ACCESS ALERT: PA Game Commission announces closure of State Game Lands 51 and 138 to climbing
(*Includes Casparis, Coll’s Cove, and Lost Crag*)
For more information about this closure, read our announcement here.
Beam Rocks, a beautiful, higher cliff in SW PA, consists of 25′ – 60′ tall sandstone cliffs and a small amount of bouldering, including one or two classics. The climbing is very shaded, can be somewhat damp, and even the good lines tend to collect a bit of sand quite quickly, so a bit of cleaning is often desirable on the first run up a pitch. Generally composed of common SWPA gritstone and sandstone.
There is no permanent hardware, so top-roping is most common, generally from trees well-set back from the cliff edge which requires more extended top rope rigging, or by hooking webbing around large rock features. Quick access and location of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail running along the base means that the Area is frequented by hikers and casual recreationists throughout the day, so remain aware of traffic on the top of the cliff and the integrity of your top-rope rig.
A popular party spot as well, depending upon time of year the area can be marred by graffiti and trash. SWPACC in conjunction with Forbes State Forest administration and the Laurel Mountain volunteer group, conducts occasional clean-ups. Remember to Leave No Trace!
Be aware of poisonous plants, venomous snakes, and timber rattlesnakes.
Breakneck is a small bolted cliff south east of Pittsburgh in the small area known as Breakneck, just north of Connellsville with good bouldering. It can get slightly crowded on weekends, so consider one of the other crags in the area as a backup plan.
The cliff faces the north east and receives morning sun. However, due to the shade that lasts for the majority of the day, snow can remain on this hillside for days after it melts elsewhere. It can be a good crag following a day of rain, thanks to the morning sun and great quality rock. The rock is sandstone and in great condition, as are the bolts and anchors.
A few trad lines exist, but if you want to climb some cracks this definitely is not the area. The route to the far left is listed as a trad route on Tim’s page, but is now bolted. This was to increase traffic on the route in hopes of keeping the dirt/moss from returning, and it can still be led with gear.
McConnell’s Mill State Park is a popular climbing area located in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, approximately forty miles north of Pittsburgh. It is easily accessed from either Interstate 79 from the north or south or from State Route 422 from the east or west. The focal point of the park is the restored gristmill, covered bridge, and the dramatic glaciated gorge that surrounds these structures for several miles up and downstream. It is one of three State Parks where climbing is sanctioned and has seen development activity from the 1940s, on.
The Park offers excellent bouldering up to V11, top roping in all grades, and limited sport climbing.up to 13a/b. The Two primary areas for climbing are along Rim Road and at Breakneck Rocks, though development has occurred throughout the park.
The cliffs vary from 12 to 50 feet high, with climbs of all angles. Vertical faces feature pockets, flakes, and the area’s trademark, shallow sloping horizontals, which so often turn into a date with disappointment for would-be ascentionists’ onsite attempt. On the other extreme, many of the test pieces climb very steep rock with bouldery cruxes between endurance sprints on jugs. Some of these steeper routes overhang almost as much as they are tall.
The rock is typically medium-textured sandstone but very gritty sections as well as smoother-grained spots will be encountered. Much of the climbing is under a pine canopy and in wet years the routes and problems may need recleaning.
Portersville, PA [40.958, -80.169]
From Pittsburgh take I-279 north and merge onto I-79 north. Take the PA-488 exit (exit 96) toward Portersville/Prospect. Turn left over the freeway and follow signs to the park. You can get a handy trail map that has the climbing areas marked at the park Maintenance Office.
One of three State Parks where climbing is a sanctioned activity. Currently Rim Road and Breakneck Bridge areas are fair game.
There are numerous climbing (sport, trad, bouldering, ice) opportunities within Ohiopyle State Park, some of which have online guiding information. The most popular climbing spots are the sport crags (e.g. Maple Wall, Schoolhouse crag) along the rails-to-trail (most easily accessed by biking in) and “The Pyle,” aka the Falls City Pub boulders, though there are many others. Much of the sport development took place under Tim and Laura Anderson in the 2000s.
The sport routes are often quite steep, ranging from easy/moderate to high-end 5.12. It should be noted that many of the routes, including the easy-to-moderates, are bolted rather adventurously, some with groundfall potential, so if you’re at your limit at a grade, you would do well to exercise caution, particularly at the first and second bolts.
The highest concentration of bouldering, found at “The Pyle,” is accessible right along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, near mile marker 1. Tim and Laura Anderson did a great deal of early development, with another development boom around 2014 by Pete Baertsch, Mike Steighner, and company.
After a day of bouldering, you might want to consider hiking the remaining 69.5 miles to the conclusion of the trail north of Johnstown….or you could just turn around and go back to Falls City Pub for a pint.
Please note that The Pyle is an area highly visible to non-climbers and park administration given its position along the LHHT and it is especially important to respect all park policies here, as it is elsewhere in the park.
The rock quality here is solid, but large-grained and thus it can be rough on the skin. You’ll also find very high quality bouldering and some kinglines elsewhere in the park if you’re willing to go hunting deeper into the woods–in some of these areas the rock quality is closer to the friendly sandstone.
A large grouping of gritstone boulders and walls found east of the town of Fairchance, PA. Many top-rope lines must be established from trees, sometimes 30-50 feet away from the edge of the cliff, requiring lengthy rigging gear and expert knowledge.
Be mindful of the fragile ecosystem, long up-hill hike, and rattlesnakes. For your first visit, please consider bringing someone along who is familiar with the area, as the approach and access is not easily identifiable.
This area is comprised of a mix of vertical and slab classics, as well as some overhung and pumpy jug halls. White Rocks was developed by climbers in the 70s, so you’ll notice that no grades on paper exceed 5.10, which might not be the modern day truth, meaning you might find yourself on some sandbagged climbs!
*Accessibility: Despite what the PDF says (it was written in 1978), this climbing area is now on public land. However, it still stands that a good relationship with the Hi-To is very important.
Fairchance, PA [39.826343, -79.730369]. Please see PDF below for more information.