it’s even hard to find a route without an overhang. Woodstock also features some bouldering including the popular Dana Tron V6 (video) and other nearby boulders. My favorite and also a local favorite route is “Do What” a 5.10c and the old classic lines are “Bloody Bucket” and “The Wimpy Whiner Way” both 5.9.

Woodstock 1
A view of the right side of Woodstock Rock showing the tiered overhangs.

I submitted a new trail proposal for Woodstock rock in the spring of 2014. This trail would parallel the railroad tracks about 80 feet into the woods above the tracks. It would follow a natural shelf on the hillside maintaining a relatively constant elevation except for some needed steps at the beginning of the trail. I believe the Park is required to submit to the state 3 different plans for a new trail. You may have noticed the Park’s red flags in various locations marking proposed trails. The Woodstock parking lot belongs to CSX, and the Park needs official approval to use it as a trail head. This approval is requiring a lot of effort by the State of Maryland to arrange. It’s hard to guess the outcome of this proposal, but the state is moving carefully so as not to lose the current unwritten free use of the parking lot. Boaters, fishermen, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and the Woodstock Inn customers all use the CSX parking lot. Please be courteous to the horseback riders and do not park in front of the hitching posts. This note is also for the safety of your car as a spooked horse may accidentally kick your car.



Back in 1988, when I started climbing, the climbing community was a tight knit group. They instilled in us young new climbers a sense of pride and a high ethical standard of caring for our crags and the surrounding area. Although we think nothing of using climbing chalk now, when I started climbing the use of chalk was debated because of the white patches it left on the rock and the additional aid it provided. Because of this debate, I climbed my entire first year without using chalk. The local climbers also taught me to pack a trash bag when I go climbing and to spend 5 to 10 minutes picking up the trash left from less respectful people. I strive to set an example of caring for our crags as the generation before me has instilled in me that passion and pride. As I get older it’s my joy to pass on to you our crags in good condition that were passed on to me almost twenty-eight years ago.

I hope you enjoy our rocks and boulders in Patapsco State Park as many have before us and many will continue to after us. I’ve been very pleased and honored to see so many of you caring for our crags through MAC and I hope your pride and efforts even continue outside of MAC with trash pick-up, as once was, and still is our proud tradition. Be safe and climb strong!!


About the Author

John Kelbel grew up Climbing at Ilchester and Seneca in the late 80’s and has a passion for preserving our local climbing resources.  John is mainly a trad climber; however he enjoys supporting the local boulders. He loves to explore off trail and find new rocks and boulders and shares it with all of you through his web page:  Outside of climbing he enjoys photography, woodworking and foraging for wild plants.