a climbers guide to
by Tim Anderson
|Laura and I relaxing at The Knobs, Dunbar PA|
The Knobs also known as Rob's Knob is a secluded climbing area nestled in the beautiful woods of Dunbar, PA. Not a popular destination by today's standards due to the longer approach than other local crags. Don't let the walk deter you. The climbing here is pretty stellar. Similar to the blocks found further down Chestnut ridge at Coopers Rock State Park in WV. The climbs at The Knobs are high quality gritstone climbs on freestanding blocks reaching up to 35' tall. Some sport lines exist, but trad and mixed climbing (bolts only where there are no protection options) is the style the first ascentionists chose. Most blocks do not have a scramble access and require at least one climber in a party to possess some lead skills to ascend the blocks even to rig a top rope.
The first climber known to have visited The Knobs was Ray Burnsworth who found it through exploration of the region in the mid to late 1980's after the forest was timbered and exposed the rocks. After the initial visit by Ray he took his friend Rob Goodman to climb select lines at the blocks. Shortly after their initial visit Burnsworth and Goodman were planning a day at the new rocks. Upon arrival at the parking area Betty Knox park, they happened to bump into Pittsburgh climbers Carl Samples, Glenn Thomas. Ray invited Samples and crew to come up to the "new rocks" for some fun. Goodman a strict traditional climber was unhappy with the invite of the others due to their sport climbing development efforts at the then "new" New River Gorge. Excited by the rock shown them by Burnsworth the Pittsburgh group established the current mixed lines at this gem of a crag. Goodman swore off the knobs for good as bolt placement was sacrilege in his eyes. Goodman raised some commotion throughout the community claiming "his crag" no bolts war cries despite being shown the crag himself by Burnsworth who thought the bolts were in good taste and allowed lead climbing where no protection existed. These actions by Goodman resulted in the other name of the crag "ROB'S KNOB". This crew climbed at the Knobs for a short period of time and it soon became dormant only seeing a few climbers a year if that for the next decade.
In the early 90's I was shown the Knobs by local climbers Bob "wags" Wagner and The Krupers, Hop and Kelly. It was some of the only existing bolts in SWPA at the time and I found it exciting to find this style of climbing so close to home. Scott Richards, Matt Johns and I became regular climbing figures there in the mid 90's climbing many of the 60+ lines without ever knowing a name or grade. It was around that time that I met Carl Samples who was impressed by our efforts and enjoyment of this backwoods playground. He was kind enough to provide me with a map and route listing of their established lines and project (which in 1999 became The Terror of Tiny Tim 5.13). We further enhanced the crag by installing bolt anchors on top of Gagging on the Shag block and keeping the crag clean and climbable for all. In the past decade I still frequent The Knobs on a regular basis for its seclusion, remoteness and high quality lines. In the mid to late 2000s? all the original face bolts were pulled and replaced with high quality stainless steel hardware (not by me). In 2012 I installed rap anchors above Never Kissed on the Lips 5.6 and Undercling Peach 5.11a/b R on the Gagging on the Shag Block to protect trees and make rapping off of these blocks more convenient.
From route 119 South turn left at the Dunbar light. Go down into Dunbar and cross the tracks. Turn right after crossing the tracks. Go approximately 1/4mile to a T. Turn left at the T and cross the creek after crossing the creek the road makes an immediate sharp right turn. Continue out the road along Dunbar Creek to the point where the creek breaks away from the hard top road (Yellow Game lands building) at about 4 miles. Make a right onto the dirt road that continues to parallel Dunbar Creek. Follow back the dirt road to the first large gravel parking area on the left (At the Gasline). Park in the far right corner facing the Gasline. From here you go on foot. Pass between the right gate and rock and start hiking the gravel road up the hill. Follow the road until you cross a bridge. After crossing the bridge take a right at the field (which is actually a road). Hike up around the S-curve and find a small stone cairn on your right. Follow the trail into the woods which turns into a logging road in about 100 yards. Follow the cairns and flagging tape up the hill/logging road. Follow this logging about 1/4 mile to the top of the hill. Eventually you'll come out into old forest and the blocks appear. You'll know you're there when you see the obvious overhanging splitter crack of A crack too short 5.10a on the lone block on the left side of the road across from the other blocks of The Knobs.
