Hex Placement on Last of the Wilds
At Sugarloaf Mountain, Boy Scout Ledges
and Middle Earth
get most of the attention because of easy access (next to a maintained trail or very close to it) and a concentration of moderate routes, but there are four other nice climbing spots on the mountain. Lower West View, or Lower Westview Slabs, is one of them. There are only five established routes there, the hardest is 5.7, and none are considered area classics, but the crag offers a break from other climbers and the typical weekend hiking hordes (consisting of large numbers of non-hikers out for a hike, if you catch my drift) in a scenic location. There is even the possibility of what is a regional rarity-- making a multi-pitch climb.
Because the cliffs face southwest and have little shade, they get great winter sun. On a few occasions during February 2016, I climbed here when temperatures were in the 40s and was very comfortable.
There are both trad and toprope routes here. To toprope, it is actually easier to lead a route and then set an anchor for something else. The five climbs essentially end in the same place, so one anchor can suffice for all three even if the placement isn't exactly ideal for some of them. (The exception is the first route listed in the Routes section; there would be many problems with toproping that one off the anchor used for the others, so just don't do it.)
From I-270 in Maryland, take Exit 22 onto MD 109 and head west. In about three miles, turn right onto Comus Road. In a few minutes, you will reach the entrance to Sugarloaf. Follow the one-way road up the mountain and park in the West View lot. Instead of taking the Green Trail from the right end of the parking lot (this is the trail accessing Boy Scout Ledges and Middle Earth), head up some steps near the middle of the lot and pick up the Blue Trail. Go left (north) and soon you will see the slabs across a talus field. Boulder-hop your way through the talus to the base. From the parking lot, the approach is 10-15 minutes.
There is also an approach from the west via U.S. 15 and MD 28. From 28, take a left onto Mouth of Monocacy (easy to miss, but another turn comes up shortly after). At a stop sign, turn left and eventually reach an intersection directly across from the park entrance.
Of course, there are other approaches depending on where you are.
From left to right as one faces the base of the crag:
- Last of the Wilds (5.4)-- The crux is low on this one, although I think the real crux is not the moves but keeping your balance as you get your first piece or two in. Then head up and left for a small roof and pull the roof (great pro for the roof). After the roof, reach an alcove and then trend up and right to finish on Reprise de la Bastille. 5.10a variation-- instead of going up and right from the alcove, go up and left along the crack. Above the crack, work right to finish as described already. (I have not done the variation). This route begins by a prominent tree growing about a foot away from the crag.
- Rosemary (5.7 PG)-- Same start as Last of the Wilds, but head straight up, pull the roof without using the big flake to the right, and then head up the face before trending right to the Reprise finish. The PG part is above the roof because there is really no pro for about 15' (maybe a Tricam in a horizontal seam). I did this on TR after leading Reprise; the 5.7 face section was easy, but I was still glad I wasn't on lead for it.
- Reprise de la Bastille (5.4)-- Same start as Last of the Wilds. Climb straight up to the huge flake (some placements along the way, including an iffy horizontal one) and then layback and jam the flake to easier ground. Fun route. After the flake, it is really a scramble to a ledge where there are two slingable trees (slim but sturdy, but build a gear anchor if you don't trust them). The flake has that dreaded hollow sound when you smack it, so I recommend not using cams in it; look to place medium or large hexes in passive mode instead. If you find the sweet keyhole placement that takes a large stopper or a medium hex, you're set (unless the rock fails!). This route is about 60' to the trees. From the trees, you can continue up Class 3/4 ground until you reach much easier ground below an often-mobbed outcrop near Sugarloaf's summit, making the route 80-100', or you can make an anchor and treat the next "pitch" as practice for new leaders or just for multi-pitch technique.
- Hogwarts (5.2)-- Begin below a long roof a few yards right and uphill from the previous three climbs. Head up the easy face and then around the left side of the roof. Finish up easy blocks or an easy gully to the Reprise end. Best as a toprope route for beginners, but a fun romp for just about anyone.
- Gravity's Angel (5.7)-- Leadable but not really worth it, as it is a one-move wonder. Start a few feet right of Hogwarts and go up easy slabs to the roof. Pull the roof near its right end, making sure not to go into the gully just to the right. Pulling the roof is fun, and it is protectable, but it is the only Class 5 part of the entire route.
On lead here, I have used stoppers, hexes, and cams up to the size of a C4 #2. Tricams might help on some of the horizontal flakes and cracks, but I have not tried mine here yet.
The mountain is privately owned by the Stronghold Corporation but is open to the public from 8 A.M. until an hour before sunset. No alcohol is allowed, so keep your cold after-climb beers well hidden. Clean up after yourself and obey posted regulations (let's just ignore what I said about the beer) so this place will continue to be open to the public.
When to Climb