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TR: Old Rag, VA - late summer bushwhack
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Aug 21, 2005, 3:32 PM
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Registered: Feb 11, 2003
Posts: 323

TR: Old Rag, VA - late summer bushwhack  (North_America: United_States: Virginia: North_Western: Old_Rag_Mountain)
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when i think old rag i think "wilderness climbing close to home." And seeing as i'm about to start teaching my adorable DC hooligans once again, a weekend of wilderness is just what i needed.

so friday around 1 pm, my buddy Ian and I finally got on the road (9 am was our original estimate). The weather report said 40% chance of rain/thunderstorms for fri sat and sun this weekend- our back up plan was trail running shenedoah trails or caving near franklin wv.

when we rolled up to Shenedoah national park, the mountains along skyline drive looked abysmal- socked in with rain and cloud cover. We decided to head to Luray Caverns, a big tourist caverns place.

at 19 bucks a ticket, it was a tough choice, but we hoped the weather would clear so we could hike in that night and get some climbs in the morning. Well Luray turned out to be pretty amazing. For someone who has been in wild caves and hunted around for some natural features, this place was sensory overload. There were more stalactites, stalagmites, columns, ribbons, bacon, and trees than my eyes could focus on. The tour guides was ridiculous, pointing out stupid rocks like snoopy's dog house, and barely focusing on a 30 foot column, thick as a redwood, that must have been eons old.

afterward we drove to the Berry Hollow trailhead ( the less popular, but an easier hike to the summit). We hiked up past the summit to skyline wall with rope, rack, raingear and enough food and water for the night and two full days. We bivied below skyline wall (technically illegal due to elevation).

While the hike in was wet and dreary, the night was perfect temps, windy and a full moon as big as a pizza. As if not to be outdone, the morning was greeted us cool, breezy, dry and absolutely amazing. Every county within a hundred miles must have been socked in with low cloud cover, but at our elevation (~3160) we were looking down on all the clouds. It was like being on a floating island in the sky. our own version of cloud city. No one could have known how beautiful it was up there that day.

We climbed "Piton Route" 5.7 which goes up a sweet hand crack in perfect granite for 40 feet, then traverses left starting with delicate footwork with no pro, to and left leaning crack with ancient pitons. Then power through the increasingly overhung crack with great holds to top out 70 ft off the deck.

The bottom half of the climb was straight forward, sub 5.7 jams, laybacks and totally stellar.

Then the traverse. From the end of the crack you must traverse up and left 10 feet to gain the beginnings of the left leaning piton crack. It doesn't look so bad from the ground, but this climb is commonly referred to as "Old-School 5.7"

There are so many adjectives: delicate, dicey, ummmm scary- yeah thats it. I had great feet for the traverse but just over the footholds the slab turn overhanging and i couldn't hope to just tiptoe through, especially as i worked myself further and further away from my .5 camalot below me. I went out into a near split twice trying to turn dismal dimples in contrived crimps. I was stumped.

Finally after placing some "mental-pro" at the start of the bona fide piton crack (from my mary lou retton split stance), I backed off and then eased my way through the correct beta (using those great xxxx holds for xxxx), (editted to preserve the onsights of fellow climbers.) clipped the pin from an awkward high step rest, and bounded through the amazing and exposed remaining 20 ft of the climb.

Once at the top, the Old Rag Hikers were in full force. the scene was horrifying. While I was belaying Ian up through the crux, some teens ran up to the edge carrying a log, they yelled back to their friend,
"wanna see this log commit suicide?"

I told them to stop, and why they should. They put the log down. Once Ian was up, I checked to see if any hikers were around, and then hucked the piece of temptation from the ledge. (don't worry, i know no one was below us.)

After that we decided that any more routes below the trail were not an option. So we decided to check out the summit via daytime, and then hike to the Sunset Ledges. We bouldered the granite at the summit, and then TRed a few easy routes at Sunset at susnet.

Another awesome windy bivy, and another beautiful and cool morning. We roped up and led Upper "Sunset Crack", a short but worthwhile 5.6 crack with an off width exit move onto the ledge. Just wish i had pants on for that last move. From the Rap anchors we TRed the other 3 routes at the Upper Sunset Area, including the seldom climbed "Green Face" 5.9R ... just before entering the crux i pulled off a good hold. I think the climb is now officially harder than 5.9.

What I learned:
1- Bring lots of water
2- don't climb Skyline or Summit Walls on weekends due to the number of hikers above you.
3- old rag granite is super sharp, bring lots of tape.

so yeah, great sport routes, TR and Trad and good boulders at the summit. enjoy. ps- don't get hurt back there, it would be a nightmare of an evac.



Aug 21, 2005, 3:43 PM
Post #2 of 2 (2806 views)

Registered: Dec 9, 2002
Posts: 576

Re: Old Rag, VA - late summer bushwhack [In reply to]
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Great TR and congrats on piton crack... all those climbs are pretty dicey especially for non crack climbers like me lol. Next time you might want to try some of the routes on the summit wall if things over at the PATC wall are too busy tourist wise. Glad you had a great time.

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