12. Fungal Disgust 5.7 R - Boulder green slab to ledge and corner. Natural Pro.
24. Needle In My Head 5.11c* - Vicious crack to arete, up and right to top. TR28. Under Cling Peach 5.11a/b*R - Start 8' left of arete, up horizontals to shallow left-facing corner. Natural Pro.30. Take a Stab 5.8* - Short crack, traverse right to flake. Natural Pro.31. Terror of Tiny Tom 5.10b** - Horizontals up left side of arete, angle left to top. 2 bolts, .75tcu, 1-1.5 cams.
35. Dead Ringer 5.9-* - Flake 10' right of arete. Natural Pro.39. It's Great to be Human 5.11c - Finger pocket problem right of blunt arete Finish.43. Grim Whitman 5.11d/12a - Hard start to green face. TR46. I Think I Soloed That 5.10c** - Good horizontals up steep face. Natural pro. Variation finish: finish right at crux bulge: 5.10a**.
52. Community Crack 5.9 - Discontinuous crack in center of face. Natural pro.56. The Mystery Hole 5.10a* - Steep arete. Tcu's, 3.5-4 cam, sling hole in arete.
The Routes1. Plumber's Crack 5.9+ - Overhanging crack on right side of steep face Natural Pro. 25 Feet.
2. Last of the Moe Haircuts 5.11c - Left side of arete. TR
3. Grillers in the Mist 5.12a/b** - Very steep corner and face to roof crack 3 bolts, 1.5-2.5 cams. 35 feet.
4. Flesh Rips 5.11d* - Steep face 8' right of outside corner. TR
5. Salt Lick Sadie 5.10d** - Boulder start to steep crack. Natural Pro.
6. It's Scary What You Can Do 5.11b/c** - Gently overhanging face. 3 bolts, 2-2.5 cams.
7. Bobmosis 5.10c* - Somewhat contrived line climbs arete on left side. TR
8. Half Herman 5.8+ R - Right side of arete. Natural Pro.
9. The Herpist 5.6** - Grooved face, around roof on left at short crack. Natural Pro.
10. Grab for Disgusto 5.4 - Face to corner through roof. Natural Pro.
11. The Diving Bored 5.10b* - Slab on left side of arete through overhang. 2 bolts, .4-.5 tcu's.
|The Diving Bored 5.10b with the Diving Bored fallen|
13. Vibrational Being 5.9+ - Boulder to bolt, steep horizontals to top. 1 bolt, cams.
14. Heredity Problem 5.10a/b* - Corner on arete, left to top. TR
15. Liplock 5.7 - Flaring Crack. Natural Pro.
16. Captain Hook 5.10d X - Boulder problem on arete, finish on green slab.
17. Sterling Moss 5.6 X - Boulder start, green slab to top.
18. Rolder Boblem 5.9 - Boulder left side of arete.
19. Fun One 5.6 - Face to crack, escape right at ledge or pockets to top. Natural Pro.
20. Fun Two 5.9 - Boulder start between cracks, straight to top. Natural Pro.
21. Fun Three 5.7* - Short crack to ledge, straight up. Natural Pro.
22. Fun Four 5.7* - Undercling right curving flake, straight to top. Natural Pro, Bolt Anchor.
23. No Fun 5.10b R - Smeary solo to ledge. 18 Feet.
|Laura Hahn below the Fun Face|
32. Romancing the Stone 5.8 - Up slab aiming for groove near top. Natural Pro.
33. Mr. Green Genes 5.9+ - Slab featuring mantle onto small ledge halfway up. TR
47. Never Kissed On the Lips 5.6 - Face up to small tree. Natural pro.
48. Stump the Experts 5.5* - Short, fun face. Natural pro.
49. Clean and Jerk 5.9* - Bouldery start to arete. TR
50. The Tweak 5.11b - Face immediately right of arete. TR
51. Lightning Rod Man 5.10d** - Face 10' right of arete. tcu's, small tricams, 2-2.5 cams.