How to top the East Coast’s only “true peak”
It’s hard to miss Seneca Rocks, with its massive Tuscarora quartzite fins jutting out nearly 900 feet above the confluence of Seneca Creek and the Potomac River.
The area is a natural playground for Mid-Atlantic rock climbers. It’s widely known as the premier multi-pitch destination, and the only true peak on the East Coast.
At the heart of the climbing community are the local outfitters, Seneca Rocks Climbing School and Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. They introduce hundreds of first-time climbers to the adventure and beauty of climbing multi-pitch rock.
“Whether you’re a first-time climber, or coming from a climbing gym and on your first outside trip, climbing in the outdoors, has a lot more going on,” said Arthur Kearns, the owner and head guide of Seneca Rocks Climbing School. “It’s a big deal. You need a much broader skill set to stay safe and be competent in a multi-pitch setting.”
And Seneca is a storied place for beginners to get their start. It’s got a long history. In the 40s, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division even used the area to train for the challenging technical terrain that they might encounter in the Apennine Mountains in Italy.
The local guides play a vital role in keeping these iconic cliffs accessible. They help maintain crucial climbing hardware, put up new routes and offer up local beta if you need help with the crux of your project.
All of the climbing guides based out of Seneca are extremely experienced climbers who have hit the rocks all around the world. Both guiding companies are fully accredited outfitters, and every lead guide has their Professional Climbing Guides Institute (PCGI) or American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certification, and their Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification.
Both outfitters have a wide range of courses that run the gamut from single-day novice-friendly courses to multiple-day skill-specific courses. Prices vary from around $100 for a half-day of showing you around the crag to nearly $500 for a 3-day skill clinic if you want to work on more serious techniques. Some of the more popular courses are Gym to Crag, Learning to Lead, Climbing Anchors and Self-Rescue.
Seneca Rocks Climbing School has courses just for women, too, so grab your squad and rope up to learn a new sport together. If a 1-day course isn’t enough, Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides has 3-day Chicks With Nuts climbing camps in April, July and September, led by some of the most respected climbing guides in the nation. More than just a skills clinic, Chicks With Nuts camps are about building camaraderie between female climbers who are interested in traditional climbing and mountaineering.
One of the most popular events the guides organize at Seneca Rocks is the Seneca Rocks Cinco de Mayo Party. Part festival, part party and part climbing extravaganza, the Cinco de Mayo Party features guest speakers, slideshows, gear demos and live music.
Another popular event is October’s Seneca Rocks Chili Cook-Off. Bring your best chili recipe to win yearlong bragging rights, or taste away, but also come prepared to crush some routes at Seneca Rocks. It’s still a climbing event, after all.
This post was last updated on March 1, 2022