Elizabeth Furnace Rock Climbing by Francisco Fuentes

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Francisco atop Raising Arizona 5.7

Francisco atop Raising Arizona 5.7

Elizabeth Furnace is a beautiful area located in the George Washington NF. Only a 1 hour drive from DC, it is the sport crag of choice for VA/MD/DC residents. Its name is derived from early 1800s history when a blast furnace located in the region was used to make pig iron using the currents of Passage Creek as a power source. Ore that was mined nearby and purified by the furnace was then transported to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and taken downstream for forging in Harpers Ferry, WV. Today, the region is primarily a recreational area for families, with camping facilities that are readily accessible to those hiking the Massanutten & Tuscarora trails. Other activities to be enjoyed nearby, besides rock climbing, are camping, hiking, and mountain biking. The area offers two main crags; the roadside 5 minute approach Talking Headwall, and the mountain top 45 minute approach Buzzard Rock.

Melissa on Failure to Communicate 5.7

Melissa on Failure to Communicate 5.7

This guide is a comprehensive collection of the Elizabeth Furnace climbing region. It includes both Buzzard Rocks & Talking Headwall. Located in the north eastern outskirts of the George Washington National Forest, it is only a 1 hour drive from the DC region.

Talking Headwall is NoVa’s iconic roadside crag. Talking Headwall offers great sandstone features with overhangs and is the location of choice for new climbers to practice and hone their skills. Featured climbs are “Leading Should Feel This Way” (5.10), “I Love Big Jugs” (5.8), “Furnasty” (5.12), “Pure Energy” (5.10), and many others.

Mike - Suzzanne - Scott on Failure to Communiate 5.7

Mike – Suzzanne – Scott on Failure to Communiate 5.7

Buzzard Rock, with clean tuscarora sandstone and solid gear placements. Buzzard offers great features with mostly slab climbing and minimal overhangs. It is the location of choice for new climbers to practice and hone their trad skills. Featured climbs are the iconic “Anonymous Flake” (5.8 – 5.11), “Pulp Friction” (5.9), “Ass Cannibal” (5.8), and the new routes at the Adam Kopley Memorial Boulder.

Please email f.fuentes.ae@gmail.com for route updates & corrections. Contributions to this guidebook have been made by Francisco J Fuentes & Sean Tracy.

 
 
 
 

Boat Rock Boulders, Atlanta Georgia – by Zach Bonta

Buy Boat Rock Bouldering here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.
Athar Naseer, Gaping Crack (V3)

Athar Naseer, Gaping Crack (V3)

Boat Rock is a granite playground nestled in the heart of a bustling metropolis. It consists of monstrous boulders hidden within a beautiful southern forest. The contrast between this amazing paradise of sharp boulders and the fast-moving cement city that has enveloped this climbing Eden is stark and dramatic. Boat Rock is an amazing respite for the climber stranded in the city, and is the most extensive and varied bouldering park within a few hours of Atlanta.

Boat Rock boasts a variety of climbers that called the Boat their stomping grounds, including Robyn Erbesfield, Bob Cormany, Ron Kauk, Curtis Glass, Shannon Stegg, Jerry Roberts, and Rich Gottlieb who all have made Boat Rock a destination for those looking to develop technical skills in this slab filled area.

Alex Liu, on Easy Crack Traverse (V3)

Alex Liu, on Easy Crack Traverse (V3)

Boat Rock is notorious for being saved from urban progress by advocacy groups, especially the Southeastern Climber’s Coalition. Today, the area is divided between being held for climbers, and still owned by others, so climbers have to be aware of where boundaries are. Future plans seem to incorporate the outlying areas that possess interesting problems into use for climbers of Boat Rock permanently.

The pinnacle of climbing season is late January, where it doesn’t usually get blistering cold in this area of Georgia. The closer to summer, the ever-present humidity makes its presence known to climbers. Spring and fall are beautiful times to enjoy this park, but as the foliage is beautiful on the trees, it does inhibit navigating the boulders for beginners and new-comers.

Boat Rock is a place for climbers of varying ability levels. This is a great place to develop great slab climbing skills, as well as crack climbing, edging and balance.

 
 
 

Learn more about Zach Bonta here.

Introducing Denny Cove Rock Climbing – by Cody Averbeck

Buy Denny Cove here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.

John Dorough on the classic, Magic Meat , 12a

John Dorough on the classic, Magic Meat , 12a

Denny Cove — a new crag to the Chattanooga area offering 154 (and counting) sport and trad routes. The rakkup Denny Cove guide is currently the exclusive guide to this brand new area. Chatt Steel edition II (due out 2017) will debut Denny Cove in print, along with several other new areas to the Chattanooga region.

