Mountain Project Map - Harpers Ferry

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Harpers Ferry - Climbing History

Recent exploits in Harpers Ferry have brought me in contact with a lot of Knifeblades, Lost Arrow Pitons, RURP's, and the finding of long lost climbing gear that was dropped. I thought it would be fun to track down the age of 2 pieces of gear to put an age range on what could be the first known ascent of a route or to just get a sense of when the climber who placed or dropped the gear was on that cliff.

According to Rob Savoye "climbing" in Harpers Ferry began about
1969/1970. That means people are known to have been climbing in Harpers Ferry for about 41 years. [Note: That seemed like a significant piece of time until I decided to look up the History of Rock Climbing, which I suggest you take a peek at on Wikipedia Link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rock_climbing ] In a place like Harpers Ferry, with history dating back to the beginning of America, 41 years isn't so much.  There could have been some very early ascents of the easiest routes. We'll never truly know but I'd bet that it did occur.

So the known rock climbing in Harpers Ferry is equivalent to a pimply faced teenager, who cares. To most of you, 41 years is a long time so let's take these two pieces of gear and track them down.

The first pieces is a wire we removed from a very rusty RURP on "Cold Steel Corner" at Balcony Jr. Inside the plastic casing was a label with a serial number.  As a side note it was very easy to remove the wire and climbers have been known to clip it and hang on it, yikes!


I contacted Black Diamond Equipment and spoke with Adam Smart. Here is what he had to say,

"This really doesn’t actually seem to be a rurp that is that old. Judging from what I can read and the 3 sigma stamp, I would guess mid to late nineties for manufacturing, probably actually around 99."

Darn, I was hoping for something 30+ years old. I learned after the fact that Black Diamond Equipment wasn't a company until just about 1990 so the potential for history is limited... for now.  Also, the first known ascent information we had for "Cold Steel Corner" was from around 1997 or 98. Though not absolutely conclusive Adam's assesment suggests the piece was placed after the first known ascent of the route.
 
The second piece is an SMC aluminum carabiner found laying on a ledge 1/3 of the way up a route on the western side of Loudon Heights. This side appears to see very little traffic or so I thought.

I spoke with Don Enos at SMC (Seattle Manufacturing Company) and he replied

 "This unit is actually pre-lot number for us which has it being build in the early years.  I am thinking that it might have been built somewhere in the 1980’s." 

I believe the rounded shape and the lack of a lot number indicated the potential manufacturing age. So, though the 1980's were not that long ago, if it were dropped in say 1985 that places a climber there roughly 25 years ago. Granted, it could have been dropped in the 1990's or even early 2000's but I like to lean toward the older age.

And so, with the winter weather continuing and not much else to do, why not do some climbing detective work. Something "safety" to take away from this (and I point the finger at some of you in particular when I say this C.O. ;)) is that this iron gear rusts fast. Don't use it for protection!

Climb Safe and Best Wishes with Cabin Fever

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