Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A day at Harpers Ferry Part II: Bouldering tour

After my pathetic morning display of roped climbing to belay Dan up his latest project, it was time for us to move on to the shorter challenges that were the actual reason for the day's visit.  Driving just up the road, we met up with Conrad Schaefer, long-time local climber and creator of the Harpers Ferry Climbing website. Although we had both been in touch with him sporadically online, this was our first face-to-face meeting.  We quickly found him to be a wonderful tour guide, whose love of the rocks was readily apparent, but also quickly found that his high regard for the place was far more than local pride.  While probably even in terms of quality with our other local quartzite areas, Harpers Ferry is certainly one of our biggest concentrations of rock around, and to explore the full extent would have taken far more than the single afternoon we had at our disposal.

Conrad chose to focus our tour on the Elk Ridge section, located on the Maryland side of the river, and home to the more well known toprope and trad climbing of Balcony Rock and Balcony Junior.  We started off walking around the Balcony Rock Boulders before heading up to the Outlying Area, including the beautiful spot known as The Cove.

Next we went to The Highlands, with the fantastic Starlight boulder sitting atop Balcony Jr.  Although I hadn't planned to do any bouldering that day, I couldn't resist taking a couple trips up Big Dipper, a perfect row of jugs traversing across a low roof.  After not bouldering for a month, I'm happy to say I did it with no injury!   Dan did another five problems on Starlight before we went further uphill to see what else the area had to offer.

From The Highlands, Conrad took us downhill to The Tiers, where he and Dan climbed John Brown's Body on the breathtaking slabby block.  Conrad also sent the left arete, calling it Isaac Smith Arete. Although my camera for some reason shut down when Conrad was on it, I did manage to capture Dan's ascent, and included it along with seven other problems in the video below.

We finished up our tour with a visit to the Underground Railroad Overhang, long and steep with good jugs on the right and more delicate crimps on the left.  Conrad made quick work of it in his street shoes before leading us back to the cars.

And with that our time was finished, but I'm looking forward to going back for more soon.  Thanks to Conrad for showing us around!


LeskaLLC said...

I like how Dan said To me that day. It was total rest day I maybe did like 2 problems. Busted Mr. Dan...:)
It's other needing training to catch up with you...

2Tall said...

Hey there, great Blog. Thabks for sharing your adventures. I saw the maps for HFC but wasnt sure how you made it to the Elk Ridge area. Was the a specific trail head or path you took. Really looking forward to finding these. Thanks!

Robin said...

There was a little dirt trail heading into the woods from the road and now I can't remember what the marker was that Conrad told me to look for. I'll find out though.

Conrad said...

Approximately at 39.324649,-77.717275
As you walk along the road from the school bus turnaround you will encounter a series of small boulders along the side of the road. They are evenly spaced and meant to block off an old parking area/turnaround. You have gone too far when you see the maroon colored gates. Check out this image ( http://harpersferryclimbing.com/BalconyRock_files/image017.jpg ), See the small boulders drawn. I actually counted them and mapped them accurately. During the summer it is overgrown and difficult to see all of the boulders but they are there. Good luck.

2Tall said...

We found the trail head. Took us right up to the balcony. Thanks for the details guys. Much appreciated.

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