Badlands Peak *
Riding Hood Wall
Trad Climbing Is Both
Religion is a mental disease, often confused with spirituality. --pjs-1965
A good alternative to Carderock
on a crowded day, Jam Box is a short trip downstream from the main Carderock cliffs. The crag only has a handful of routes, and the base can be brushy (and very sandy), but it is worth it for the solitude and the fun. Very few people climb here. Even though there is not much climbing activity here nowadays, the rock is not terribly licheny on the routes (definitely some of that, though), and the clean rock tends to be a little stickier than the notoriously well-polished faces at Carderock.
Get the guidebook Carderock Past and Present for additional photographs of the climbing spots. This page only features two of them. It's a pretty compact area, though, so one shouldn't have much trouble finding the crags.
From I-495, take Exit 41, just north of the Potomac, heading west on the Clara Barton Parkway. In about a mile, take the exit for Carderock. Go left over an overpass and turn right at the stop sign. Drive to the last parking lot.
Walk past the now-closed restrooms. When you have to decide whether to go left or right on the Billy Goat Trail, go left. Hike past the clifftops on your right (the Hades Heights section of Carderock). In two or three minutes, the trail passes right by another clifftop area. This is the top of Easter Egg Rocks. Shortly after it is a use trail leading off to a clifftop that is the top of Jam Box, and just past the use trail is a drainage. To reach the base of Jam Box, go down that drainage and then bear right. Alternately, scramble down before you get to the use trail and bear left.
It should take no more than ten minutes to get from your car to the crag.
What I really wanted to do was climb Mount Cowen. Said to be one of the best scrambling routes in Greater Yellowstone, going at Class 4 overall with a 5.4 summit block, it sounded perfect for me.
But there were two problems. One was the long hike in, involving a steep descent before climbing to the logical campsite. I hate giving up elevation in order to gain it. The other problem involved time and energy. Climbing Cowen is really best done as a two-nighter; you grunt the 8-9 miles to Elbow Lake and make camp, you climb the peak the next day, and then you hike out the following day.
When you're solo and you can't stand down time and you have to meet your wife the next day, this just doesn't work. In retrospect, given that the weather was perfect, I could have hiked in early, rested a bit, climbed, and then hiked out the next day, but I couldn't have predicted that perfect weather, right?
To be honest, my main reason for bailing on the plan was that I didn't want the long slog up and down, in and out, both ways, for I hate backpacking as well even though I will bear that cross to reach certain places.
So I made a different plan. Crow Mountain was supposed to be Class 3 (easy but still tough enough to make it appealing), and the hike in was supposed to be fairly short and easy. 4 miles and about 1000' of elevation gain to trail's end and camp-- no problem!