Monday, January 16, 2012

Tunnel Cliffs and Sunday School Crag conditions

Winter wonderland... for now
I woke up this morning feeling a little sore from my past several days efforts.  Needing a rest day, I decided to go check ice conditions high up on the ridge at the coldest areas in the region as well as get in some winter hiking and views.  I loaded a light pack with minimal gear.  Tools, crampons, extra gloves a puffy and the normal lid contents.  I brewed a pot of elixer for my thermos and set off up the mountain to Tunnel road.  The road was maintained part of the way making the driving easy.  From there on out to the top of NO DRIVE hill (parking area) the snowmobiles had it packed to reasonable passage.  I parked there and hiked down the 1.25 miles to the climbing.  It was looking pretty good, but I was surprised that the top outs were still looking very wet and boney. Here's a couple of shots...

Hard to believe this is Tunnel cliffs from the ice farming days circa 1999
I like the no maintenance of the new version...
but liked the natural non tiered version better
Here's the beta on the NEW Tunnel Cliffs.   I would suggest only using this area on Sundays and keeping a low profile.  Since this is the first year I've been back here in years and this one sucks, I'm not really sure of the potential here.  Its basically short benches (30'?) that can be climbed in short "pitches" or linked all together.  Its a great place that seeps continually from a natural spring and parts are in full shade.  It is one of the highest crags as far as elevation goes and comes in quicker than most other areas.  This should be a great location with lots of moderate climbing. I don't expect to be climbing here that often, so this is my effort to share with fellow ice climbers an area.  I would expect that it will become a good asset for both local and visiting climbers.  You can find Tunnel Cliffs in Griz's Ice climbing Pennsylvania guidebook.  It'll help get you there, but the routes are obviously different.  Unlike the old days of serious efforts required to "farm" ice and climb here, TC has now been transformed into an ice making machine that requires no maintenance.  Climbing at Tunnel back in those years was not a problem and could be accessed at any time.  Now given its current condition going on days other than Sunday may ruin it for all.  Please don't be "that climber" and lets keep this place climbable.  Thanks and enjoy!  I snapped a couple pics and left quickly as not trying to be the person I just mentioned.  I wanted to get a couple pics with it a little thicker than I've seen it thus far and to gauge what it takes for this place to come into shape to help y'all out.  I've always enjoyed the walk down into and out of Tunnel cliffs.  Its a long gradual hill that goes through some beautiful forest.  Its quickly contrasted by the new climbing area as you will see if you visit (some Sunday).  Keep this one on your hit list if leading WI3ish climbs is what your after.  Keep in mind if not leading that there's not much in the way of anchors (trees, etc) for easy top roped climbing.  In addition the ice may be hard to reach from the top and may not offer easy access for screw anchors either.

After my hike up out of Tunnel Cliffs I visited Sunday School Crag.  The conditions there look promising.  If the cold weather continues it'll be fat by next weekend.  If it warms up its going to be very unstable.  Unfortunately the forecast is calling for a warm up and rain.  I spent a couple hours walking around checking out the climbs enjoying our brief winter experience.  Here's what it looked like and a few random shots for your enjoyment.

60 meters of chossy alpine fun

South Park Wall
Near where New Years Revolution once stood.
Looks harder than WI4+ though.
It's waiting for us when you're ready Matt!
New Years Reunion WI?
Dumbfounded self portrait.  It was a wonderful 13°
and felt good in the sun
Pennsylvania Alpine?  Who remembers the approach?
Another 60meters of more strenuous fun.
Who's coming with me man?
There you have it the ice is looking better than it has yet, but has some building to be considered FAT.  Lets hope for some mercy on the warm fronts and colder temps hit the area with fury.  I know I'm ready to get some serious climbing done.  Mother nature has a different plan.  Hard to believe its 44° and raining now just hours later.  What a bitch!


  1. Replies
    1. Your welcome James. Too bad the weather has been so warm. I always look forward to seeing you and your happy crew in the woods of SWPA. There's still hope, we still have a month and a half for cold to hit. Hope to see you soon! -Tim

  2. Good to see you're keeping busy Tim! Hope to be up there soon.

  3. So cool to see the pics of Sunday School Tim! My how things have changed. Our ascent of New Years still stands as one of my favorite days of climbing. If the weather ever cooperates I will be back for more. Take care my friend! Matt