Mountain Project Map - Harpers Ferry

Monday, February 20, 2012

Trad Routes - MD Heights - January/February 2012 Ascents

(Edited 11/17/2015, Metropolis was revised to be called The Broadcast. See Mountain Project for details) The sampling of warm weather this winter has provided great opportunites to try some new lines on the cliffs around Harpers Ferry.  In the past month, Martin Leska and Dan Montague have been pushing outward from the well traveled terrain to explore rock that to the current collective knowledge has not seen ascents.  Please post comments if you are aware of historical ascents, and share any photographs if you have them available as we all love eye candy.

As I've said before, the main cliffs of Maryland Heights are the bullseye on the Harpers Ferry rock target.  And, just like the bullseye on a real target, the main cliffs are a small percentage of the total area on which to set your sights.  Don't get me wrong, aim for the sweet spot and hit those main, popular lines. But, don't be afraid to stray off center and venture into new terrain once you have sampled the prime established lines and are comfortable and competent on the rock.

You now have two, newly reported lines to consider on your next visit.  I'll include the descriptions as written by the ascentionists to preserve the first hand experience.  The first picture features a
route called "Metropolis". It is very close to "Puyk" ( which is left of the main cliffs of Maryland Heights. The route is named Metropolis as the ascentionists thought this area looked, from the north parking area, like a grouping of buildings.  Dan had the following to say,
The route is solidly in the 5.10 range and pulls a medium roof on pretty bad feet, the gear was decent and unlike the next route, the roof was only the beginning of the crux. After the roof there was a dispersion of small gear and we were stuck with a single rope. When we do it again we'll definitely be using double ropes. We started in the bottom left part of the oval and worked up the narrow face staying off the wall to the right and continued up the face over the roof and followed a small crack that didn't really take any gear (most of the placements were in the horizontals). There are definitely places you don't wanna fall on the route but most of the harder climbing has gear.
Metropolis, solid 5.10

Puyk is shown in the left oval, Metropolis is shown in the right oval
The next route is right of the main cliffs.  It is located on a wide freestanding block that Dan referred to as the Tower.  See the second photograph below for the Tower location. Dan had the following to say,
This thing surprised me. From the road, and even from the bottom of the route it looked easy, but my first time up I bailed around the right arete below the roof for a variation with no more gear but easier climbing (5.8ish). After my poor first showing, I hiked up my skirt and went straight over the roof for a much harder version (probably 10b?). The gear is pretty straightforward, but right over the roof you'll want to have a yellow c4 handy for a funky pocket-like placement. After that it's a heel hook at your chest and a tedious mantle; thinking back on it, the route could be harder than 10b...

Tower route, 5.10 version.  The 5.8 version skirts right around the upper roof but without protection.

Location of the freestanding block that Dan refers to as the Tower.
There are two thin free standing pillars of rock in the gorge.  One is on Maryland Heights to the left of the main cliffs and the other is in West Virginia uphill from 340 along the Shenandoah River between Loudon Heights and Chestnut Hill Rd.  This new "Tower" is much thicker/broader than these other well known freestanding pillars of rock.  This tower is more like a freestanding block/boulder than a thin pillar.

When you venture out to climb remember to double check all of your equipment/knots, and make good decisions.  Also, if you are climbing around the Maryland Heights main cliffs then you need to sign in at the ranger station.

Outdoors cliffs are an uncontrolled environment which makes for good adventure but you need to know your stuff.  Be safe, have fun, and you can share your adventures by sending stories and photos to If it seems like your information will benefit others in the area then it will end up here as a post.

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