If you're tired of the crowds of hikers and other climbers around Boy Scout Ledges
and Middle Earth
at Sugarloaf, try White Rocks. Although it involves a 15-minute uphill hike, which seems to be a big undertaking for a lot of weekend climbers, there are some excellent climbs here in a setting that sees much less traffic than the aforementioned areas do. Of particular note is The Sherpa Connection (5.8), considered by many to be Sugarloaf's best trad route, but there are several other decent leads as well as some toprope routes ranging from fun to very hard.
Another benefit to climbing at White Rocks is that the crag is not subject to the gate hours that the main area at Sugarloaf is. Climbers who like a really early start can be frustrated by the year-round 8:00 opening time at Sugarloaf, but if they head for White Rocks instead, they can start as early as they like.
There are all kinds of ways to get to Sugarloaf Mountain. Google Maps is your friend here.
Once you reach the park, instead of driving through the gates, head west on Comus Road and then turn right onto Mount Ephraim Road to go north along the west side of the mountain. This is an improved dirt road that is often wet and has a lot of potholes.
After about two miles, find an obvious trailhead with parking available on both sides of the road. Look for signs indicating North Peaks Trail and White Rocks to be sure you're at the right spot, as there are some other parking areas along the way.
From left to right as you face the wall:
- Climber Sensitivity Training Wall (5.8)-- If you like slab climbing with small holds and lots of balancy stuff, set up a toprope here and have fun. My partner and I found at least four distinct lines up the wall, the easiest going at 5.7 and the hardest about 5.10. The wall is only about 30' high, but from the ledge above it, there is the option of finishing up the pillar above, which is a 5.9 called Thumbthing Else. Your anchor will be up there, anyway, so why not do it as well?
- Thumbthing Else (5.9-)-- If you use the edge with great holds to the left, it's not 5.9. Going straight up the face of this pinnacle, which is slightly overhanging, feels more like 5.10, though once you figure out the sequence, it's not too bad.
- Gap of Rohan (5.6)-- A good warm-up for toproping or leading. Follow a finger crack to a ledge and then a much larger crack to an obvious notch. This route will take gear up to a #4 C4, but you can do it on gear smaller than that. A long runner is nice for slinging the tree on the ledge.
- Where Eagles Dare (5.10d)-- Start on the Sherpa Connection crack and then head up a seam after a few feet.
- The Sherpa Connection (5.8)-- Regarded as the best trad route at Sugarloaf. The start is an easy scramble up to a ledge; you may not even place pro along this part. Then sling the tree at the left end of the obvious crack and get to work on the diagonal crack. Hands are great; feet can be sketchy. About midway along, there is a black jug that is a lifesaver just as you are starting to worry about finding a good stance to place your next piece. One day this hold will break and make the climb at least a grade harder. Beyond it is a bomber nut placement, but this was my first 5.8 lead and the stance was sketchy, so I ran it out until the next good stance. I led this with a standard rack of cams and nuts.
- Force 10 (5.10c)-- This heads up the wall from near the end of the Sherpa Connection crack.
- Phasers on Stun (5.5)-- I started leading this but realized I didn't have big-enough gear, so I scrambled back down. You probably need at least two hexes or cams the size of a C4 #4.
- Sugar and Spice (5.4)-- Just to the right of Phasers.
- Lucifer Direct (5.11-)-- This route and the remaining two are around the corner from the main wall. I have not climbed them or even looked at them, so I can't say anything more about them.
- Lucifer (5.10)
- Green Thumb (5.9-)
None. Just obey posted regulations.
Sugarloaf is privately owned. The corporation that owns it is friendly to climbers, so don't abuse that. Use safe practices and clean up after yourself.
When to Climb
Spring and fall are best. Summers are hot and humid, but climbing in the morning usually works. Because the crag faces north, it is often too cold in winter to climb comfortably.