Welcome! Please respect and preserve the wildness of the climbing areas you are about to visit! Thanks!
Photo looks to the north. The Shenandoah River (left of Harpers Ferry, WV) joins the Potomac River (right of Harpers Ferry, WV) and heads east to Washington DC and the Chesapeake Bay.
Traditional – Top Rope – Bouldering
Photo: Ryan Smith
Elk Ridge is the main “area” at Harpers Ferry. The rock quality is excellent and the scenery is magnificent. The main face known as Maryland Heights gets most of the attention because it’s highly visible and is the only area covered by previous climbing guidebooks. The rock of the Maryland Heights cliff is different than the rock found at Balcony Rock, Balcony JR., and the surrounding boulders. On these smaller cliffs you’ll find a hard, bomber, glass like quartzite that comes from clean beach sand-sandstone that has undergone geologic metamorphosis. The Potomac River cut through the gap exposing giant “Anticlinoriums” in this rock, which are features made of folds on the limbs of bigger scale folds in the rock. When the river is low you can peer down from Balcony Jr. or Loudon Heights and see the axis of these folds exposed in the river bed. You can do some really cool 3-D geologic visualization here in this gorge with exposed rock in the river and on both ridges.
This ridge trends N/S and is home to some really cool creatures. Fence lizards and skinks, both of which are native reptile inhabitants of the Appalachians, scurry around the boulders and scamper up climbs with such ease you might begin to rethink who the real First Ascent credit should go to. There are five lined skinks (five different colors!), blue throated fence lizards, and the most amazing skink of all… the Broad Head skink. You may also see black snakes and copperheads at Balcony Jr. Though I have never personally seen a Black Bear on the ridge it is possible they could be roaming these forests. You can climb on this south facing ridge all year including the winter time. If the weather is sunny and it’s warmer than 35 degrees with light wind then you can climb. I have climbed too many days to count in the middle of winter with the temperature at 40 degrees, the sun blasting, very little wind and only a t-shirt and a pair of pants.
SEASON: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter (clear & sunny, 35+, no wind) ASPECT: South, sun from sunrise to sunset