Travis Gault, FA: Theme for a Jackal, Short Leash sector Golden Boulders
Aaaaah, sleeping in a bed. It's hard to describe the sleepy feeling that consumes you, your eye lids droop, growing heavy driving home at 1:30 in the morning. This quandary, that I have avoided for some time now brings a sense of satisfaction that I really cant explain. "I am utterly spent" I said out loud speaking to myself on the long deserted stretch of highway. I went on to pronounce "Pennsylvania roads are lame!" as I rumbled over the state line and on to the glassy smooth stretch of Maryland highway. Just a little further. My 5 hr trip from the desolate reaches of the Pennsylvania wilderness was coming to an end. Pennsylvania is a pretty interesting state I thought to myself. There are some areas of northeast PA around the Allegheny plateau that are more remote than the back woods of WV or CO. No roads, no reception, no human structures... you're completely removed. Now I am cruising over the state line to one of the most developed areas of the east coast, hmm I thought.
Elk has been the topic of many of my blog posts over the previous 3 - 5 years. I cant explain the area very well as its larger than one or two areas its larger than the NRG, RRG or Chattanooga. I think its safe to say without getting off topic too far, PA has as much rock as any place I have seen. I have drawn some curious looks from climber friends when I try to explain that PA has climbing and damn if it doesn't have a ton. "No way!" they don't say it but I can see the disbelief and I don't blame them. I grew up in PA and I sometimes forget just how much rock is there. Gault and I talked a few months back after I returned from a trip the Chatty about hiking out to an area he found on the interwebs one day while combing over a stream. The area looked huge on the arial map. So thats kinda where this story starts, we had talked about it but I never made it up until a few days ago. To start the area is close to the established areas known as Cliffside and Boulder Garden. For this post, I am referring to the large multi sector area we visited on this trip as the (Au) Boulders. Two reasons for that... Firstly, Au stands for astronomical unit which is defined as the length of the semi-major axis of the Earth's elliptical orbit around the Sun... roughly 1.496 x 10^6 km. sooo, thats a pretty long distance and the old approach for lack of delving into specifics was long too. I stepped in countless marshy pits and got tangled in thorns and trees.. on top of that its around 1hr 30min approach. sheesh... Secondly, you run into a smaller area on the way which has been named the Fools Gold area, aptly so.. When you arrive at Fools Gold boulders you can get sucked in only to later realize that the huge concentration of boulders is still 45min further away. So if you didn't catch that, Au is also the chemical symbol for gold. Anyways, This area was really, really, really big. I don't know an exact quantity but its hundreds of boulders spread out over two ridges separated by a stream. Very pretty setting. The culmination of our trip after our first day hiking the "old" approach was to re-evaluate the hike and discover a new approach to the boulders that was much easier. It took the hike down to 45min which is still a v5 approach and not practical for most climbers looking for a short weekend trip. I say that but if you are in the mood for some adventure and don't mind hiking, its worth a visit.
Loads of rock await you. I wont guide you down the wrong path, this area does have some B-grade rock unlike the cliff side areas. It also has some really good rock!! By B-grade I don't mean terrible rock that will break apart... its just composed differently. I don't know the geology specifically, to give you an idea some of the rock has larger grains of silica making it hard to walk up to something and just climb it. You need to spend a lot of time scrubbing it and then scrub it again and then triple check to make sure you got the loose crystals off. Some of the stuff is tall and you don't want crystals breaking when you're 25ft off the deck. You're 45min away from your car and another hour away from anything after you get to your car. Thats serious stuff to think about before you make any attempts at trying something dangerous, it could cost you more than you think if you get hurt out there. To wrap up this lengthy post I will give a brief rundown of the work we did. Probably the largest contribution to the area was finding the new approach. I described it as a v7/8 approach before and now its roughly v4/5, hahaha... We added a number of boulder problems Travis put up Anthem a really cool arete problem. He also added a roof problem to the short leash boulder, I have vid of that. He called the roof problem Theme for a Jackal and it
goes at v9 but he will tell you its somewhere around v6/7.. I added a tall arete called Tall Dark and Handsome maybe v6 range and a face climb that starts on two large huecos. I called that one Pressure Drop and it could be 7 or maybe a little harder.. I am not sure. Jessica added a new arete too plus she put up with Travis and I for the trip so I think she probably did the most work out of us all. To top it off we saw some giant Elk on our way home, great trip.