Rock Climbing at Carderock, Maryland – DC’s Closest Crag

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After a few years of climbing here in DC, I finally made it out to climb at Carderock on the Fourth of July. It’s funny because it is pretty much the closest outdoor climbing crag to DC, yet I had never been!

Our local climbing club, the Potomac Mountain Club (PATC-MS) holds weekly climbs at Carderock, though with my work schedule and lack of a vehicle, I had never been able to make it; and generally on the weekends I like to get a little further afield to maximize my time spent outdoors.

But with the day off from work for the Fourth of July holiday I was finally able to make it out to one of the club’s “Weekly Wednesdays at Carderock”.

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Climbing at Carderock

Carderock is a small crag in Maryland right next to the Potomac River within the C&O National Historic Park. Top-roping is the primary focus, as the rock is super slick and of questionable quality for gear placements.

The approach is like two minutes and there are numerous trees available above for easy top rope anchor construction if you have a long length of static cord. The climbs are generally 30-40 feet in length and offer a variety of climbing, including slabs and a few cracks as well, and there is also easy walk down access to the base of the climbs.

I was only there until about noon or so as the weather became pretty unbearable after the sun started to come around, but I was able to hop on four or so routes during that time. If I had to characterize the climbing in just two words it would be crazy slippery

All the rock has been highly polished over many, many decades of climbing, and the little quartzite clusters don’t offer much traction whatsoever! I hopped on Jan’s Face and Herbie’s Horror for some slab-happy fun…

Herbie’s was particularly ridiculous, and I ended up cheating by climbing the adjacent chimney to get through the base of the climb. I can certainly see how climbing at Carderock would help your footwork though. Perhaps spring and fall offer better conditions over the hot and humid summer months here in the Mid-Atlantic…

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All in all, it’s a decent local crag that offers a quick and easy climbing opportunity in the DC-area (if you have a car), and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to climb there.

I wouldn’t mind going back at some point to try my hand on some of the crack climbs there. If you can, be sure to try and join the Potomac Mountain Club’s Weekly Wednesdays as it offers a great opportunity to hop on the many different ropes set up all over the crag and to meet other area climbers.

Resources for Climbing at Carderock

You can find some decent route beta from Mountain Project and PATC-MS also has a book available on Climbing Carderock.

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Rock Climbing at Carderock, Maryland - DC's Closest Crag trip-reports, rock-climbing


Head Writer and Adventurer at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West, and then across all of Central America and South America. When he isn't on the move, you can find him living as an expat in Colombia. He is also the author of the best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget that will help you travel more for less. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

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