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Summit Area and Dead Tree Crag

Summit Area

The Old Rag Summit area has several classic moderate climbs that are not difficult of access, for the most part, and a nice selection of boulder problems as well. Beginning leaders will find an adventurous feel in some long, well-protected pitches, and a crowd of admirers when they summit. Tape is an excellent idea on most of these climbs. I can think of one overhanging crack boulder problem on the summit that is a nice V2 properly taped, quite sick without it. I include the Dead Tree Wall and the Duckbill in this list, as they are very close by.

“Some years ago I was hiking up the Saddle Trail in a light snow, not expecting to climb. I was on a solo back packing trip, enjoying the mountain. As I moved up the mountain in the light snow, the silence was complete. I became aware by degrees that there were tracks in the snow preceding me, that they belonged to a bear and not a dog or deer, and that gradually, they were becoming fresh. I was going to have company on this trip, and I was going to have it soon. When I reached the Byrd’s Nest shelter, close to the summit, there he was, enjoying a fine repast of left-over hiker food. Gotta love nature. It was a fair sized black bear in the process of proving that even bear-proof trash cans aren’t bear-proof when they are over filled. I really had my heart set on cooking my lunch in that shelter, so I began to make a lot of noise as I walked. Nothing. I yelled. Nothing. Stupidly, I lobbed some snowballs in from maximum range, landing 20 yards short by design. Fortunately, the bear was full and waddled off. Dumb luck. However, eating there seemed like a poor idea by that time, as I fully considered the idiocy of the snow balls I threw; I moved on.”

Pack out your trash. Take bear precautions with food at night. Don’t bother the animals. There have been very few incidents in the Park because the bears are shy, but there have been a few. I have seen many bears in the area over the years and I consider it a treat. But pay attention. Don’t throw snowballs.

above: a short, easy hand-and-fist crack on the trail leading from the summit down to the base of the Pure Fun wall.  Excellent beginner training for basic techniques and hand jamming; tape not needed for once. 

16)**Unknown 5.9. 25 feet to the right of Pure Fun, climb steep hand crack. Tape a must. Trad, 50’.

17)**Unknown 5.7. 15 feet to the right of Pure Fun, climb major crack system to summit. Standard rack, 1 pitch.

18)***Pure Fun 5.6 to 5.8+ depending on finish. Scramble down a small gully on the south end of the summit; pass by a short smooth hand crack on the left, and turn right down through the bushes to the southwest face. Several moderate lines wind through this somewhat broken-up face (though the rock is very sound like almost all rock at Old Rag). An excellent alternate start (5.8) is possible following the right leaning hand crack 20’ to the left of Pure Fun. Pure Fun follows cracks up the middle to a slight overhang. In the center, follow climb through the overhang using horizontals with hidden jugs (5.8). One the right side, follow a difficult crack that fades away (5.10b). Or belay here, and traverse off to the left through easy chimney with major rope drag (5.6). A good beginner's lead. Trad, 110’.

19)**Inner Cube 5.9. 25 feet to the left of Pure Fun, climb inside corners and cracks to finish through the Pure Fun escape chimney. Standard rack. Trad, 110’.

20)*Unknown 5.10aPG. At the far right edge of the Amphitheater photo above, follow slabs and cracks for a long pitch. Finish on low angle slab near summit.

21)Unknown 5.8 to 5.10a depending on finish. If you are feeling adventurous, follow the base of the cliff further around until you are swimming and burrowing through intolerable rhododendron. Just as you are about to chuck it, you'll come to a tiny grassy clearing under a 5.8 dihedral with an old rusty ring-pin visible above. This is a worthwhile two or even three-pitch climb; the second pitch can be a 5.10a arching crack on a wall on the left, or a rising traverse to the right over grassy ledges and mantle moves. There also might be a theoretical climb out through the cave in the middle; probably rather hard and complex.

22)*Labarbdevagine 5.10c. Mostly a face climb, six bolts. This is the only climb on the Duckbill Crag, which is slightly down and north of the summit. The top is easily reached from a vague gully on the north end of the summit area, then trending right over heather-like brush until you realize you are standing on a huge overhanging hunk of loose rock (the Duckbill) and you jump back and rig a rappel. Although the base of the crag is easily reached by a walk down on the south side, the base of the climb itself is partway up the crag, and reached by climbing up unpleasant cracks on the left and doing a tenuous traverse, making it a two-pitch climb, which is a little silly on a crag this size; hence my recommendation of a rappel. Very thin face climbing. Sun-sheltered.

Dead Tree Crag

At the concrete trail marker on the trail on the northern edge of the summit area, descend a gully to the north west. After descending 100 yards or so, the Dead Tree Crag will be visible down the gully and to the left. It is about another 200 yards. This crag is easily visible from the main summit rocks facing north, about 300 yards down the slope. [I doubt if it is that far.]

23)**Dead Tree Crack 5.9. All gear; about 50 feet, dead vertical, slightly intimidating but very solid crack climb. Follow the same north gully down perhaps 50 yards, though some brush; cliff faces southwest. 5.10a variation near the top is a jog right.  This climb could use a better name - I doubt whether the Dead Tree is still there in any case.
24)*Unknown 5.?. Climb right leaning crack 25 feet to left of the Dead Tree Crack.

25)**Tons of Fun 5.8. A very good thin crack/face climb with good nut placements. Follow the cliff on down the hill a few more yards until you see a nice crack system interrupted by a large, unreliable-looking block not far up. Be careful getting down - there is no fixed anchor or rap tree at the top, and the scramble-down is complex. One could probably also continue scrambling back up toward the summit. Very nice intermediate lead; strenuous crux; as far as I know the block is totally solid. All gear, 65 feet.

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