The Sykesville Secret is Out!

posted in: climbing, Guest blog posts | 0

Mid Atlantic Climbers is excited to feature this guest blog post by local climber John Brunson. This post is the third in a series focusing on some of the great climbing in and around the Mid Atlantic region. The two previous posts explored the historical climbing in Patapsco State Park.

Local Bias

After living in Sykesville, Maryland for more than 25 years, I feel nostalgic climbing here. I’ve traveled all over the country and other parts of the world for climbing, but there is no place like your local crags. The “Sykesville Area” is actually made up of several areas – none of them are destinations in there own right – but there is a lifetime of climbing spread among Patapsco Valley State Park and Morgan Run Natural Environment Area scattered throughout the woods surrounding Sykesville, MD.

The climbing community has enjoyed a good relationship with Patapsco State Park and Morgan Run NEA, and to keep that relationship we need to adhere to the rules of the area. It is important that as climbers, we do our best to be good stewards of the land, and good neighbors to other visitors. While we all enjoy fun problems in these areas remember to always keep a low profile, be friendly to others, and leave no trace. Please stay off the tracks (owned by Maryland CSX, which will fine you).

The Jam Boulder:

One gem of the Sykesville area is the Jam Boulder (39.361116,-76.963839) in Patapsco State Park. This boulder boasts some of the classic hard problems of the area including Fat Man Arete V5, The Guillotine V7, and the Sykesville Monster V8.

Jam Boulder
A Climber on the Jam Boulder. Credit John Brunson.

Across the river on River Rd. is 4 small sections of slab boulders (River Road Boulders) that are a blast to play on and are a good way to start or end a day.  

Further down river are several good boulders: The Grimhold (39.360375,-76.951489), River Rd Half Dome (39.357607,-76.939414), and the Gorsuch Switch Boulder (39.359449,-76.938029) that all have good problems to climb (and different parking access points). Patapsco isn’t a destination area like Red Rocks or Hueco Tanks, but it’s a good place to spend a day checking out a few pockets of boulders.

An important note is that the Levitation Boulder (near the Jam Boulder) is on private property and the landowner has posted No Trespassing signs. Please respect this closure while MAC works with the land owner for potential access.

Morgan Run:

Morgan Run NEA is about 15 minutes northwest of Patapsco State Park and is a great place to spend a day of bouldering since most of the problems are within walking distance of the main parking area (39.466631,-76.969936). I had the pleasure of being part of the development of this area and writing of the “Morgan Run Bouldering Guide” with Mark Profeta.

A climber on Crystal Crimps V4 at Morgan Run NEA
A climber on Crystal Crimps V4 at Morgan Run NEA. Credit John Brunson.


Morgan Run has gems and is well worth the visit despite the sharp rock. The classics, Crystal Crimps V4 and Crystal Crusade V7 are located in the upstream area. In addition, a lot of fun boulders are located on the hillside adjacent to the parking lot. Hiking downstream from the parking lot along the fishermen’s path takes you to some of the best boulders in the park. This area is welcoming to climbers of all abilities and skill levels. Aloha (called Tons of Friends project in the guide: FA Justin Ridgely) is the double digit test piece, and highballs like “Portenos Go Home” V5 (39.462663,-76.966398) and Tacos For Dinner, will test your mental game. This is a really solid area for a day trip.

For a list of the boulders check out John Kelbel’s exhaustive google map for the greater Patapsco Area.

Development Continues:

Even though climbers have been exploring the local woods for quite some time, there are still new lines to be found and others have been waiting for someone strong enough to send. Just this week, former local Will Anglin returned to try out some projects with better than satisfactory results.

Maryland has a lot to offer for the community to enjoy. As our sport/activity/community/culture grows, we need to be more vigilant about limiting our impact on the areas we enjoy. Coming together as a community and working with groups like MAC will help not only secure access for us but for the future generations.

FYI: No matter where you are in Maryland, CSX owns the tracks and will fine people walking on them. Respect CSX property!

About the Author:

john-bronson-prof-picJohn Brunson began climbing at the age of 4 with his father Steve Brunson. John became really serious about his climbing in 2009 and dedicated large efforts into the development of Maryland bouldering. John is sponsored by Wu World and Stainless Management. You can follow his Youtube channel for lots of local sends.