Talking Headwall (Elizabeth Furnace), 5.4-5.12a

Talking Headwall (Elizabeth Furnace), 5.4-5.12a

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 38.94700°N / 78.302°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Sign the Climber's Log


Headless Climber Leading I Love Big Jugs (5.8) Headless Climber Leading I Love Big Jugs (5.8)
The Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area has campgrounds, picnic sites, fishing, and trails, but it also has two very nice climbing spots: Talking Headwall and Buzzard Rocks. While climbers sometimes say they are going to climb at Elizabeth Furnace, it makes more sense to distinguish between the two sites, especially if friends are coming out later, obviously.
Talking Headwall is the easier crag to get to, though it is far less scenic than Buzzard Rocks is. There are some pure trad routes here, but this is mostly a sport/mixed (in the sense of mixing sport and trad) crag with bolted lines going from 5.7 (not really) to 5.12.
Also, Talking Headwall and Buzzard Rocks are very different places. At Buzzard Rocks, it is mostly slab and the lower end of moderate, but at Talking Headwall, it is juggy and overhanging and there are several tough routes up to 5.12a.
Since many climbers are lazy other than when it comes to training and climbing, they will be happy to know that Talking Headwall is at most a 5-minute hike from the road. In fact, one can see the road from most of the climbs.
And if overhangs are your thing, there are lots of them at Talking Headwall. Slab lovers will not be happy here; Buzzard Rocks is for slab lovers.

Getting There

Exit I-66 at Exit 6 and head south on 340/522. After the bridge over the Shenandoah River, turn right at a light onto 55. Drive about 5 miles to the town of Waterlick. Turn left onto Powells Fort Road (SR 678). After about 1.5 miles, look for a fairly large pullout on the right side of the road. Park and then hike back up the road (be cautious-- people drive fast here and there are curves and the road is narrow) and spot an obvious trail heading up into the woods. Get on that trail and you'll soon be seeing bolts.


From left to right as you face the crag:

  • VROS Arete-- Trad, 5.4
  • Send Town-- Sport, 11a
  • McMurray Must Be Castrated-- Trad, 5.9. There is actually one bolt on this route. It is high and protects the crux move, whch is pulling the overhang at the start.
  • Angry Muppets-- Trad, 5.6
  • Watch Your Feet-- Trad 5.6
  • Phil's New Rope-- Trad, 5.6
  • I Love Big Jugs-- Sport, 5.8. Easy start, steep and fun finish. After the third bolt, look for horizontal cam placements between bolts and anchors, especially between the third and fourth bolts, where a fall before the clip would probably mean decking on the ledge.
  • Ne Plus Ultra-- Sport, 5.9
  • Fortis-- Sport, 10a
  • Gaken's-- Sport, 10a
  • Foops-- Sport, 10b
  • Leading Should Feel This Way-- Sport, 10c. Considered the best route at the crag if you are solid leading the grade.
  • Furnass-- Sport, 12a. Huge roof with fixed draws. You can't miss it.
  • Little Balls-- Trad, 5.8
  • Big Balls-- Sport, 10b
  • Continuance-- Sport, 5.7. No longer exists due to fallen block that held the first bolt (don't know why someone bolted a detached block in the first place). See below.
  • Discontinuance-- Sport, 5.9. Crux is between the second and third bolts. The rest will feel easy for a 5.9 sport leader.
  • Variation-- Sport, 5.6. Clip the first few bolts of Fat Bastard and then finish on Continuance. Warning: rope drag.
  • Fat Bastard-- Sport, 5.7. This is not, as online comments concur, 5.7. Maybe it is 5.7 if you clip the bolt beneath the finishing overhang and then go way left and pull it there. Pulling the overhang more in line with the last bolt to the anchors is 5.9.
  • I Want a Big Truck-- Trad, 5.5
  • Pure Energy-- Sport, 10a
I recommend a set of cams plus six draws for all routes. Have at least one alpine sling since the bolting on some routes can create drag or unclipping concerns.
I Love Big Jugs (5.8)I Love Big Jugs (5.8)
Continuance (5.9) and Fat Bastard (5.7-5.9)Continuance (5.9) and Fat Bastard (5.7-5.9)


Red Tape


When to Climb

All year. Spring and fall are best. The area faces east and is heavily shaded, making it a great summer destination.


There is a campground in the recreation area, but I have not been there and do not know where it is. Please see the Forest Service site for information.

External Links

The Mountain Project page has the same basic information that this one does, but on the route pages there are user comments that might be useful.



Related objects are relevant to each other in some way, but they don't form a parent/child relationship. Also, they don't necessarily share the same parent.