Crescent Rock-- Looking North from the Top
Despite being in a rural area and having a strenuous approach of about an hour, Crescent Rock, also called Raven Rocks, can get quite busy on nice weekends. (I went on a weekday and had the cliffs to myself although there were a lot of hikers up top.) There are some excellent moderate/difficult lines here on mostly gritty quartzite. My impression on my one day there was that the routes tend to be steep and pumpy but have great holds, and I felt that the routes I climbed were more physically strenuous but technically easier than routes of the same grade in the Great Falls/Carderock
area. So it was about a wash.
This is not really the place for first-time climbers, as the easiest route is 5.5. There is one 5.6 and one 5.7. Most routes are from 5.9 to 5.12.
Some routes are leadable, including the area must-do Crescent Crack (5.9), but most are better toproped. With 50' of static line, you can set a TR anchor for almost any climb here, but bring a few slings just in case you need some extension. Although I had some stoppers for gear anchors, I never needed to use them. And since the routes are about 50' at most, even a 50m rope is overkill. I was fine with a rope cut to 40m. Consider that before you head out on the 2.5-mile, up-and-down hike to the cliffs, as you will likely be tired before you even start climbing. As hikers with their light packs pass you by, smile in the grim knowledge of all that gear you're hauling.
Because the cliffs face southeast, they can make an excellent winter climbing destination. Summer can get very hot.
This is the shortest legal approach. There used to be a shorter one, but landowners closed access to it.
From Route 7 at Snickers Gap (this is about 18 miles west of Leesburg), take the first right (SR 679-- Pine Grove Road) as the road heads down a long downhill stretch (this is if you are going west). Immediately on the right is a parking area for the Appalachian Trail. Hike the trail north for 2.5 miles, twice descending into deep drainages and crossing three "summits." That third summit is the top of the crag. Find a use trail to the base from either the northern or southern end.
The crag has three sections. From left to right at the base, they are Washington Wall, Main Wall, and Right Sector. In all, there are at least 29 established routes, but there are some obvious unnamed lines as well. One I did as a day-ender because it looked easy is the face just left of The Dish; I'd put it at maybe 5.6 or 5.7.
Here are the routes, organized by section. The ones I climbed are in bold, with comments. Other comments are for location purposes or based on observed conditions.
- Passage d'Armes (5.11a/b)
- Pyrrhic Victory (5.11c)
- Armed Neutrality (5.10c)
- Crescent Crack (5.9)-- This would be a great lead. As a toprope, which is how I did it, it is not so great. Although the crack has more vertical rise than horizontal length, it is traversing enough that there really isn't a good place for a TR anchor because no matter what, there will be potential for a big swing somewhere. Due to my doing it solo, I could not ask a belayer for slack to minimize the swing, and when I did fall at one point, it was a hassle getting back on in the same place. Hands are great on this climb but the feet can be really slick.
- Boar Hog (5.12b)
- Popeye's Last Crank (5.12a/b)
- Litigiousness Psychosis (5.12d)
- Exploding Lawyers (5.12b/c)
- Legal Crack (5.7)-- Some descriptions I have read mention this route can be brushy. When I was there, it was, to the point of not being worth doing, and that was on a winter day.
- The Dish (5.8)-- This was fun and pretty easy, a good start to the day. Although my picture shows my rope over a big overhang, the route is actually the blocky face to the left of the overhang. The start is the crux, as there is a small overhang to pull right off the ground.
- Coordination Street (5.10a)
- Green Duchess (5.11b/c)
- Crescent Rail (5.11d/5.12a)
- Muddy Desperation (5.9)
- 3D (5.11c)
- Notch Johnson (5.10b/c)
- Brick in the Wall (5.12a/b)
- Merde (5.5)
- Embarrass (5.8)
- Unknown (5.10a)-- This is the crack system just left of the climb listed next; both are pictured on this page. I don't think this one is really 5.10, but it is harder than the 5.8 to its right. I did both off the same anchor.
- Three Mantles and an Overhang (5.8)-- The name says it all. When you reach a ledge with thorn bushes, you probably will want to go a little off-route to the left before getting back on for the finish.
- Unknown (5.8)
- Unknown (5.9)
- Psoriasis (5.9)-- My favorite climb of those I did here. Start up a smooth face to a right-facing flake system and work the flake and slippery feet to a ledge. Then finish up a steep crack with great holds.
- Unknown (5.9)
- Bird Merde (5.6)
- Rockalicious (5/10c/d)
- Ganja Piranha (5.10d)
- The Bitter End (5.11c/d)
When to Climb
Plenty of backcountry camping available.