Irishtown Ice Guide

a climbers guide to:
Irishtown Ice and mixed climbing
Dunbar, PA

by Tim Anderson
Here's a post from several years ago that highlights the local winter climbing area Irishtown.  I've added some content and changed the original post to create a mini-guide to help get you to the ice!  More information on Irishtown and all the other great SWPA ice can be found in: Ice Climbing Pennsylvania by Rob Ginieczki. The much updated 2nd edition is now available!  A must have for local ice climbers.
equipping the route "Dynamite" at Irishtown
Laura Hahn seconding The Prow WI4- M4  Feb2010
The Prow's conditions today
Myself on the Prow '09-'10 season
The main central flow of the upper Irishtown wall
Some short mixed options exist on the right side of the upper wall 
The rightmost flow of the upper Irishtown wall

Irishtown is a great, easily accessibly winter climbing crag. This crag is one of the lowest elevation crags in the area, but has usually been reliable in all but the warmest winters.  Irishtown is home to some fun easy routes, steep columns and some bolted mixed lines offering climbs for all abilities.  Most routes on the lower wall are easily top roped by hiking left to a breakdown in the cliff.  From this point is it a short walk up to the top to rig ropes.  The walk takes about 5 minutes.

From Connellsville, travel South on US-119 for approximately 4 miles to Dunbar road (SR-1053).  Turn left on Dunbar road and follow a short drive to the town of Dunbar.  Cross the railroad tracks, then bear right.  Follow the road to the stop sign at a 4 way intersection, continue straight on Hardy Hill road.  Follow Hardy Hill road uphill for about a mile and turn left onto Twin Oaks Drive.  Follow this small road downhill, crossing a small stream at the bottom.  Start uphill and watch for an old tram road blocked by a large dirt mound.  Park here on the right side of the road.  To get to the ice follow the old tram/logging road .3 miles to the ice.  This is the lower wall. GPS: N 39-57.718' W 79-35.823'

The Melody Motor Lodge - a great climber friendly (cheap, warm), centrally located place to stay when ice climbing in SWPA.  Ed's diner next door is a great place for breakfast before heading out to climb. 

 from the 2010 post: Local crag feature Irishtown Past and Present

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.  Irishtown is located a few minutes drive off Route 119 in the small community of Dunbar.  

You can see footage of the an early top rope ascent of Dynamite 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.  Here's another video of Dynamite.

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 5 minute walk to reach.  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, but makes for fun mixed and dry tooling when other ice isn't fully formed.  

The Routes
Lower Wall (LtoR)

Dirty-T M4+, 4 bolts, top out - Follow the left line of bolts up through rock to reach the variable ice.  Finish on the turf to the trees.  A great bolted mixed line for those learning the trade. 50'

Pale Wildwood Ice Tower WI4, top out - The ice flow that forms about 20' right of Dirty-T.  Usually wet and requires prolonged cold to form. 50'

Dynamite M6+, tree anchor - Starts just left of mine opening.  Follow the inside corner passing bolts on your right.  Pull the overlap and get onto the ice, finishes at the tree anchor above the ice. 50'


Mouth of Madness WI5- top out -  Ascends the vertical ice flow just right of the mine opening.  Usually candle sticked and harder than it appears. 50'

The Prow WI3+M4R - The line of pillars right of Mouth of Madness.  Climb the hollow pillars to the end.  Make rock moves and finish at the trees. 50'

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+,M4R.  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.

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 in typical winter conditions.

There you have it a brief introduction to Irishtown.  Come to Southwestern PA and enjoy cragging at Irishtown.

1 comment:

  1. This would be on State Game Lands and it is illegal to do any climbing activity on SGL's.