Jam Box Cliffs
A good alternative to Carderock
on a crowded day, Jam Box is a short trip downstream from the main Carderock cliffs. The crag only has a handful of routes, and the base can be brushy (and very sandy), but it is worth it for the solitude and the fun. Very few people climb here. Even though there is not much climbing activity here nowadays, the rock is not terribly licheny on the routes (definitely some of that, though), and the clean rock tends to be a little stickier than the notoriously well-polished faces at Carderock.
Get the guidebook Carderock Past and Present for diagrams of the spot.
Add Getting There text here.From I-495, take Exit 41, just north of the Potomac, heading west on the Clara Barton Parkway. In about a mile, take the exit for Carderock. Go left over an overpass and turn right at the stop sign. Drive to the last parking lot.
Walk past the now-closed restrooms. When you have to decide whether to go left or right on the Billy Goat Trail, go left. Hike past the clifftops on your right (the Hades Heights section of Carderock). In two or three minutes, the trail passes right by another clifftop area. This is the top of Easter Egg Rocks. Shortly after it is a use trail leading off to a clifftop that is the top of Jam Box, and just past the use trail is a drainage. To reach the base of Jam Box, go down that drainage and then bear right. Alternately, scramble down before you get to the use trail and bear left.
It should take no more than ten minutes to get from your car to the crag.
Jam Box from Easter Egg Rocks
Jam Box-- Right Edge of Upstream Face
There are just four named routes here, and one of them has never seen a free ascent. There is also a short, unnamed line that has good trad potential. The problem, though, is that it tops out on a thin flake, so making a good belay anchor (or a toprope anchor) is going to be a major hassle. The routes are short-- 30-35'-- but you shouldn't need to worry about finding someone on them on a nice day.
From left to right along the base:
- Novice (5.0)-- Not many routes in the Carderock area are good leads; this is one of those few. On the river-facing aspect of the crag, find a right facing corner going up and right. The guidebook mentions that this is a good place for beginners to learn to lead, and it is except for one thing: the first 10' of this 35' route are up an unprotectable, slightly bulging slab. I actually recommend putting a beginning leader on a toprope backup because of this. Once you reach the protectable section, the climbing is easy and the placements are many; I placed 5 hexes-- the #2 and #8-11 CAMP Carvex pieces (these hexes are about the same sizes as the BD hexes). There are also plenty of stopper placements. Don't use cams out here; they can skate out of the smooth rock or break it.
- The Last Great Problem-- This is the overhanging wall around the corner from Novice. There are no known free ascents of it. It's got to be at least 5.12c or d.
- Jam Box (5.10)-- FA in August 1951 by Tony Soler, he of the classic 5.7 (a 5.8 or 5.9 in most other areas of the country) at Seneca. Climb to a platform and then through the gap. I've never tried this one because there is major swing potential if one falls.
- Jan's Chimney (5.8)-- Named for the legendary Jan Conn, one of the area's pioneers. There are several ways to climb this one. I haven't tried this one because I just don't find it that appealing (I hate toproping routes with any serious slant to them), but I have heard it is very fun.
No fees or permits required. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
When to Climb
All year, but spring and summer are best.