Denny Cove is located down the street from Foster Falls and up the mountain from Castle Rock — putting it squarely in one of the most popular areas to rock climb in the South Cumberland region. Jason Reynolds (park ranger at the nearby Foster Falls) established the first routes at the cliff in 2011 and would later tell Steven Farmer and Cody Averbeck about the area. These two walked the cliff and were blown away by the variety of the different walls. Dubbing it a ‘Sandstone Buffet,’ the two recruited a core group of developers including John Dorough, Dave Wilson, Edward Yates, and Anthony Meeks. Over the next several years, the group would spend most weekends at the cliff knocking choss off of the buffet wall and making fun of each other.

Like Foster Falls, Denny Cove has a wall for everybody. Be it slabs, faces, to bunkers, Denny has it. Of special interest is the Buffet Wall which can really only be compared to the Lizard Wall in Little River Canyon, AL. Like Lizard Wall, the buffet wall is one of the driest walls in the region during wet weather. More importantly, the wall has a one of a kind climbing personality that blends limestone side pulling down low with classic pumpy Sandstone edges up high. This wall has nearly 50 5.12s with routes up to 100′ long — and is not to be missed!

In all, Denny Cove is a huge and highly valued addition to the Chattanooga climbing portfolio. It also represents a watershed acquisition project spearheaded by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund. 10% of sales from this guidebook on rakkup will go the SCC to help preserve climbing access at Denny Cove.

 
 

Learn more about Cody’s guidebook company Rockery Press here.

Parque La Huasteca by Gareth “Gaz” Leah

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Gaz Leah on Prudence Clasico 5.13c , Virgincita Cave.

Gaz Leah on Prudence Clasico 5.13c , Virgincita Cave.

Hidden within the majestic valleys of the Sierra Madre Oriental, just outside the sprawling city of Monterrey, lies the wonderland that is Parque La Huasteca.

Gaz Leah on the first ascent of The Life You Can Save, 5.12+, Pico Independencia.

Gaz Leah on the first ascent of The Life You Can Save, 5.12+, Pico Independencia.

Gigantic spines of limestone cut the jagged landscape like knifes to the heavens and cascading canyons bestow hypnotizing vistas that reach as far as the eye can see. For decades, the park remained elusive to the outside world, an almost mythical place that few ventured into but the enigmatic Huichol people, whose annual pilgrimage to the pay tribute to Abuelo Fuego (Grandfather Fire) has been a tradition for millennia.

In recent years, the park has witnessed an awakening. The tales of it’s beauty have travelled far and wide, carried by images of it’s breathtaking scenery and signature views of Pico Independencia. Combined with it’s incredible selection of climbing routes ranging in grades from 5.7 to 5.14+, and boulders from V0 – V11, the park continues to attract visitors from across the globe and as far as the U.K., Germany and Sweden.

Clayton Reagan, Atodo Madre, 5.14a, La Bestia Cave.

Clayton Reagan, Atodo Madre, 5.14a, La Bestia Cave.

Possessing a plethora of activities including sport climbing, bouldering, big walling, running, mountaineering, hiking, cycling, highlining, base jumping and camping, there is something to quiche the thirst of even the most ambitious adventurer!

Pargue La Huasteca Entrance.

Pargue La Huasteca Entrance.

Ouray Ice Climbing – by Jason Nelson

Buy Ouray Ice here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.
Ines Papert at the Ouray Ice Park.

Ines Papert at the Ouray Ice Park.

Rock and Ice Magazine once came out with a statistic that Ouray had more climbers per capita than any other US city. I’m guessing they came up with that number during ice climbing season. I think it’s also safe to assume Ouray also has more ice climbs per capita of any US city.

Angelika Rainer on Careless Whisper, M11, The remedy Crag.

Angelika Rainer on Careless Whisper, M11, The Remedy Crag.

Most people enter Ouray from the north. The experience of weaving through the desert like sandstone canyons south of Montrose and popping out in Ridgeway at the foot of the San Juans makes your heart skip a beat. Lofty snow covered peaks striated with cliff bands rise uninterrupted for seven thousand feet from the valley floor. Interesting enough, a glacial carved u-shaped canyon, lined with red rock, forms a sort of red carpet to welcome the visiting climber. It’s not long before you spot ice high on the hillsides and soon it’s forming alongside the road as well. Rubber necking at the cliffs as you wind your way around the corners it’s all you can do to keep the vehicle out of the river. Then, the mountainsides curve away and an idyllic alpine town with hot springs lays before you. Welcome to Ouray! If you arrived from the south, than likely you’ve been white-knuckling the steep exposed corners and wondering why the hell are there no guardrails. Yes, that canyon is full of cars that didn’t manage to make that turn. Your first stop will likely be at the brewery and you’ll be more than ready for a drink.

