Monday, May 3, 2010
Climbers in Pennsylvania thrive on the obscure. The saying among the devoted few is, "bad rock is better than no rock." As an outsider coming to explore the Keystone state that saying crushed my optimism. Still, I tracked down a PA native and long time boulderer to show me what climbing potential I have been missing. When I pulled up to meet Ben I saw him standing in the middle of a street in West Philadelphia, his huge foam crash pad on his back gave him away. He showed me through the PA countryside to Haycock Mountain, a well known bouldering* area North of Philadelphia. It was known for having hundreds of routes and hundreds more yet to be developed. It sounded good but, "the trouble," he said, "is finding the route. They are a bit spread out." Such is the case for the entire state. Quality rock with quality routes are hidden in ever corner of Pennsylvania but unfortunately finding the route can be more challenging than actually climbing it. For PA climbers the approach is most of the experience.
Ben on "Unnamed Route"
Just below a densely wooded hillside strewn with rocks Ben pointed out an access trail that led to the rock. We began searching and then hunting for climbable rock. We poured over a printed pdf of route beta and scratched our heads looking for diabase rocks big enough to climb. Our search took us scrambling and swimming through Northeastern poison ivy dripping with shiny rash inducing misery, then back over, around, up, down over logs and through more rock fields. The first route we tried was an unnamed problem that went easy by locking a vertical slot on the second move then pulling to a left leaning crack to a lowball top-out. We played with a few variations then packed up and continued looking for more. It became a hunt for routes. A boulder laying prominent in a field of others would turn out to be only waist high once we reached it but the game continued. Other voices and crash pads from other parties were off in the distance looking through the same boulder fields led on by their elusiveness as well. Eventually we settled in a cluster known as Hanger 18 and began exploring some of the areas more notable climbs and quality routes. They were short and powerful and unquestionably better than nothing at all.