Thursday, December 29, 2011

SWPA ice climbing season continues (without ice)

This is by far the worst ice season I've encountered in my 15 years of South Western PA ice climbing. The 10 day forecast isn't looking so favorable either. This morning the Laurel Highlands were dusted with a little snow. Enough to motivate me to load up a full winter kit and set off for the woods in search of some new climbs. I figured if nothing else i'd get some mileage in whilst bushwhacking through the greenbriar filled jungles of Dunbar in "Fayetteville Cong".

I took a hike into a seldom climbed area named Rattlesnake Rocks. It's in the vicinity of Krahlick and Elk Rocks. Climbed mostly in the 80's by Ray Burnsworth and pals. It's a short crag that houses a fair number of climbs in the 20 to 30' range. No sport climbing here. All routes were either top roped or led trad. There are numerous moderate cracks and flake options for the aspiring trad climber.  Rattlesnake Rocks got its name from the rattlesnakes that are known to frequent the area during the warmer months. I spent some time dry tooling across the base of an overhanging wall.

The left end of Rattlesnake Rocks is a great place for dry tool training

 It's a great place to dry tool train with many variations and a nice flat landing. I was alone and climbed sans crampons in my mountain boots.  After about an hour of bouldering and a few shots of the area I set off further across the ridge to see what I could find new.  I was bushwhacking and scrambling around the hillsides.  All of a sudden out of no where I stumbled into this little place.

Slabs stacked like dominos this newly discovered crag is
approximately 50' tall and has some very clean looking trad lines.
There's more crag to the right of what is visible in this photo.

 The climbing looks awesome.  I didn't notice any signs of previous climbers, but a few ascents may have taken place here over the years. Ed Coll, Ivan Jirak, Cal Swogar... There were a few folks that thrashed through the thickets, climbed what they could and moved on.  Unfortunately many of the pioneers of the area are now deceased or have moved on leaving the history a little less than known.  Either way, the routes look like a lot of fun and we're planning our first climbing visit this New Years Day.  Here's a few of the plums that adorn this crag.
The first line I walked up to,
a seam system unlike many in these parts

Center section of the crag.  Nice flakes and corners awaiting us

It was getting later in the day and I still had quite a hike out.  I finished exploring a little and made my way to the car dreaming of the great new climbs I found.  I had a great day exploring old crags and finding new.  After all the time I've spent wandering the ridges and valleys of SWPA, the thing that I enjoy most is what I find next...

Not only new crags, but this is one of the things you might find in SWPA???

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