To get directly to the base of the cliffs, hike on the AT to the junction with the Passamaquoddy Trail, which leads to a ledge offering a great view of the cliffs and then turns left to run directly beneath the cliffs.
Note-- Some boulders and outcrops near the northern end offer interesting bouldering and scrambling, and I have, in fact, done some bouldering there, but current management plans have made for the closure of this area to human activity.
RoutesThe Flatiron area is an "amphitheater" between two buttresses; there is an obvious route up top. Near the bottom is a pillar, and above-right of the pillar is a triangular section of rock that is the spot's namesake.
- Sucking Crack (5.8)-- Climb the pillar and then move left into a crack system leading to the roof. Pull the roof (crux) and then follow easier ground to the finish. The names denotes the apparent tendency of climbers to head too far up the crack under the roof, forcing a scary (bad hands and feet) 5.6 traverse right called Traverse of the Goddams because there is no pro and, as already noted, holds are not good. The direct start is up a dirty off-width, but there is an alternate to its left. I did this as a solo TR, had no trouble with the crux, and even thought I would have no trouble leading it even though I had not led 5.8 at the time, but take that with a proverbial grain of salt since I wasn't actually trusting my life to a piece on a crux move.
- Flatiron Right (5.7-)-- Climb the pillar and then go up and around the right side of the Flatiron and then up the corner. Again, take this with a grain of salt, but I thought the pro didn't look so great on this route and found myself thinking I'd rather lead the 5.8. Variation-- Flatiron Left (5.7 R) goes up the left side of the Flatiron, but the pro is bad.
Red TapeIt costs $15 to enter the park, and that provides access for a week. Annual passes cost $30. The interagency pass, good for yearlong entry to areas managed by NPS, USDA Forest Service, USFWS, BLM, and the Bureau of Reclamation, costs $80.
It’s common sense to wear a helmet when climbing, anyway, but it’s especially important here since people at the top might toss rocks over the edge.
There are plans to close a section 35 meters north of the Chute and all of the cliffs south of the Chute to human activity. Also, there are plans to use low-impact barriers to close off a boulder area at the north end where the Passamaquoddy Trail bends to approach the base of the cliffs. I do not know when these closures will go into effect; they did not seem to be in effect as of November 2010, the last time I was out here.
The park is open all year, but Skyline Drive does sometimes close after snow or ice storms. The park site does not give current road conditions, so call ahead (540-999-3500).
To reduce poaching, Skyline Drive is subject to closures during hunting season. The information below, copied and pasted from the park site, illustrates the 2006 restrictions—
From November 13, 2006, through January 6, 2007
•between Front Royal (Mile 0 at U.S. Highway 340) and Thornton Gap (Mile 31 at U.S. Highway 211), and
•between Swift Run Gap (Mile 65 at U.S. Highway 33) and Rockfish Gap (Mile 105 at U.S. Highway 250),
will be closed daily between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
The central portion of the Drive, between Thornton Gap and Swift Run Gap, will remain open for overnight access to Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Campground until those facilities close on November 26.
Then, beginning November 27, 2006, through January 6, 2007, the entire length of the Skyline Drive will be closed daily from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m.
When to ClimbAll year. The cliffs face west and can make for decent climbing in winter when it isn't windy (which it usually is here). In the summer, finish climbing by solar noon or prepare to bake.
CampingThe nearest campground is Big Meadows, about 14 miles south. The campground is usually open from early March through Thanksgiving weekend. Reservations are strongly advised. The lodges are seasonally open, with Skyland opening earlier than Big Meadows. For more comfort, consider staying at Skyland Lodge, about three miles south, or at Big Meadows lodge. See the External Links section for links to pertinent information.
External LinksOfficial park site