Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Local crag feature "Irishtown" past and present

Well the start of the winter season 2010/11 is underway and slowly I'm getting back into the groove of using tools and crampons on rock and ice again.  Like with most previous local seasons, our first few days are spent scratching around on dismal ice, but mostly rock.  Yes the cold has hit the Laurel Highlands and the ice is building fast, but the mixed climbing is our best option right now and getting even better.  We really haven't seen many climbers out yet, but I'm sure this weekend will have ice climbers out at the easy access crags.  With the early season mixed climbing in such good shape, I've decided to try to increase the amount of opportunity for ice climbers to try their hand at the abundance of mixed options we have in the area.  I decided to revisit a climb that I top roped last season at a local crag named Irishtown.  I've dubbed the route Dynamite. It's located on the lower wall at Irishtown.
equipping the route "Dynamite" at Irishtown
You can see footage of the climb at the end of this short Irishtown video by Ray Burnsworth of Wildfilm productions.  Its the last climb of the clip.  Now all you young whippersnappers don't be laughing too hard at the vintage '90s climbing attire.  This clip shows some of the ice at Irishtown and the above route is located on the lower cliff (the first of the two walls.)
This crag is an old abandoned Limestone mine that seeps water out over the front forming several nice lines.  There is a lower and upper wall.  The lower wall is obvious, but the upper wall is reached by going right of the lower wall and following the trail to the upper wall.  Its about a 5min. walk.  The center of the Lower Wall is highlighted by an old mine opening, with many mean looking daggers hanging off the lip.  Use Caution - The warm air seeping out of the mine prevents the solid attachment of the sickles hanging over the mouth.  THEY FORM AND FALL CONTINUALLY all season long, so be careful!  Since it's an old quarry/mine and some of the rock isn't the best quality, it makes for a fun mixed and drytooling crag when other ice isn't fully formed.  There are several pure ice lines which have been the main attraction of this crag in past years.  Just to the right of the quarry opening is the ice route Mouth of Madness WI4-5.  One of the earlier climbs of the cliff which was first climbed via top rope in the mid '80's.  Not until recent years have the mixed options become so apparent.  This season I hope to establish some new bolted mixed climbs to expand the options at this fun roadside crag.  Another quality line at the main cliff is called The Prow 
WI3+,M4.  Its located to the right of Mouth Of Madness.  It ascends several shorter vertical sections before pulling through the rock. Finishes at the trees.  You can also traverse left and finish that way if the overhanging rock intimidates you.  I highly recommend this line.
Laura Hahn seconding The Prow WI4- M4  Feb2010
The Prow's conditions today
Myself on the Prow '09-'10 season
  One of the most common email questions I receive is: I'm a newer ice climber, where do you recommend I go?  Irishtown is a great choice.  The Upper tier is home to several nice, (but short 15'-30')  WI 3 to 3+ routes that are usually easy to top rope or great for a newer leader to get their feet wet.  Here's a few photos of their condition as of today.
The main central flow of the upper Irishtown wall
Some short mixed options exist on the upper wall as well
The rightmost flow of the upper Irishtown wall
There you have it a brief introduction to Irishtown.  By this weekend most lines should be in reasonable shape for this time of year.  So come out to Southwestern PA and enjoy cragging at Irishtown.


  1. Good report Tim. Haven't been to Irishtown in a long time. I remember doing Mouth of Madness back in the day....good stuff. Thanks for the updates, they keep me fueled until I can make it up there. Matt

  2. Thanks for posting this, Tim. OK, my current plans are:

    Irishtown Friday
    Meadow Run Saturday
    SSII Sunday

    Hope to see you and Laura!