The Ridge at Buzzard Rocks
The Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area has campgrounds, picnic sites, fishing, and trails, but it also has two very nice climbing spots: Talking Headwall and Buzzard Rocks. While climbers sometimes say they are going to climb at Elizabeth Furnace, it makes more sense to distinguish between the two sites, especially if friends are coming out later, obviously.
Talking Headwall is the easier crag to get to, but it is far less scenic than Buzzard Rocks is.
On the way to Point 2015
, the northernmost peak of the Massanutten Mountain ridge complex, Buzzard Rocks is quite simply one of the best and the most scenic climbing sites in Virginia.
At Buzzard Rocks, it is mostly slab and the lower end of moderate. Most of the routes are bolted, but there are some pure trad routes, and some of the bolted lines have ample opportunities to place pro as well, so bring a light rack, which you'll appreciate on some of the longer sections between bolts.
While some routes are pretty short, others will use up almost all of a 70m rope for lowering or rappelling. Most of the best routes are also among the longest, and if you don't have a 70, plan to hike back down.
Although most routes are bolted, not all have anchors. Bring gear for building your own anchors as necessary. There are a lot of solid trees up top, so topping out and then using static line left up there to make an anchor is a good idea. It might be a good idea to throw a hasty anchor together before descending, even if it's not in the right spot, just so hikers passing by don't think there's a free rope sitting there.
Note: Most pictures on this page are linked from route pages on Mountain Project. As they are linked, not uploaded, clicking on them will take you to that site. This crag faces west, and I have only climbed it in the morning, meaning pictures would be lousy, so I have decided to link decent pictures rather than upload bad ones.
The Ridge at Buzzard Rocks
Exit I-66 at Exit 6 and head south on 340/522. After the bridge over the Shenandoah River, turn right at a light onto 55. Drive about 5 miles to the town of Waterlick. Turn left onto Powells Fort Road (SR 678). A little after a mile, turn left onto Mountain Road (SR 619). Then, again a little after a mile, turn right into the Buzzard Rocks parking area. There's a sign, but the spot sneaks up on you, even when you've been there before.
Hike the trail for 2 miles (actually about 2.3 miles), gaining around 600', until you are on an open ridgeline with a lot of pretty outcrops. There are at least three climber's trails that descend to the base of the cliffs. Find one of them.
The Mountain Project page
lists 17 routes and the Rockclimbing.com page
lists 25. On this page, I will list those whose exact locations I know, and the linked pictures will help people find them. If the name is in bold, it is a route I have climbed. Routes are left to right as one faces the crag.
- Three Amigos-- Trad, 5.4
- Three Amigos Double Direct-- Trad, 5.5
- Three Amigos Direct-- Trad, 5.5
- Pulp Friction-- Sport 5.9. First bolted route as you go from left to right along the base. 5 bolts, 30' from the last bolt to the top. Bring some trad gear unless you're solid at the grade.
- Raising Arizona-- Sport, 5.7
- Failure to Communicate-- Sport, 5.6. Easier than a Carderock 5.6. Good warm-up, good for new leaders.
- Kimberly-- Sport, 5.7
- Melungian Brotherhood-- Sport, 5.8. This is the first of a series of long climbs that, in my opinion, make up the best of the crag. It's pretty sustained, and there are some long sections between bolts, so trad gear helps. This route has ring anchors at the top. Even on a 70m rope, a rap will not get you to flat ground. It will, however, get you to a block from which it is an easy scramble of 10' or so to the ground.
- Ass Cannibal-- Sport, 5.8. Also will take some trad gear.
- The Bulge-- Sport, 5.9. And it takes gear. There are two cruxes. The first is the overhanging start, but it doesn't feel 5.9. The second is a bulge near the top. If you take it on directly (a bolt atop it protects the move), it's 5.9. If you use better holds on the left or right, it's more like 5.8.
- Half and Half-- Sport, 5.8. Takes gear, too. Ring anchors up top. The finish is surprisingly steep and thin for the grade, and if you're going to belay your second from the anchors, it's essentially a hanging belay.
- Obscure Adventure-- Sport/Trad, 5.7
- Anonymous Flake Left-- Sport, 5.10a
- Anonymous Flake Direct-- Sport, 5.9
- Anonymous Flake Right-- Trad, 5.8. Probably the must-do trad lead here. There actually is a single bolt lower down, and the technical crux is getting from that bolt to the flake. However, along the flake, the feet can be pretty bad, and if you're newer to leading 5.8, as I was when I did this one, the crux may be up there. On it, when my foot slipped off as I was getting ready for the next move, I learned that a purple Dragon Cam works. :-)
When to Climb
All year. The crag faces west, so in summer climb in the morning and in the winter climb in the afternoon.
There is a campground in the recreation area, but I have not been there and do not know where it is. Please see the Forest Service site