fans looking to escape the Carderock crowds can look to Outlook Rocks as an option, and it is only about a five-minute walk from the main Carderock cliffs, but in truth, the climbing is not very good, at least not at the crag I visited (there are four making up the Outlook Rocks). Although the particular crag I climbed looks beautiful and is in a beautiful setting, it so infrequently sees climbers that it is incredibly slippery due to moss or lichens that are so light in color as to be virtually indistinguishable from the rock unless you are on it. I am not a world-class climber, but I should not struggle on a 5.8, yet when I did a very pretty-looking 5.8 here, the slippery surface turned the climb into something way harder, one of those "never again" routes. A 5.3 on the same face, though much easier, felt a good bit harder than a 5.3, again because of the extremely slippery surface. Really, the surface coating was like a thin carpet.
But if escaping the crowds on a nice day and climbing literally right above a river sound appealing, then try it out!
The Outlook Rocks are upstream from the main Carderock area.
Get the guidebook Carderock Past and Present for additional photographs of the climbing spots. This page only features two of them. It's a pretty compact area, though, so one shouldn't have much trouble finding the crags.
Outlook Rocks-- February Ice
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.
A sign near the now-closed restrooms indicates the way to the Billy Goat Trail. Follow the trail as it winds around the north end of the cliffs and reaches the base area. Now find a spur heading upstream and left to the river or bushwhack across in the same direction. You'll pretty soon reach one of the crags.
It should take no more than ten minutes to get from your car to the crag.
On the crag furthest upstream is Sunshine Climb, which the guidebook does not rate.
Next is a lovely rock face with two routes:
- Lembeck's Crossover (5.3)-- Traverse beneath the long overhang and then head up the right side of the face.
- The Nose that Goes (5.8)-- Climb the left side of the face. Not using the edge except for the initial move makes this 5.10, but this climb was so slippery from lichens or moss when I climbed it that the 5.8 already felt like 5.10 or more.
Outlook Rocks-- Second Crag
Just downstream is a face with two routes:
- Lazy Daisy (5.6-5.8)-- Low-angle face.
- Near Matt Splat (5.8)-- Layback corner.
Outlook Rocks-- Third Crag
Finally, three more short routes:
- Guillotine (5.9+)-- A face between two cracks.
- The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (5.12)-- Between Guillotine and Jackknife.
- Jackknife (5.5)-- Start on a river-facing corner, and then layback without using the diagonal crack.
No fees or permits required. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
When to Climb
All year, but spring and fall are best.