Progress on Harpers Ferry Campaign – Maryland Crags are Open!

posted in: Access, Harpers Ferry, raptors | 0

Maryland Heights Re-opens:

Last week, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park removed two temporary closures from the park’s website.

Sign Wall and the Ramps of Maryland Heights

Today, park officials confirmed with Mid Atlantic Climbers via email that two of the closures in effect have been lifted. With both the temporary closure from the June 2018 landslide, and the 2019 Peregrine Falcon season closure lifted, we are pleased to announce that rock climbing and bouldering are again permitted throughout the Maryland portion of the park. This means that Maryland Heights, the tallest cliff in Maryland- including the iconic Sign Wall and the Ramps, as well as smaller crags like Skink Rock are open to climbing for the first time in over a year!

While this is an important announcement, all climbing within the Virginia and West Virginia parts of the park remain closed. See how you can help!

The Landslide Closure:

In June of 2018, a landslide occurred on a steep slope above Sandy Hook Road, about a half mile west of Maryland Heights. Out of an abundance of caution, the park service closed traffic on Sandy Hook road and all climbing at Maryland Heights. While the road re-opened after slope restoration was complete and hikers were allowed to park nearby to access the Maryland Heights Trail, this temporary closure remained in effect despite numerous requests from the climbing community and other outdoors enthusiasts to remove it.

It is through the efforts of many volunteers and partner organizations that the park service was moved to action. We would like to thank the efforts of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club-Mountaineering Section, the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, and the Outdoor Alliance, as well as everyone who took the time to write and request that the temporary landslide closure be lifted.

The Seasonal Peregrine Falcon Closure:

This year’s Peregrine Falcon closure was announce on March 23 and scheduled to last until August 25th of 2019. These seasonal closures are necessary because Peregrine Falcons have only recently shed the “threatened” designation and conservationists are trying to encourage Peregrines to return to their historic homes on the cliffs for mating and raising their young.

Hikers at the top of Maryland Heights respecting the closed area of the cliff top (yellow ropes)

The species is sensitive to human interference during this time so it is important for all park users to give the birds space on the cliff face and cliff top.  The climbing community supports these seasonal, research-based closures whole-heartedly. For the past four years, Mid Atlantic Climbers has worked with the park to define the extent of the closure and to communicate this information to the climbing community. 

Interestingly, this year’s closure did not affect climbers because the cliffs affected were already closed due to the temporary 2018 Landslide Closure that had remained in effect.

The Work Still to Be Done:

While this announcement re-opens a major portion of the climbing within the park, at this time, all climbing within the Virginia and West Virginia areas of the park remains closed due to the June 2017 Superintendent’s Compendium, Section 13.  We encourage climbers to take action as we continue our Climb Harpers Ferry Campaign and work to reopen climbing throughout the park.