The NOC (North of Chute) Area has Little Stony Man's hardest climbs and also one of its easiest. The climbs are 80-100', making them the longest in Shenandoah National Park.
It is the southernmost open-to-climbing area at Little Stony Man. As the climber faces the spot from the base, there is a wall to the left and an arête to the right. To the best of my knowledge, no one has led any climbs on the wall, and that wall is toprope-only and housing LSM's hardest climbs. On the arête there are two established trad routes, one a very easy lead that zig-zags around the hardest parts of the arête, and the other a direct line up the arête with a spicy, runout start for the rating and some really chossy rock where the going gets good. Belayers not wearing helmets here are asking for crushed skulls.
Note: For 35 m north from the top of the chute often used to descend to the base of LSM, the area is closed (signs state it) to off-trail usage. This makes things a little confusing, as the climbs top out in supposedly legal territory. My advice-- once you top out above the Class 5 parts of the trad routes and find yourself on a broad ledge with several boulders, build a belay anchor instead of crossing the ledge and climbing the short headwall to the true top.
The Little Stony Man parking area is in the park’s Central District at MP 39 on Skyline Drive. If entering the park at the Front Royal or Thornton Gap entrance, drive south. If entering at Rockfish Gap or Swift Run Gap, drive north. Note that there is an entrance fee for Skyline Drive. In 2015, it was either $15 or $20.
To get directly to the base of the cliffs, hike on the AT to the junction with the Passamaquoddy Trail, which leads to a ledge offering a great view of the cliffs and then turns left to run directly beneath the cliffs.
Note-- Some boulders and outcrops near the northern end offer interesting bouldering and scrambling, and I have, in fact, done some bouldering there, but current management plans have made for the closure of this area to human activity.
This page's routes are at the southern end of the cliffs, just north of an obvious feature called The Chute.
One can also hike to the top of the cliffs and then follow The Chute down to the base, but it is much faster and easier to use the Passamaquoddy Trail. The Chute begins south of the open clifftop area.
There are two established trad routes here:
- Banana (5.2)-- This one starts around the right corner of the arête and then zig-zags around the difficulties of the direct climb. I have not led this one but did scramble it years ago, thinking at the time that it felt in that Class 4-5.2 range.
- Orange (5.6)-- A pretty fun lead. Starting on the right side of the arête is easier; starting left or directly below is harder and does offer a gear placement, but it is probably not high enough to avoid a ground fall. Above the start, follow the broken arête up to the top. There are some great gear placements along the way, but there is also some really bad rock. Use great caution here despite the rating. For a slightly harder variation, maybe 5.6+ or 5.7, go up the right side; there is still good pro, but the moves are a little harder and more exposed.
The wall to the left, the one with some of the hardest climbs at LSM, is called NOC Wall.
NOC Wall Banana and Orange
A 60m rope gets the job done if you plan to rappel back down. When I led Orange, a standard rack of nuts and cams was sufficient.
Wherever you top out and belay from, you'll need to build gear anchors, so keep that in mind as you decide on what pro, cords, and slings to have with you.