Saturday, July 30, 2016

Reed's Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Reed’s Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Petite determination: Andrea gets after it, with Leah providing dynamic belay, on the gymnastic opening of Michal Stewart's Rain (5.8). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

South of Smoke Hole Canyon and the town of Upper Tract, Reed’s Creek Road intersects with the old Petersburg Turnpike, after winding down from the shoulders of North Fork Mountain, meandering through meadows of clover and wheat grass, past grazing cows and sheep held in by sagging fences strung across the steep ridges that surround proud old family homes and weathered barns, clusters of trailers, chicken houses and the occasional honeysuckle-draped ruin of a log cabin. 

 Trevor Albert cuts loose on Ryan Eubank’s Golden Horseshoe (5.10b/c)

The road is busier than it once was, but there are days, late summer evenings and pristine winter afternoons, when the sound of a tractor is more common than that of an automobile, and there is a sense of timelessness, the smell of honeysuckle, livestock, strains of gospel music and southern rock in the air. Tired climbers wander back towards their cars, with thoughts of cold brews and hot grub whirling among the visions of hard sends and great lines.

This is Reed’s Creek; a series of south-facing arêtes and dihedrals and a high-quality selection of sixty sport and trad lines on featured metamorphic limestone, with a reasonable approach hike, a serviceable trail and ample parking, just off State Route 220 in West Virginia’s historic Pendleton County.
One corner of an old log cabin that still survives, hidden in the National Forest near Reed's.
Photo by Mike Gray

Guides and climbers from Seneca Rocks first put bit to stone on the walls of Reed Creek in 2002 and 2003, creating Welcome to Reed Creek, One Page at a Time, and Catfish Strangler, the original Boneyard Routes.

Unknown climber stretched out on the crux of Catfish Strangler (5.10c)

Although visited once or twice by some local legends, the crag languished for years after that initial burst of development, hidden behind the thick summer canopy, layers of old fence, greenbrier and 'No Trespassing' signs. We looked at it from the road, even drove along Reed's, but there was so much rock nearby in Smoke Hole that new crags weren't really in short supply.

So things continued, until one fine autumn afternoon in 2008 when I took a break from Franklin, where I had been working on 'Davey Jones Locker' with Mike Fisher for several weeks.  I found the three original lines after spotting the NFS boundary marker and hiking up the wash about a hundred yards beyond the existing trail, Wandering along the base back towards the road, I was blown away by the untapped potential of the other walls.

The following week, I made my way to the Cheat Potomac Ranger Station, where records indicated that the land was public, part of the Monongahela National Forest. After a brief dance of joy that riased eyebrows in the NFS offices, I wasted no time getting back to the crag. 

After a day of onsighting the existing lines with The Maestro, Michael Fisher, I began working on extending the trail, cleaning lines and developing routes, starting with the 5.10 Reaching Conclusions, the premier line on the Reach Wall. 

Chase-ing jugs on the final section of Reaching Conclusions (5.10a/b). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

The following spring, Lyndon State College sensei Jamie Struck brought an eager crew from Vermont to create the lower trails around the Gypsies Wall and top-rope the line that would become Shaved Scamper.  

Mister Fisher and NoVA’s Ryan Eubank soon joined the development push with routes like Second Rule, Shaolin Mantis, Little Purple Flowers, Hunter’s Moon and Grapevine Massacre.  Cindy Bender was there from the start, with hot coffee and snacks, spending long hours on belay and building trail, dancing up some of the first ascents of lines like A Horse With No Name, Second Rule, Winterharvest and Fire On the Mountain.

Cindy reaches for welcome jugs on the roof crux of 'Welcome to Reed Creek', 5.7

Pennsylvania climbers Michael Stewart and Randy La Force added excellent moderates like Dr. Taco and Superman, as word of the crag began to spread among locals and visiting climbers from across the region. 

Following the proactive precedent of Franklin Gorge, The First Spring Send-a-thon and Trail Daze event was organized and attended by Ryan Eubank, Mke Fisher, Cindy Bender and my unworthy self, supported by a coalition of strong climbers from Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as “locals” from Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. 

Once the day of major improvements was finished, the cranking began, culminating in the first ascent of a new line, Disorientation 101, one of the best and most challenging 5.11s at Reed's.

Whitney Moss, reaching for hope on the crux of Disorientation 101 (5.11)

Trails around and leading to the Boneyard were improved and expanded, and trash was collected along Reed Creek Road.  The National Forest resurveyed and marked the boundaries along the private property line, making it easier for hunters and climbers to avoid trespassing.

Today, Reed’s has over 40 routes, in a wide variety of grades and styles, from Mike Fisher’s  5.7 funfest dihedral Second Rule and my own trad 5.7 SuperNatural to technical challenges like Fisher’s 5.11+ Shaolin Mantis, Eubank’s burly 5.11 Grapevine Massacre, and Michael Farnsworth’s 5.12+ cave line Harlem. The project Cold Day in Hell, originally bolted by Eubank, has yet to see an ascent, despite repeated tries by strong 5.12 climbers who say the grade may be as high as 5.13. Newcomers Chris Beauchamp and Tyrel Johnson have been adding bold trad, mixed and sport lines like Invasive Species and Mare Imbrium.

Now beta for this wonderful crag is available in a brand-new, stand-alone phone app from, with all the info on new routes, sweet navigation features, and plenty of eye candy action shots: 

Check it out, pick up your copy, and start planning your next climbing trip to include a visit to one of West Virginia's newest crags, today!

Sunny winter days and shady summer mornings, easy access, great lines and an incredible setting, just off the beaten path; Reed’s Creek has something for every climber.

(Author's note: Tyrel has been instrumental in continuing the tradition of trail work and stewardship, and tireless the editing process; hiking trails, correcting errors, and tweaking all the details of the app. He also does a mean Spider Man impression.)

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