OverviewThe Gendarme is a fabulous spire that no longer exists. I wondered about making a page for this - after all if you go to Seneca Rocks now, there is no longer anything left of this once celebrated pinnacle; maybe a few grains of pulverized rock, maybe some boulders resting in tranquility deep in the forests. But then, it was once one of the most famous summits in the Eastern United States, and a feature that helped inspire me to get into climbing in the first place. Besides, climbing is about change and about loss as well. Things fall, people move on or die, but still the memories linger.
Getting ThereSeneca Rocks are located about midway along Rt. 28 between Franklin and Petersburg. They can also be reached along US 33 from the town of Elkins.
Red TapeThere really wasn't any red tape to climb at Seneca Rocks when the Gendarme was still standing. Park your car, walk along a nice dirt road then cross over a bridge and climb the steep slopes to the base of the cliff.
External LinksThe definitive guide to the Rocks at that time was Bill Webster's Seneca Rocks W. Va. A Climber's Guide. The version I have was printed in 1980 by Paulhamus Litho. I used this guide for the route information on this page.
There is a short trip report of climbing the feature here.
HistorySeneca Rocks are made from the same quartzite rock that forms the Gunks in New York but is tilted vertically instead of horizontally. At some point, weathering and erosion formed the fabulous spire of the Gendarme in the notch between the North and the South Peaks of Seneca.
Supposedly, sometime back in the 1940's there was a man who was despondant about love and took a whole bunch of explosive material and tried to knock down the feature but at the time was unsuccessful.
The first ascent of the spire was by Paul Bradt, Sam Moore and Don Hubbard in 1940 using the East Face (5.4). Later, the overhanging West Face was climbed (5.8R) by Gordon Grahm in 1974; the North Face was climbed (5.8R)in 1978 by Tim Campbell and Jenny Ruffing; and Mike Schmitt used the South Face to reach the spectacular summit.
On October 22, 1987 the feature fell to the ground.
Essential GearTo climb the Gendarme, you would need:
A few slings
a couple biners
a rope, etc.
a time machine.
From the North-East corner of the feature, move diagonally up a ledge on the East Face to the South-East corner of the rock. Follow this up to the summit (5.4). The route was only complete when you stood unaided on the top.
Protection was entirely by fixed pins, and from what I remember there were a couple of old rusty bolts at the summit.