High Rocks History

Original Excerpt From Doug Reilly’s:
Climbs of the Tohickon Gorge: A Climber’s Guide to High Rocks

“Technical climbing at High Rocks began in the 1930’s and 1940’s with Joe Walsh being the driving force. He and various partners established routes on the most prominent features of the cliffs. They include “Long Chimney”, “Three Buttresses” and “The Airy Route” to name a few. Another prominent climber of the early years was Ulysses (Lou) Lutz. Lou, in collaboration with other climbers, put up climbs that were right in line with the limits of difficulty for the 1950’s. Lutz was also active at Livezy Rock in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, After his death in the early 1980’s, climbers at Livezy put a memorial plaque in the rock, commemorating Lutz’s dedication to teach and guide climbers of all ages. Many of the area classics were put up by Lutz and Bob Chambers, as well as, Roland Machold and George Austin. These routes include “Hawks Nest”, “Orangutang” and “Neanderthal”.

Active in the 1960’s were climbers such as Mike Cohen, Bill Stevens, John Gyer, Francis DeMonterey and Stu Bartram. The climbs of the sixties included “Cramped Thumb”, “Tango” and “Triple Overhang” to just name a few. The mid 1970’s to the mid 1980’s saw the most intense frenzy of new route activity at High Rocks. The publication of Pete Kolman and Kirby Ellis’ A Climbers Guide to Boileau Rocks made many routes known to the growing number of climbers at High Rocks. The list of climbs put up in this time period is staggering, as is the list of climbers. Most active in this period were Mike Freeman, Dave Ainsle, John Geiger, Tom Stryker, Tom Moffatt, Bobby Lyons, Les Burnet, TJ Ellix, Mel Hamel, Warren Musselman, Chris Lesher and Harry Waters. The major climbs  of this period were “Tales From The Crypt”, “Joshua 1:9”, “Riff Raff’, “Welcome to Stover”,“Noncensus”, “Tango Superdirect”, “Games Without Frontiers”, “Crumble For You” and The committing “Phone Booth”.

Several talented climbers entered the scene in the mid 1980’s and put up some very difficult climbs. These include: “Mass X Energy=Swing” Colin Lantz, Dean Hernandez and Jim Hall and “Violent Femmes” Colin Lantz. Other climbs that went up included “Don Juan”, “New Testament” and the “Wild Wall”. Since the production of the Stryker/Musselman guide, new route activity has slowed down somewhat, with most climbers content to repeat the established routes. Most active into the 1990’s and new millenium have been Dean Hernandez, Mark and Carly Ronca, Geoff Buhn, Mike Flood, Jeff Gagliano, Paul Nick, Keith Thompson and Bill Markland. Many of these newer routes follow blank looking faces between the natural lines and are protected by bolts, These climbs include: “Shale Storm”, “Dean’s List”, “Un-named Arete”, “The Problem”, “Man of Science”, “The Outsider”, “Paradise Lost”, “The Outcast” and “Afterburner”. The Gray Walls have also felt the influence of Hernandez with several lines being established on the “TFD” Wall.

In the late 1990’s, some of the more popular climbs had bolts replaced to make them safer. In most cases the old bolts were 4 inch and the holes were re-drilled to accommodate 3/8 inch bolts. Several of the more popular climbs also have bolted belay stations to make top roping and /or lowering easier.

Below the east end of the escarpment is a smaller cliff known as “Lower Stover”, The route descriptions, for this section of High Rocks, was prepared by Jeff Gagliano in 1993. Jeff scoped out and cleaned this portion of the cliff and also did the first ascent of many of these short routes. The first route of the “Lower Stover” cliff is “Arrow Head” and begins below “Noncensus” under a very narrow part of the under-cliff trail. The rest of the climbs are found by proceeding downstream or east towards “Far Face”.

The new millennium has seen a decrease in new route activity but a huge increase in hard bouldering, complete with its own rating system (John “Vermin” Sherman’s V-system). Most of the bouldering at High Rocks is concentrated near the “Ripper Traverse” (V1) near “Hawks Nest” with ratings up to V7. Some of the more popular problems are “Up”, “Ripper Low”, “Marty Broke it” and “New Jersey Turnpike”. There are also some popular problems at the base of the Neolithic Block. They include “Picnic Rock” with several variations, “Bootwear” and the traverse from “Shitface” to the “Weeping Wall”. For good descriptions of the boulder problems, refer to Classic Rock Climbs #12, Ralph Stover State Park, By Paul Nick. 1997; Falcon Press.”

EPAC plans on picking up where Doug left off and is currently compiling more historical data.

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