Mountain Project Map - Harpers Ferry

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Climbing History - Follow Up

After the previous post on Harpers Ferry climbing history I was in contact with Rob Savoye (publisher of the first online Harpers Ferry climbing guide) who was one of the early documented rock climbers at Harpers Ferry. Rob's response to the SMC carabiner was as follows:

It was probably Alex Badant's (now deceased). He climbed over there a bunch of times in the early 80s, and none of the rest of us went there more than once or twice. SMCs have an interesting history in Catonsville actually... Back in the early 80s, a traveling Rainier mountain guide stopped off in Catonsville for a few days, and had a truck full of used gear he was selling (he got paid that season in old gear, instead of cash). It was all SMC ice axes, crampons, and biners. So many of the IMSAR [Ilchester Mountain Search and Rescue] crowd had piles of cheap SMC gear. :-) I still have a few of those SMC biners of that exact type myself (plus an old ixe axe, and crampons, now all wall decorations). Looking at the Blog, I think there must have been some climbing at the Heights long before 1969, the big ramps would be too easy looking. That's just roughly when the first people I knew (Howard Kornblum & Ray Franklin) started climbing there. I believe the main A-D climbs are probably decades older. I wouldn't doubt it if some of the mountain troops from Seneca Rocks climbed at the Heights some too.

For now, I have three photos of Alex Badant climbing at Harpers Ferry. Thanks to Dennis Greenwell for the photos.

Alex Badant,
Who knows? The lost SMC carabiner could have been one of those on his rack in this picture.
Alex on Hard Up

Alex leading Baby Burn. Photo from around 1980/82
Alex seems to have been an influential person in the early days of Harpers Ferry rock climbing. In the interest of sharing and preserving this climbing history we will be creating a historical section to Harpers Ferry Climbing. Look for historical photographs and the stories that go with the images. Rob Savoye will be generating most of the photos and stories. If you have photos and stories please feel free to send them to I will be assembling a web page for this historical information.

Below, I've included some other tidbits from conversations with Rob Savoye that you might enjoy.

Sick Pursuit is a 5.11 roof crack trad climb downhill of Jefferson Rock in Harpers Ferry proper. Rob had the following funny story about the first known ascent:
Sick Pursuit partially got it's name from the drunk tourist that was watching me and scott on the 1st ascent. The crack is so big I did a leg jam, and hung upside down for a hands-off rest. As I inverted, the drunk puked. :-)
With regards to a piton on a route at Loudon Heights (see Fall Update) that was reported on by Carl Orr, Rob had the following to say:
Btw, that's not an army piton. Those were typically ring pitons. Most of the angle irons date from 60s, pre-clean climbing. People climbed at the Heights in the 60s, mostly just the A-D routes, although I believe Hard-Up is also from that era, as it also used to have some ancient pins on it I assume are long gone. There was some stuff I used to find, now long gone, that was WWII era... or moved from Seneca years later. People used to top rope alot on all the cliffs coming into Harper's Ferry, but we always though they were too easy (and too much poison ivy) to bother with. I have one truly ancient pin here that fell out of the crux on Hard Up on the 1st winter ascent. We did that in "full Scottish conditions" in mittens, millar mitts, and leather hiking boots). It was so cold the pin, that was in the small horizontal crack to the right of the last little overhang before getting to the D climb belay ledge, fell out when I tried to jam my hands into the crack. Eventually we did most all the routes at the Heights in the winter as training for mountaineering. We were heavily into hexs, straight stoppers, and Forrest Titons. I climbed alot on "goldmantle" ropes, which was better than the older goldline we had been using. No cams in those days. Most of the pins pre-date the mid 70s, at least they were there when I started hanging around.

Forrest Titons
borrowed image (

Hope you are enjoying these blasts from the past.

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