Jack Jefferies on Goldine, M10, The Posers Lounge.

Jack Jefferies on Goldine, M10, The Posers Lounge.

Being in the southern latitudes for an ice climbing destination, Ouray benefits from short but often sunny winter days that help to build and refresh the ice via melt/freeze cycles. That, and ice farmers are hired to keep the ice big and fat in the Ouray Ice Park usually from mid-December till the end of March. The coldest of cold days have highs around ten degrees Fahrenheit, but often temps are in the 20s and 30s making for pretty comfortable climbing conditions.

Grant Kleeves on Fissure Out, M10, The Remedy Crag.

Grant Kleeves on Fissure Out, M10, The Remedy Crag.

Ouray is located in southwest Colorado, where we boast 300 days of sunshine, coffee shops, several nearby hot springs, legal weed, and enough microbrews you could probably try a new one every day. When the cold icy terrain no longer seems your thing, Moab and desert rock climbing are only a couple hours away. Oh, and then there’s the access. Yeah, I know the Canadian Rockies are sooo big and there’s sooo much ice, but waking up at 4 am and driving several hours day after day to climb sure does get tiresome. In Ouray, drive times feel long if you go all the way to Silverton or all the way Telluride, at about 1:15 minutes. Otherwise, a car isn’t even needed for many of the climbs. Once you get the area a little dialed, you might work from the Chocolate shop for a few hours, then many step out and rope-solo 10 pitches in the ice park which might only take about 2 hours and feel pretty content with your day.

Kitty Calhoun at the Ouray Ice Park.

Kitty Calhoun at the Ouray Ice Park.

As of initial release, this guide has over 300 climbs, and more on the way. In the future, I’ll likely add Telluride and Silverton and more obscure local routes as well. In the meantime, the areas along highway 550 including around town, and Red Mountain Pass are covered. Of course, the Ouray Ice Park is covered and has some new climbs not previously covered in older guides. The scenic Camp Bird road or Canyon Creek Canyon (I never realized how redundant that sounded), is of course covered including Skylight, classics like the Ribbon and Bird Brain Boulevard, and the newer Hall of Justice. For those with overbuilt upper bodies and skinny little legs, you might enjoy the new Remedy dry-tooling crag that’s right in town. Viva Ouray!

 
 
 
 

Learn more about Jason Nelson here.

Oman: Sport Climbing in the Muscat Area

Buy Oman: Muscat Sport Climbing here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.

When people think of Arabia, they tend to think of big sand dunes with Lawrence of Arabia standing in a pose with his hand on his hip and maybe a falcon on his shoulder for good effect. They don’t think of the mountainous country that is Oman. Peaks as high as 3000m and shear faces of up to 1000m, which should appeal to climbers everywhere. While it is literally covered in rock, due to the tectonic plates being pushed up from the Indian ocean, it is difficult to find good rock or at least the kind that appeals to sport climbers. Oman is, in fact, an incredibly beautiful country that makes for a great escape for those climbers stuck in European or North American winter weather. Pretty much guaranteed sunny weather all year round with ample amounts of climbing and other activities, it’s hard to think of why one wouldn’t consider coming to Oman.

Historically speaking, climbing in Oman is relatively new. The first mention of climbing in Oman was when Frenchman Raymond Renaud climbed the aptly named French pillar in 1979 with siege tactics to tackle Jebal Misht (1100m). Rumor has it that the Sultan had a helicopter pick the team up from the top and whisk them off to a celebration to commemorate their ascent. While this seems unlikely, it wouldn’t be the first time something outlandish happened in the gulf. Renaud and other French guides have been coming to Oman ever since and indeed have been behind much of the early development. There were also a number of British developers as well. Jeff Horby for one, who developed many adventurous routes up Jebal Misht and elsewhere.

In more recent news, Oman has had several famous climbers come and climb and get media coverage. People may remember Alex Honnold’s visit to the coast doing some DWS documented in this post by Mark Synott Impossible Rock. Along with Jimmy Chin, Hazel Findlay and Mark Synnott, they made a short film about their climbs in Musandum, Oman.

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Interestingly many of these routes had already been climbed by a group of British climbers (Tim Emmett, Neil Gresham, Mikey Robertson and Seb Grieve) and local strong men Read Macadam and Toby Foord-Kelcey.

