Monday, July 23, 2007

Another Weekend Blown - But Good Scouting Results

Damn! This weekend provided near perfect conditions for getting outside in general, but I haven't climbed in about a week-and-a-half because of this stupid contusion on my thumb. I keep telling myself that I'm just resting up so that I can hit the Gunks this weekend, but I'm not sure how well I'm going to do. The thumb feels fine and fairly well-rested, but earlier today I walked out of my work area and went to open a latched door handle and felt a sharp pain shoot up my thumb. The odd part is that the contusion is on the outer part of the thumb and I pressed down on the latch with the bottom part of my thumb. Does that mean I have more wrong than initially thought? Here's hoping the answer is "no".

I still made it outside this weekend, however. I wanted to get out and explore / scout a local climbing area that I had not been to before. It is called Black and White Rocks and is in the Fellsway park just north of Boston. I had a very nice hike checking the different places out. It was warm, sunny and I saw nearly no one else on the trails. I like solitude sometimes. It really helps to clear my mind of the stresses I've been dealing with lately. I also liked that I was able to see a crag first before actually climbing it. I found most of the crags in this area, and was able to find most of the routes as well. Next time I go, I'll know what to do and where to go. That way I'll save from setting up and will actually get to climb.

Below is what I wrote up on my climbing group -

These crags are a mixed bag of good climbing, poor belay positioning and ease /
difficulty in finding. This area is not made for climbers as, say Crow Hill or
Rumney are, but there are some worthy climbs off the East Fellsway road that are
worth the afternoon jaunt if one gets a chance.

You may be able to set topropes on some of the crags (such as crags 1-4), but
others will require trad lead gear (crag 2, 3 and 6 most likely). I would
consider crags 2, 3 and 4 as highball boulders more than anything.

There are several crags, some of which I have not been able to find, but the ones
I was able to find were a mix of excellent easy to moderate routes with a few,
difficult-to-find harder routes. I'm only going to break down the crags that I
have visited. For more information, consult the Boston Rocks guide book. However,
I believe my directions for finding the crags are a bit easier that what the
book offers.

There is also a substantial amount of bouldering in the area. Just walk along
the main paths and keep an eye out for small outcrops. I'm sure you'll find
something, somewhere.


The easiest way to all the crags is to take exit 32 off I-93 and head on 60
East. Drive about 1 mile until you get to Fellsway East, then take a left. By
the way, you'll come to Fellsway West first, and it will not have a sign saying
that it is Fellsway West. Fellsway East is a bit down the road from Fellsway
West, and it has a sign, albeit a small one. Just in case you're wondering, no,
Fellsway West is not just the westbound side of a road. Both Fellsway East and
Fellsway West are roads with traffic going in both directions. The difference
is that Fellsway East is literally east of Fellsway West.

In any case, follow Fellsway East for about two miles. You'll pass a cemetary
on the left and will go uphill. The road will change from two lanes on either
side to one lane on either side. Soon after, there will be a parking lot on the
left. Just down the road from gates #52 and #53. Park there and walk back up
the road whence you came and cross the street toward gate #52. It will be
directly across from Gate #53.

The Rock Circuit Trail goes directly up to the right of the gate (the trail is
marked with white marks on trees and / or rocks). This is the easiest way to
get to all crags. It may not be the fastest way to get to some of the crags,
but it is the easiest. If you follow this path, eventually you will come to
a "fire road" (more of an overgrown grassy path). Take a left. A minute or so
down the road and you will find, if you are looking, on the right, a sign
facing in the opposite direction that says Pinnacle Rock. Take this path to
Crag 1. You may also see before taking a left on the fire road a sign for the
Pinnacle Path to the right. Don't take this.

CRAGS 1-5:

I visited crags 1-4 because they were very easy to find; so much so that upon
seeing them I did not actually believe I had found them. There is one trail
that is called the Rock Circuit Trail that pretty much leads you to crags 1-5,
with Crags 5 and 54 (don't ask) a bit off the trail. As I noted, Crag 1 is on
the Pinnacle Rock trail off the Rock Circuit Trail.

Crag 1 is probably the best of all the crags that I saw. There are clear lines
all over the face. It rises about 40 feet with easy climbs to the left and
harder climbs on the right (near the small roof at the bottom). It is probably
toprope ready, but I'd be prepared to have to lead the routes. There is decent
protection on most routes.

