Gunsight to South Peak Direct (5.4*)

Page Type
West Virginia, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.4 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 6 Votes

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Gunsight to South Peak Direct (5.4*)
Created On: Apr 1, 2004
Last Edited On: Apr 7, 2006


The Gunsight is the most prominent feature on all of Seneca Rocks. It is the vast, U-shaped notch between the north and south peak. Gunsight to South Peak (5.3) and its Direct variant (5.4) scale the thin fin of rock on the south side of the notch and end up at the precarious south summit in two pitches. The route is easy and the protection is ample and good. However this is one of the most scary-looking, exposed and airy routes in the entire state. It has been described as "a 5.4 with a 5.11 pucker factor"

The route starts in the Gunsight which is accessible by several paths.

From the east: hike half way up the east side trail until you reach the right-hand turnoff climbing trail. Ascend a series of 3rd and 4th class ledges bearing generally left until you reach the Upper Broadway Ledge. You can also reach this point by ascending one of the lower climbs such as Skyline Traverse, Worrell's Thicket, or hike up the west-face 'Stairmaster' trail. All of these require traversing the Broadway Ledge.

From the west: follow the west-side trail along the base of the rock over increasingly unfrequented ground to the lowest point in the cliffs. The Gunsight will be directly above you.

Route Description

CharlesD shaking in his boots...CharlesD shaking in his boots on the steep first pitch of Gunsight to South Peak Direct.

Either Gunsight to South Peak requires climbing at least one pitch before starting the climb proper. From the east, ascend an easy, short 5.0 pitch at the northern end of the Upper Broadway Ledge. From the west, hike north a dozen yards and climb an easy ramp (5.0?) up to the Gunsight. Either option leaves you sitting on the precariously thin ridge where the famous Gendarme used to stand.

Look south and marvel at the exposed fin rising steeply above you. Gunsight to South Peak stays on the right (west) side of the fin in a series of shallow chimneys. The Direct variation sticks hard by the actual ridgeline making occasional excursions to the left (east face). At some points, you will be climbing with one hand on either face. What follows are the directions for the Direct variation:

Pitch 1: Climb the low-angle ridge until it becomes steep. Climb the steep section under the protruding Gryphon's Beak (looks like a thumb from the side) passing it on a wiggy traverse to the left. There is a very nice horizontal hand crack which takes gear well. Switch back to the ridgeline above the beak and continue up a wildly exposed flake to the level Captain's Seat. This is the confluence of the Normal and Direct routes as well as other popular climbs such as Conn's East, Castor, Pollux, and High Test.

Pitch 2: Surmount the last short wall on the ridgeline and you'll be on the summit ridge. Walk, crawl, or slither your way 100' to the south to gain the actual summit. The ridge at this point is about the width of a sidewalk but with unusually tall curbs on either side. The going is easy, but protection is tricky. A fall is unlikely but would be... interesting. Many parties skip pitch 2 as it is often crowded and very easy.

Descent: There are rap anchors on the eastern wall directly below the Captain's Seat which drop directly to Upper Broadway. This requires doubled 50 meter ropes at least. I don't know if a single 60 meter rope would work or not.

If you choose to go to the summit, there are several rappel options including the West Pole and Traffic Jam rappels covered on the Old Man's Route page. It is also possible to rappel from the top of Alcoa Presents on the east side about half-way along the ridge between the Captain's Seat and the summit.

Essential Gear

This is a technical climb. You'll need a good supply of medium sized gear. The first pitch is fairly short and a 50 meter rope is sufficient, however, the exposure is scary enough that I placed just about everything on my rack. Two ropes are required to rap off the Captain's Seat though a single rope will get you off the southern Traffic Jam or West Pole raps in three drops.

Gunsight to South Peak Direct (5.4*)

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