A short time after that, Chris Sharma and Stefan Glowacz came to Oman to climb out of a cave, literally! They called the route, what else but “Into the Light”. This was the same name that Read Macadam and Jacob Oberhauser called the route they climbed out of at a nearby cave a month earlier. As unoriginal as these names seem Red bull had an issue with two routes being called the same name. As Red Bull paid so much money and spent so much time organizing the trip and expedition, Read and Jacob graciously renamed their route “Out of the Dark” (Has to make you smile, right?). Both climbs were filmed and are available online:

and

Speaking of films, it’s also worth checking out Read’s film Valley of Giants which gives a great snap shot of climbing and traveling in Oman

Valley Of Giants. Psyched yet?

However, as far as sport climbing in the Muscat goes, it wasn’t until Patrick Cabiro and Nathalie Hanriot were commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism that Oman started to see its first modern sport routes (2008). In fact, they were the driving force in the development of Wadi Daykiah and “La Gorgette”. They were also the first to bolt in Hadash. More importantly, they gave the impedes to local residents to start developing their own routes close to Muscat.

Hamza Zidoum on Abracadabra 6c (5.11a) Wadi Daykia  Photo credit: Natasa Silec

Hamza Zidoum on Abracadabra 6c (5.11a) Wadi Daykia Photo credit: Natasa Silec

Enter Kim Vaughn and Bill Huguelet, two local residents keen to develop routes close to home, who developed several routes in Kubra Canyon. They spent a lot of their own time and money developing these routes. We have a lot of thanks to give to Bill and Kim as Kubra is still one of the best afternoon crags. It’s also a great place to start your climbing trip in Oman with lots of moderates and a great bolted multi-pitch. Bill and Kim first called Kubra “Secret Canyon” as they kept the development a secret from the now bustling climbing group. One weekend they surprised the group with a new crag! A nice surprise to a have an additional 40 some odd routes added to your climbing inventory.

Natasa Silec on The Bulge 6c (5.11a) Kubra Canyon Photo credit: Miguel Willis

Natasa Silec on The Bulge 6c (5.11a) Kubra Canyon Photo credit: Miguel Willis

So in a few short years, Oman went from about 5 sport routes to about 80. The only problem was that most of these routes were in the French grade 6 range (5.10). Very few 7’s (5.12) and no 8’s (5.13) had been developed. Not to mention one of the more picturesque crags (Hadash) was generally over looked. Here comes the Canadian influence, Read Macadam and Larry Michienzi. In a few short years Larry and Read started to develop Hadash to its fullest and easily doubled both the number of routes and a number of harder climbs in Oman. While Kubra and Daykia are home to some great moderates, Hadash is home to some of the hardest routes in Arabia and as the altitude of Hadash is 1500m it is a great place to climb from October to April.

Photo Credit: Natasa Silec

Photo Credit: Natasa Silec

So while Kubra has some great moderates and Hadash has some great harder climbs Daykia is still home to the easiest approach (if you have a 4X4☺ ). You can literally belay out of your car if you want. It also has some fantastic 6c’s (5.11a/b)! and some nice moderates as well. Check out the slightly run out Turbo barbeque (6c/5.11a) and Agath Exit (6c+/5.11b/c) if that’s your jam. Insiders beta: head to Daykia early as it goes in the sun by mid-afternoon and even in the winter it can be quite warm.

Hamza Zidoum Gets beta from Local  Photo Credit Natasa Silec

Hamza Zidoum Gets beta from Local Photo Credit Natasa Silec

Two paper guides have been written about climbing in Oman. The Macdonald Guide (out of print) and a more recent guide also called ‘Climbing in Oman’ by long time Austrian climbing guide Jakob Oberhauser. While Jakob’s guide is very thorough it does lack the availability that an electronic guide can offer and also, while it has many details of the sport climbing in the area, it lacks some of the most up-to-date sport routes and topos. Of course, if it is multi-pitch climbing you are after, this is the guide for you. However, for those that want to do a little sport climbing in the Muscat area, this app is a very good supplement.

Oman: Muscat Sport Climbing

Oman: Muscat Sport Climbing

 
 
 
 
 

Learn more about Larry Michienzi here.

