Conn's West Direct Finish

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 38.83500°N / 79.366°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: Less than two hours
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.5 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 1
Additional Information Grade: I
Sign the Climber's Log


Conn's West is one of the enduring classics at Seneca.  The first pitch is an excellent warm-up, and follows the first pitch of Old Man's Route (5.3).  The second pitch is well known for striking fear into the hearts of beginning trad leaders (as well as many seasoned trad leaders), and follows an exposed, 50-60" flake to a belay stance covered with large, loose chunks of stone.  The only bad thing about Conn's West is the third pitch, which forsakes the tall, steep, clean lines of the first two pitches for an experience more like caving, and tunnels through a grungy 4th/low 5th class chimney stuffed with loose rock.  Conn's West Direct Finish is a beautiful alternative to the 3rd pitch of Conn's West proper, and allows you to top out directly onto the summit ridge just below the summit scramble.  The rock quality is beautiful, and it's one of those climbs you wish continued for another six pitches.  

Getting There

Conn's West is on the south peak.  The best parking is in the climber's parking lot behind the USFS Visitor's center, though it is also possible to park in the main recreation area's parking lot as well.  If you park in the climber's lot, cross Seneca Creek on the low concrete bridge and walk up Roy Gap Road until you come to the southern end of the main fin.  Leave Roy Gap Road, cross the creek on your left, and climb the (very strenuous) stairs up the steep scree slope under the south peak.  These steps have been nicknamed "The Stairmaster" by many exhausted climbers.  Consider it a warm up; take your time.  At the top of the Stairmaster, turn right towards the cliff and pick your way up through a slope covered with large boulders.  There are also asmall cliff band that requires a short scramble.  While its not very difficult, it can be exposed, and a stumble at the right place could cause a 10-15" fall.  Watch out when the rock is wet!  At the trail junction above the cliff band bear to the left towards the Gunsight Notch; the right branch will take you to luncheon ledge.  Follow the trail along the base of the cliff until it bears to the right up several wooden stairs directly below Pleasant O and the Thias Face.  At the top of the wooden steps, you can either go straight up some slabby ledges, or step right onto a large, gravelly platform.  You want the platform, which is the start of both Conn's West and Old Man's Route.

If you park in the recreation area parking lot, cross the arched steel bridge over Seneca Creek, and follow the trail to the right.  At the first trail junction, bear to the right away from the main tourist trail.  Follow the trail as it winds crosses two small wooden bridges, then turn left at the junction with Roy Gap Road.  From this point, the approach is the same as the other option.

Use caution when hiking up the Stairmaster.  Routes line the cliff on the corridor's side, and this puts the trail squarely where most falling rock will land.  Many wise climbers who value their brains put their helmets on at the top of the Stairmaster just before the slope of large boulders.

Conn's West Direct Finish is a single pitch accessed from the belay ledge at the top of the second pitch of Conn's West.  Climb the first two pitches, and build an anchor at the top of the second pitch; I usually place a #13 and a #9 stopper at eye level, girth hitch a root, then link them all with a cordalette.  When positioned on the second belay ledge, the route follows a 10" long ledge towards the North Peak, then climbs up a 50' inside corner to the summit ridge.

Route Description

From the second belay ledge, traverse along a 10' long ledge towards the North Peak to an obvious inside corner.  I usually build a bidirectional placement halfway along the ledge, with pieces protecting against both downward pull (falls) and pulls upwards (from climbing above).  Once in the corner, climb upwards along several parallel cracks which run down the wall of the corner.  It's definitely possible to stick to the inside corner, but the best (and most visual spectacular!) climbing, as well as gear placements, is found out on the facing wall itself, closer to the arete.  The pitch is broken every 15' or so by large ledges, which are perfect for short rests, enjoying the scenery, regrouping, etc.  Climb to a pine tree, which is looped with webbing and is the top anchor for one of the several rappels down from the South Peak, then scramble in towards the summit ridge over a 10' vertical band.  You'll gain the summit ridge at a natural platform just below the final summit scramble onto the South Peak summit.  Some good sized trees are just back from the edge, and make great anchors to bring your second up to.  

Essential Gear

Protection is excellent, with high quality rock and beautiful cracks.  A standard Seneca rack, with a double set of stoppers size #6-#13, a set of cams size .3-4, and a few hexes will do just fine.  Bring plenty of extendable quickdraw since the route climbs over some ledges; without extending, you could have to deal with some formidable rope drag.  A helmet is a must.  A 60 m rope also is best for Seneca.


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