Crags 2-4 are easily found by heading back out the Pinnacle Rock path back
towardthe fire road. Once at the fire road, across the way will be the
continuation of the Rock Circuit Road. Follow this, and when you get to the top
of a small hill, that will be the top of Crag 2. Keep on the path and, at the
bottom of that small hill you'll have two choices: keep following the white
markings up the sloped rock face in front, or head on the fire road to the
right. If you head to the right, you'll see the Crag 2 on your right. Also, if
you follow a hidden path a bit to the right from there you'll find some more
climbs, but these don't appear to be apart of the crags listed, so I would
avoid them unless you find out that these are, in fact, Crag 2. I don't think
this is very toprope friendly.

After taking a right on the fire road, and keeping Crag 2 to your right, there
is another path that is straight ahead, that will lead you to Crag 4. This may
have toprope options.

If, instead of going right to Crag 2 or straight to Crag 4, you take a left,
that will lead you to Crag 3. Oddly, if you don't take a right onto the fire
road from the top of Crag 2, and go up the slab directly in front (following
the white paint marks on the rock), this will lead you to the top of Crag 3.
When coming back down the other side of Crag 3, you'll intersect with the left
hand turn off the fire road had you taken a right at the fire road instead
(confused yet?).

All of these crags are very easily found, however, as they are all pretty much
in the same area. All crags also appear to be pretty ease face or slab climbs
of about 20-30 feet in height. I thought Crag 4 offered the best climbing of
the three.

For access to Crags 5 and 54, you'll have to consult Boston Rocks. I was too
dehydrated to search for them, and I had spent a considerable amount of time
searching for Crag 6, which, in the end, I managed to find (except for the
curious fixed pin that Boston Rocks talks about. It may have been removed).

Crag 6 can be reached one of two ways. The first is off Goodyear Avenue, as
Boston Rocks suggests. This is a very easy way to approach the crag, but I
think the drive to Goodyear Ave may be difficult for those who don't know
Malden that well. Also, the parking there is not really set aside for the
Fellsway. It is more residential, and parking is sparce.

The other way to reach Crag 6 is to actually continue on the Rock Circuit Trail.
It is about 25-30 minutes from the parking lot used to access crags 1-5. You
will need to have some decent eyes to follow this trail. If you are lucky,
you'll see all the white markings. If not, you'll get lost as I did. Still, if
you follow the white markings, Crag 6 is not that hard to find. At some point,
you'll come to two hills that will offer views of the town below (I'm not sure
if this is Melrose or Malden). Each hill will essentially be bald rock and both
hills will offer a view of what appears to be a school with athletic fields
attached. On top of the first hill, the fields will only be partially visible,
but you will feel as if you are on top of a large crag. Even when you walk to
the edge, you'll think that you've found Crag 6. Alas, you are not there yet.
These cliffs that you see are more high-ball bouldering than anything else.

Continue on the path until you come to another fire road. Take a brief left and
you'll see the Rock Circuit Trail continue up the hill a bit on the right.
Follow this trail up to the left to the top of the other bald rock area. Here,
you'll have a much better view of the athletic fields as well as a residential
area (probably the neighborhood near Goodyear Ave). This is the top of Crag 6.

To get to Crag 6, follow the white marks back down the other side of the top of
the hill. Again, I can't stress enough that the white marks go to the left of
the top of the hill, not the right. If you go to the right, you'll find the
crag eventually, but it won't be nearly as obvious or easy.

You'll walk downhill a slight ways until you get to a point where there is a
sort of rock step just before where the path levels off and becomes a dirt
path. Immediately after that step, look to your right and you'll see a vague
path that leads into a small clearing. Walk only about 20 feet into the
clearing and look for a path that somewhat hugs the rocks to the right. Don't
follow the path that goes downhill, as this will lead you away from the crag.
Once you follow the path, you'll see the bottom of the crag very easily. At the
end of this small trail, you should easily find the routes that are listed on
the left of the crag in Boston Rocks.

The great thing about Crag 6? It is about 80 feet tall. Another great thing
about it? At the top of the crag looking down you'll say, "wow, this looks like
great rock!" The bad thing about it? At the bottom you'll look up into the
various trees and ask "where did all that great climbing I saw at the top go?"
From the bottom, Crag 6 doesn't look like much. But there is substantial
climbing above where you can see.

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