NY SKi Blog: Bone Mountain VT: A Hike with rakkup

Bone Mountain VT: A Hike with Rakkup | NY Ski Blog

Bone Mountain VT: A Hike with Rakkup | NY Ski Blog

The New York Ski Blog author “ml242” writes:

…As I continued on the steep switchbacks of a work road, I ran into some No Trespassing signs. It was at that moment I remembered that I had a guidebook in the Rakkup app on my iPhone. Embracing the new technology, I put the first edition print back in my pack and clicked through the trail guide. The GPS showed I was slightly off course, so I wandered back and hit the go button to navigate to the top with some turn-by-turn.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Discovering the Heart of Smoke Hole Canyon: Long Branch and the Guide Walls Rock Climbing by Mike Gray

Buy Long Branch and Guide Walls here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.
Looking upstream from the top of 'Shattered Illusions', at the height of summer; the route’s anchors sit near the top of the Long Branch Buttress, rewarding climbers with one of the most amazing views in the canyon

Looking upstream from the top of ‘Shattered Illusions’, at the height of summer; the route’s anchors sit near the top of the Long Branch Buttress, rewarding climbers with one of the most amazing views in the canyon

Climbers are a quixotic breed. We are known to leave behind good jobs, family and loved ones to cross the country, camping in our cars or sketchy rest areas, pounding down twisting wash boarded backroads, living on fast food and cheap beer, bush whacking and hiking for miles, thrashing through thorns and stumbling across talus, to find great crags in unique settings.

Truly great climbs and climbing areas both challenge and inspire; they motivate us to push the edge, to ‘rage against the dying of the light’, and they return us to that quiet place inside, where wonder still lives.

These are the crags from which we return tired but renewed, exhausted and at the same time, restored.

The east end of the Sunshine Wall on a fall day, as seen from the approach trail; these conditions can persist into the middle of winter. Photo by Mike Gray.

The east end of the Sunshine Wall on a fall day, as seen from the approach trail; these conditions can persist into the middle of winter. Photo by Mike Gray.

Some of these destinations require great expense, deprivation, epic approaches, and hardship of every kind for the lucky and determined few who scale their walls. Others are tucked away, just around the corner, minutes from the main road, less than a morning’s drive from major cities, but somehow still lost to the masses; secret gardens to test strength, endurance, and mental control, in which we can, when day is done, find replenishment for mind, body and soul.

The crags that sit on either side of Long Branch, two miles downstream from Shreve’s little store in the heart of Smoke Hole Canyon, are the perfect setting for this dualistic pursuit of peace and adventure.

Heather Jiles spots Andrea Nelson on the 5.8+ Arete of the Sunshine Wall. Photo by Tyrel Johnson

Heather Jiles spots Andrea Nelson on the 5.8+ Arete of the Sunshine Wall. Photo by Tyrel Johnson

Hidden behind a screen of trees and perched high on the ridge, the Guide Walls’ southern end was dubbed The Sunshine Wall for good reason. Here you can shed those layers and dance up lines like the long-distance 5.8+ Guide’s Arete, 5.9s Zendo, Funboy and The Never Ending Story, huck and crimp your way through the Guide’s 5.11 or George’s Dilemma, another great bucket tour that leads to a challenging 5.10 roof crux. If you’re in the mood to test your roof technique, try the Macdaddy Roof; weighing in at 5.10d, this body-length overhang will tax even the strong for the bucket at the lip.

Around the corner, on the crag’s middle section and northern end, the east-facing lines of the Ninja Walls offer climbers both summer shade and a haven from winter’s cold, as leaves and temperatures begin to fall.

The author and Andreas Czerwinski enjoying some fall sunshine on The routes of the Macdaddy Roof; the 5.9 Never Ending Story and the Guide 10b

The author and Andreas Czerwinski enjoying some fall sunshine on The routes of the Macdaddy Roof; the 5.9 Never Ending Story and the Guide 10b

Chris Beauchamp’s ‘Glossolalia’ kicks things off and Nick Kurland’s ‘Cu Rodeo’ ups the ante with thin holds on steep ground and a touch of run-out. Beyond these wait classic Ninja lines like ‘Destiny’ and ‘Hummingbird’, the 5.9- trad headpoint “Name Your Poison’ and mind-boggling roof of 5.10c/d ‘Carpe Diem’.

For a final burn of all remaining rounds, hike out to the north end and jump on crusher Mike Fisher lines like ‘Slight of Hand’, ‘Defenders of the Faith’, or Chris Beauchamp’s thuggish ‘Pon Hoss’.

On the south side of the creek, Long Branch is home to some of the tallest faces, as well as some of the most difficult technical lines, to be found in the canyon.

