South of Smoke Hole Canyon and the town of Upper Tract, Reed’s Creek Road intersects with the old Petersburg Turnpike, after winding down from the shoulders of North Fork Mountain through meadows of cows and sheep, steep ridges surrounding proud old family homes and weathered barns, clusters of doublewide trailers and modular housing and the occasional vine-covered ruin of a log cabin.
The road is busier than it once was, but there are days, late summer evenings and pristine winter afternoons, when the sound of a tractor is more common than that of an automobile, and there is a sense of timelessness, the smell of honeysuckle, livestock, strains of gospel music and southern rock in the air.
This is Reed’s Creek; a series of south-facing arêtes and dihedrals and a high-quality selection of sixty sport and trad lines on featured metamorphic limestone, with a reasonable approach hike, a serviceable trail and ample parking, just off State Route 220 in West Virginia’s historic Pendleton County.
Guides from Seneca Rocks first put bit to stone to the walls of Reed Creek in 2002 and 2003, creating Welcome to Reed Creek, One Page at a Time, and Catfish Strangler, the original Boneyard Routes.
The routes were good and the stone was fine, but there were other crags and other callings, and they moved on to new horizons.
Although visited once or twice by some local legends, the crag languished for years, hidden behind the thick summer canopy, layers of old fence, greenbrier and No Trespassing signs, until I found the three original lines on a scouting expedition in 2008 and was blown away by the untapped potential of the other walls.
The following week, I made my way to the Cheat Potomac Ranger Station, where records indicated that the land was public. I wasted no time and began exploring and developing routes, starting with the 5.10 Reaching Conclusions, the premier line on the Reach Wall.
The following spring, Lyndon State College sensei Jamie Struck brought an eager crew from Vermont to create the lower trails around the Gypsies Wall and top-rope the line that would become Shaved Scamper. Long-time area developer and hard man Mike Fisher and NoVA’s Ryan Eubank soon joined the development push with routes like Second Rule, Shaolin Mantis, Little Purple Flowers, Hunter’s Moon and Grapevine Massacre. Cindy Bender was there from the start, with hot coffee and snacks, spending long hours on belay and building trail before dancing up some of the first ascents of lines like A Horse With No Name, Second Rule, Winterharvest and Fire On the Mountain.
Following repeated questions of property boundaries, the author’s investigation into county tax records, deed descriptions, and MNF survey documents proved once and for all that these sweet crags were public land. Route development resumed immediately.
Pennsylvania climbers Michael Stewart and Randy La Force added excellent moderates like Dr. Taco and Superman, as word of the crag began to spread among locals and across the region.
Following the proactive precedent of Franklin Gorge, The First Spring Send-a-thon and Trail Daze event was organized and attended by Gray, Bender, Fisher, Eubank and a coalition of strong climbers from Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as “locals” from Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. Trails around and leading to the Boneyard were improved and expanded, and trash was collected along Reed Creek Road. The National Forest resurveyed and marked the boundaries along the private property line, making it easier for hunters and climbers to avoid trespassing.
Today, Reed’s has over 40 routes, in a wide variety of grades and styles, from Mike Fisher’s 5.7 funfest dihedral Second Rule and my own trad 5.7 SuperNatural to technical challenges like Fisher’s 5.11+ Shaolin Mantis, Eubank’s burly 5.11 Grapevine Massacre, and Michael Farnsworth’s 5.12 cave line Harlem. Newcomers Chris Beauchamp and Tyrel Johnson have been adding bold trad, mixed and sport lines like Invasive Species and Mare Imbrium.
(Tyrel has been instrumental in continuing the tradition of trail work and stewardship, and tireless the editing process; hiking trails, correcting errors, and tweaking all the details of the app.)
The project Cold Day in Hell, originally bolted by Eubank, has yet to see an ascent, despite repeated tries by strong 5.12 climbers who say the grade may be as high as 5.13.
Sunny winter days and shady summer mornings, easy access, great lines and an incredible setting, just off the beaten path; Reed’s Creek has something for every climber.