Rock Climbing Pennsylvania: Top Roping High Rocks, Ralph Stover State Park

High Rocks State Park is a relatively popular climbing area an hour north of Philadelphia near Ralph Stover State Park. I visited High Rocks for the first time in August, and was so excited to find a new climbing area full of opportunities. High Rocks boasts cliffs ranging from 40 to 100 feet high (some two pitch climbs) overlooking a beautiful gorge and plenty of routes for climbers of all skill levels.

The area is so popular because of the ease of setting topropes; a loop trail connects the top of the cliffs to the bottom with bolts and trees as solid anchor spots. It also means great photo opportunities! Taking shots from above is significantly better (and more flattering) than the obligatory butt shots. There are a handful of well protected mid-grade trad routes and plenty of hard, overhanging toprope routes for expert climbers. Our guidebook has over 100 named routes in it - enough to keep anyone busy for a while.
INSIDER TIP - After spending the day at High Rocks, take E. Dark Hollow Road to Route 32 and cross a narrow steel deck bridge over the Delaware into Frenchtown, NJ for drinks and eats. My favorite is The Bridge Cafe, right on the water, and be sure to try the spinach cakes. If they're closed, Galasso's Pizzeria is a great option too. Don't get the pizza, everything else they make is too good to waste dinner on pizza!

On this trip to High Rocks, Dan and I met up with friends Justin, Kristin and Patrick for a day of hard toproping. The sun beats down on the cliffs all day, and it seemed the end of another oppressively hot southeastern Pennsylvania summer was in sight this weekend. The weather was perfect. After descending from the parking lot on Tory Road to the base of the cliffs, we encountered a typical scene along the Practice Face - a giant group of new climbers receiving group instruction. It's generally accepted that climbing in the Practice Face (most climbs rated in the 5.2-5.6 range) on the weekends isn't an option, as guided groups seem to take over. But there's plenty of climbing to go around!

Our group set up three topropes, one each on Obnoxious Partner, Phone Booth, and Far Face. We shared our ropes with other climbers throughout the day, as we'd taken over three fantastic, classic walls. Dan started out on Phone Booth (5.10a) after receiving beta from a pair of guys who'd run up and down it for training. They were more than glad to help us with route-finding. Patrick had a great go at it afterward, and I got on it later in the day with Patrick at the belay. It's a strenuous, sustained, burly climb, and I made it halfway up before popping off and taking a giant swing, whizzing past a tree. Patrick said what he liked most about the route was how falling on TR felt like falling on lead with the giant swing.

Dan and Kristen also managed ascents of Obnoxious Partner (5.8+ that feels like a 5.10), a classic High Rocks route with great hand jams. I spent a good bit of climbing time on the Far Face linking Far Face (5.7) and Far Face Direct (5.8+). Face climbing felt like the most fun, which I'm sure has something to do with the first item on this list, and those routes were the most enjoyable of the day for me. They were relatively straightforward, and if you get bored on Far Face, there are places for dynos and all sorts of dynamic fun as Patrick and Dan found out.

On my first trip to High Rocks in August, Dan and I spent our day on Chain Reaction Buttress. I really enjoyed No Self Control (5.6) and linking it with Games Without Frontiers (5.9+). Dan worked out some variation of Beautiful Loser (5.10a). All three were great climbs. I'll definitely add Obnoxious Partner and Phone Booth, both High Rocks classics, on to my list of projects. The list seems to be growing...

Until next time, climb on, and Happy Send-tember! Stay tuned for my review of the Petzl Elia Women's Climbing Helmet, and a big thanks to Pemba Serves for the opportunity to test it out!

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