Tom Cecil’s world-class ‘Beautiful Loser’ checks in at a sustained 5.11 with 9 well-spaced bolts, nearby ‘Shattered Illusions’ requires a full bag of 5.10 tricks over the course of 11 bolts and a V-slot through a roof, while ‘Big Johnson’, ‘The Ron Jeremy Arete’, ‘The Darkness’, ‘The Lightness’, ‘Gone Sniffin’’, ‘Local Hospitality’ and Parker Smith’s new addition ‘Shorty’s Lament’, all lay solid claim to territory at 5.12 and above.

Michael Fisher cruising the bomber moves and stone of 'Destiny', one of the original lines at the Ninja Walls.

Michael Fisher cruising the bomber moves and stone of ‘Destiny’, one of the original lines at the Ninja Walls.

Troy Johnson and I first came here in the very early 90s, at the invitation of Darrell Hensley, the Seneca Rocks guide and WV native who explored Smoke Hole and climbed here before most people knew the canyon existed. Franklin Gorge, where we had all been climbing for years, was filling up with people and the number of new routes left for development was down to maybe a handful of good lines and a dozen or so more mediocre routes.

Troy and I drove up to Smoke Hole on a windy, rainy day, waving at Franklin as we passed, grabbing coffee at the Shell station at the light, then rolling up 220 through pastureland and river bottom farms. We stared up at Reed Creek and wondered again if the “No Trespassing” signs were bogus (it turned out that they were, but that is another story), waved at the old men of the Liar’s Club, drinking coffee on the bench in front of Kile’s Grocery in Upper Tract, and turned off just before the old iron bridge.

We rounded the curve, crossed the hill by the old Alt farmhouse, and dropped into wonderland. Cliffs rose up on both sides of the river, the nearest just ten feet from the car windows as we stopped to stare up at the huge roof of the Entrance Walls. Another shower drove us back into the car, and hid most of Eagle Rocks and the French Fin from our gaping view as we passed.

Tyrel Johnson fighting the good fight and looking for Zen on the steep Mike Fisher route 'Defenders of the Faith' (5.10d), at the Ninja Walls.

Tyrel Johnson fighting the good fight and looking for Zen on the steep Mike Fisher route ‘Defenders of the Faith’ (5.10d), at the Ninja Walls.

Eventually we reached Shreve’s Store, got our bearings, and had almost returned to sanity when we dropped into the lower canyon, and saw that all that had gone before was just a prelude.

We gibbered. We pointed, craned our necks and pointed some more, making nonsense noises and banging our heads on the windshield, spilling coffee.

Two miles beyond the store, we reached the destination Darrell had described and a breaking point at the same instant; parked, grabbed water bottles, and scrambled madly up the talus slope leading to the base of the Long Branch Buttress.

After half an hour of absolutely speechless wandering, we nodded to each other, returned to the car, and headed home to gather allies and supplies.

Troy came back and bolted “Local Hospitality’, ‘Big Johnson’, ‘Pigs on the Wing’, and began the task of ground-up bolting the visionary project that would eventually become Mike Farnsworth’s ‘The Lightness’. He took off from the start of my mixed route “Through the Looking Glass’ and gave us the superb 5.11 ‘Pigs on the Wing’.

The massive Long Branch Buttress, in the heart of Smoke Hole Canyon. Photo by Mike Gray

The massive Long Branch Buttress, in the heart of Smoke Hole Canyon. Photo by Mike Gray

Rachel Levinson and Melissa Wine joined us, as did Mike Fisher, Greg Fangor, Chris Riha and a host of talented climbers from the Shenandoah and Albemarle valleys. Together, the group of us cleaned and put up ‘Shattered Illusions’, then Melissa and I produced ‘Hippo Head’ (the wall’s first all-female FA by Wine and Levinson), ‘Batteries Not Included’ and ‘Overtime’.

Taking a break from developing routes on the far side of the creek, at the Sunshine Wall, Tom Cecil, Tony Barnes and Darrell came over to bolt ‘Beautiful Loser’ and Tony’s mixed 5.10 line in the cave to the left.

Mike Fisher had dubbed our group the Five Deadly Ninjas, a tongue-in-cheek nod from his deep love of Kung Fu theater. Troy, Rachel, Melissa, myself, and Mr. Fisher decided that we needed a look at the walls they were developing on the other side of the creek, and the classic lines of the Ninja Walls were born in the following months.

Mike Farnsworth, on the crux of "The Lightness", 5.12d, Darkside, Long Branch Buttress.

Mike Farnsworth, on the crux of “The Lightness”, 5.12d, Darkside, Long Branch Buttress.

Life went on, our little crew drifted apart, and I moved off to the west. I would call Mike Fisher on my occasional trips home, and we would invariably wind up at Smoke Hole for a climb or three, plotting on the remaining lines in this apparently forgotten corner of West Virginia.

