Virginia Sandstone Crag Opened to Climbing

Miles of secluded orange and grey sandstone walls, similar to Tennesee’s Obed and West Virginia’s New River Gorge, are now officially open to rock climbing at Breaks Interstate Park in southwest Virginia.

By Rock and Ice | June 9th, 2016

A local climber enjoys shaded cragging at Breaks Interstate Park in southwest Virginia, along the Kentucky line. Photo courtesy of Access Fund.Miles of secluded orange and grey sandstone walls, similar to Tennesee’s Obed and West Virginia’s New River Gorge, are now officially open to rock climbing at Breaks Interstate Park in southwest Virginia.

“Breaks is a truly fantastic and extensive sandstone climbing resource. Having the park officially opened to climbing is great news for climbers as well as the nearby communities who will benefit from increased tourism,” says Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie.

The Access Fund, along with the help of dedicated local climbers and the Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition (SVCC), has worked with park authorities to draft a sustainable climbing access plan.

During the revision of the park’s master plan, public input was overwhelmingly supportive of rock climbing at Breaks, the Access Fund stated in a press release. The commission approved climbing as a part of the park’s new 30-year master plan in early 2015, and shortly after, the Access Fund submitted a climbing management plan based on input from the park, climbers, and other stakeholders, the release stated. A climbing advisory group was formed. The group finalized the plan and park climbing policies this April.

Climbers have been venturing into the gorge for at least three decades, but rock climbing has never been officially allowed or sanctioned by the park before now.

The area hosts around 75 established traditional and sport routes, and has miles of untapped potential. The new plan permits route development in certain locations, such as the Notches, Pinnacle Rock, The Pavilion, Grey Wall and along the 1.5-mile long Prospector Trail, in accordance to park bolting rules and guidelines.

Along with route development, rock climbing is only allowed in approved areas of the park since the park is also home to rare plant life and important peregrine falcon breeding grounds. Climbers are also required to get a free climbing permit at the visitor center or lodge.

“We took a very careful, balanced approach to natural resource protection and climbing access,” says Austin Bradley, Park Superintendent. “And we are very excited to welcome rock climbers and add climbing to our park’s many outstanding recreational opportunities.”

“We applaud the park’s outstanding commitment to collaboration and planning,” says Lesch-Huie. “We’ve struck a great balance between climbing access and resource protection, and this has been one of the most successful land manager-climber partnerships I’ve been a part of.”

For more information, visit accessfund.org.

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