In 2003, I returned to the Valley, and we put up Funboy and Zendo on an overlooked ledge at the Sunshine Wall. Four years later, we bolted and led the routes of the Corvinus Cave, at Long Branch.

A recent surge in activity saw four new lines at or above 5.12, bolted and led by Michael Farnsworth, the guy who conquered one of the steepest routes of Seneca Rocks. Added to the already impressive set of routes in place, you have an area to test the mettle of climbers from around the globe.

Mahtaab Bagherzadeh eyes the long road ahead, facing the first of many cruxes on ‘Shattered Illusions’, the longest 5.10 on the Long Branch Buttress. Photo by Tyrel Johnson.

Mahtaab Bagherzadeh eyes the long road ahead, facing the first of many cruxes on ‘Shattered Illusions’, the longest 5.10 on the Long Branch Buttress. Photo by Tyrel Johnson.

But don’t worry, moderate climbers and fun seekers… there’s still plenty of good times to be had, with enjoyable lines tucked in amongst the test pieces and enduro routes. Smile your way through sport warm-ups like ‘My Silver Lining’ (5.7), ‘Lost World Arete’ (5.7), or ‘Batteries Not Included’ (5.8+), mix things up with bolt and gear offerings like the 5.8 ‘Through the Looking Glass’, or take a break from the bolts and pull out the whole rack for the long trad adventure of 5.7 ‘Cherry Lane’.

Although the road is a bit bumpy, and even dusty and blessed with more than its share of potholes, from the crags of Long Branch and the Guide Walls, climbers are still less than an hour from hot food, showers and all the comforts of modern life.

Volunteers are constantly working to protect access, maintain the trails and improve old routes with new hardware.

Racked up and ready for ground-up adventure; the author clips in for the first ascent of 'Cherry Lane', 5.7, Darkside, Long Branch Buttress.

Racked up and ready for ground-up adventure; the author clips in for the first ascent of ‘Cherry Lane’, 5.7, Darkside, Long Branch Buttress.

No bushwhacking, no epics, no ‘scene’, just great lines of all levels on great stone, a zen garden in which to find a bit of peace and quiet, in the beat of your heart, in the heart of the canyon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Learn more about Mike Gray here.

El Potrero Chico Rock Climbing – by Frank Madden

Buy El Potrero Chico here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.
Outrage Wall Left-upper-sense-of-religion-right

Outrage Wall Left-upper-sense-of-religion-right

Since its initial development, El Potrero Chico has always been known as a perfect winter climbing destination. The area is riddled with natural beauty, complete with a gorgeous circling mountain range, unique desert vegetation, a mild winter climate and of course, the titanic, pristine walls of El Potrero Chico. They are remarkable to look at no matter who you are, and for a climber they are a nearly endless playground. Even the locals, although few of them climb these walls, love and appreciate the intensely beautiful mountain that they live in the shadow of. And throughout the years the locals have always been open to the climbing community that arrives each winter when the conditions are ideal. Between October and February you’ll find climbers coming in from all over the world, especially from the United States and Canada. Come March, the exodus of climbers begins as the heat of the summer starts to set in. But no matter the time of year that you decide to visit, the local town of Hidalgo is always welcoming. Just keep in mind that if it’s a hot and sunny day, there is still plenty to climb in the shade. With the walls mostly being north or south facing, you can decide on where you want to climb based on the heat and sun situation.

Andrea Bessler on Baked Fresh Daily 5.10c.

Andrea Bessler on Baked Fresh Daily 5.10c.

Climbing started here in the late 80’s and early 90’s and has seen more than a couple waves of heavy development. Jeff Jackson and Alex Catlin really found a gem in the Northeastern region of Mexico. At first, coming down here and drilling with their gas powered drills was more than a little bit of a shock to the locals but the good times quickly started rolling with plenty of Tecate and tequila flowing. A few of the local families, influenced by the initial generosity of Homero Gutierrez Villarreal, have done major work on building the climber friendly community of Potrero Chico. The small backyards that housed a few tents back in the day are now excellent campgrounds that are home to hundreds of climbers during the climbing season. There is no amount of praise that is enough to Homero and his family for getting it all started.

Emma Ayling on Surfin the Wave 5.10d.

Emma Ayling on Surfin the Wave 5.10d.

Over the years as climbers came and went, a few decided to set up a more prominent home in Hidalgo. Ed Wright, also known as Magic Ed, is probably the most well known because of all the help he gave out to climbers visiting the area. Airport runs, climbing information, and massive amounts of route development made him a legend in Potrero Chico history. He also spent a great deal of time helping out in the local community by getting kids get out rock climbing. His love for the area lives on every time someone gets out there and climbs one of his classic routes.

Evan Johnson on Dead-Man Walking 5.9.

Evan Johnson on Dead-Man Walking 5.9.

With over 600 plus routes here, almost entirely sport, there is plenty of climbing available for everyone, even during the busy season. Although the crowds can seem a little daunting from mid December to mid January, if you are willing to step off the beaten path you’ll find yourself exploring the lesser known climbs here and I can assure you that there are plenty of gems tucked away in Potrero–enough to find you coming here season after season for a great Christmas and New Year’s getaway. Most of the climbing here is slab or vertical face climbing that will have you pulling on small crimps while balancing on miniscule feet to gain your way to anchors and summits. But for the lover of overhanging rock, don’t be discouraged! There are a few big crags here with overhanging headwalls, both single-pitch and multi-pitch. Only a handful of traditional lines remain including the epic ridge climbs that have only seen a handful of ascents, though they are best climbed in the off season when there is less climber traffic in the area due to poor rock quality and safety concerns for the people below you.

Mike Burdon on Bottom Feeder 5.12d.

Mike Burdon on Bottom Feeder 5.12d.

Although the bolt lines can be packed tight in on certain walls, there is so much room for future development if you are willing to walk a little ways. Most of the current routes are within a 5 to 10 minute walk from the road which is nice and easy on the legs, but don’t let the longer approaches for certain crags keep you from checking out some really good climbs. With everything so close to the campgrounds, you don’t even need a car, making Potrero a fantastic winter vacation destination. And now with the El Potrero Chico’s new rakkup mobile app, all the amazing crags of Potrero Chico are even more accessible with all new color topo photos, route descriptions and climb ratings to help you find exactly what you want. As the area continues to grow, rakkup allows you to have an extremely up-to-date guidebook right in your pocket, without having to purchase new editions. In the future, a printed book will also be available.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Learn more about Frank Madden here.

Iowa Limestone Rock Climbing by Patrick Mees

Buy Iowa Limestone here and save money versus purchasing from within our app via Apple or Google. It’s exactly the same guidebook, but offered at a lower price on rakkup.com.
Carolyn Coffey on the OS of Flash 5.11b

Carolyn Coffey on the OS of Flash 5.11b

Finding rock climbing in the Midwest is not easy. Believe it or not a nice little area can be found in Eastern Iowa next to corn and hog farms near the town of Monticello. Three separate areas: Pictured Rocks, Indian Bluffs and Ozark Wildlife combine to form an area referred to by many as Wild Iowa. While unexpected, the climbing can be quite good and many leave satisfied that a stop wasn’t a waste of time.

Khadija Shahid at Windy Point 5.11a

Khadija Shahid at Windy Point 5.11a

Formed in ancient seas 2-300 million years ago, the Silurian Dolomite was revealed by erosion and contains some incredibly formed features. One might encounter pockets, crimps, combos, slopers, jugs and even fossils on route. While the Iowa climbing history predates the surge of bolting in the early 1990’s, it was the advent of the sport climbing revolution that was responsible for many of the rock climbs in Iowa. Over 100 bolted sport routes offer most styles of limestone climbing from technical slabs to steep jug hauls from 5.6 to 5.12. Trad climbing can be found as well near the pocketed faces but the Iowa Limestone guide will focus almost solely on sport climbs. Wild Iowa can provide a nice fix for regional climbers who can’t make longer drives to more popular/larger areas.

Emilie on Schoolio 5.9

Emilie on Schoolio 5.9

Fall and Spring are the best seasons to climb at Wild Iowa, considering the cold winters and the humid summers. Occasionally, one can get a blue bird day in winter that is warm enough to enjoy South facing climbs. Also, many hard core climbers brave the humidity and insects to get some pitches in during the summer months. That said, the best days are found once the stifling heat abates in September -November or during the Spring season in late March – May. It should be mentioned accessing the areas in winter can be difficult. There is a gate that blocks car traffic to Pictured Rocks during the winter months, however foot traffic is still allowed.

The impetus for this guide came simply from meeting travelling climbers over the years,that had no idea how to find entire areas or what the climbs were rising before them. What better way to aid these climbers than to combine a GPS map to all climbs with the best descriptions of the climbs available. We sincerely hope you have fun climbing Iowa Limestone and that this guide aids your enjoyment!

 
 
 

Learn more about Patrick Mees here.