New to Coopers Rock climbing? Interested in finding some high quality climbing routes you can top-rope? Maybe get in a few leads? Where do you go? This article by veteran Coopers Rock climber (and Foundation board member) Adam Polinski will get you going with a description of Sunset Wall and The Big Blocks, Upper Rock City, and Rattlesnake Trail. SUNSET WALL and THE BIG BLOCKS (SSW&TBB)
This is a good choice for a first stop if you are looking for roped climbing at Coopers Rock and are new to the area. Between SSW Left and SSW Right, the adjacent Smaller Big Block, and lastly, the Bigger Big Block, there are over 50 routes from 5.2 through 5.12 in one concentrated area. They can all be top-roped. While there are also several lead-able routes, only a handful are well-protected, and this overview doesn’t cover much detail on that. Note, however, that the tops of the two Big Blocks can only be reached by easy fifth-class climbing (details included). If that presents a problem, you still have Sunset Wall Left and Sunset Wall Right, the tops of which can easily be reached by non-technical scrambling, and which feature climbs from 25' to 40' and from 5.5 to 5.12. How to Get There
To get to SSW&TBB, drive 98% of the way from the Coopers Rock I-68 Exit, along the main road, toward the Main Overlook. When you are almost there, the main road takes you through the middle of a very large parking lot the size of a football field. In the near-left corner as you enter it (the southeast corner) is a green kiosk with a roof -- 'The Climber's Kiosk.’ 20' to its right is a path that leads down a few stone stairs and then down and left into the most popular of the rocks. This is Roadside Rocks, and SSW&TBB is part of Roadside Rocks. In your first 100 yards you'll pass through several boulders and cliffs up to 30’ that also feature plenty of fine climbing, especially a crack known as Mister Clean (5.7,30’) . This signature Coopers Rock crack is in a narrow alleyway close to and parallel to the main road, to the left of the trail you are taking to reach the Sunset Wall area; as you face this crack, the river valley is behind you. This crack is convenient to top-rope, and also protects very well and makes a good lead. There are harder face climbs to the right for top-roping. But SSW&TBB are another hundred yards farther along the main path. That path leads you to an opening in front of Sunset Wall Left – one of the best single cliff faces for rock climbing in the entire State Forest. As you face the 35’ – 40’ cliff, which is about 100’ wide, there are some overhangs along the top left edge. There is a left-facing flake near the middle of the face. There is also a chimney between SSW Left and SSW Right. SSW Right, about 60’ wide, is shorter -- about 25' – 30’. The way to the top for both faces is around to the left as you face the cliff -- a non-technical scramble. You'll need plenty of webbing or static line for anchoring -- there are NO bolts here, intentionally. As you survey the face from below, the middle 3rd of SSW Left has 5.5 to 5.8 climbing, farther left is 5.8 to 5.9+, and to the right is 5.9 through 5.11. That middle third is perhaps the most popular top-roping at Coopers Rock State Forest, and includes Central Face Climb (5.5, 35’), and The Layback (5.6+, 35’). There are two routes inside the obvious chimney -- both moderate. Just around to the left of the chimney, a route goes up to a small perch 1/3 up the face. The crux is leaving that ledge – Stop N’ Go (5.9+, 35’). Starting immediately to the right of the chimney, there are routes at 5.12 (the blunt arête with the scar), 5.10, 5.9, and 5.8. The best of these is Copenhagen (5.9, 30’), roughly 12' to the right of the chimney, with two 5.9 cruxes, one near the ground and the other through some pockets at about 2/3rds height. The namesake pocket is in the second crux area. The easiest way up onto the Big Blocks is Access Crack (5.3, 22’), on the downstream/downhill corner of the smaller of the two blocks (the one closer to where you parked). It features stair-step moves up to a secure open-book. Just to its left is the obvious arête Shark’s Fin (5.11-, 24’). The most popular section of the two Big Blocks is on the larger of the two blocks, on the upstream/uphill face. From the top of Access Crack, you have to wade through rhododendron and cross over onto the other, larger block (by a good rappelling tree). The area’s prime characteristic feature is the obvious flake Organic Matter (5.5, 40’), one of the best-protected leads at SSW&TBB. Just a few feet to its left is Super Alloy (5.10 c/d, 40’). A few yards farther left of Organic Matter, right up the center of the face, is one of Coopers Rock’s signature 5.10 routes -- Titanium Digit (5.10 a/b; 40’). To the right of the Organic Matter flake is a wandering face climb -- Full Moon Afternoon (5.6, 40’), which ascends crescent-shaped features. When standing below the obvious Organic Matter flake, to your right by 30’ is a short, diagonal finger crack that leads up to a distinct alcove and roof. This is a wonderful route for its grade, and lead-able too – Zig Zag Wanderer (5.7+; 40’). If you are familiar with Seneca Rocks, Zig Zag Wanderer is ‘the West Pole of Coopers Rock.’ RATTLESNAKE TRAIL
Looking for more rock? Head back to the large gravel parking lot and continue two hundred yards to the end of the road, to the Concession Stand, in the Overlook Parking Lot. To the left of the Concession Stand is a water fountain. From there, you can see blue blazes for Rattlesnake Trail. Follow those blue blazes to scout out more roped climbing... and some bouldering, right down in Upper Rock City. There is plenty of each within five minutes of the Concession Stand. Rattlesnake Trail soon ducks down and skirts along near the bottom edge of Upper Rock City… the majority of rock is uphill from the blue blazes and can’t be seen from that trail. Only the first five minutes of Rattlesnake Trail is within Upper Rock City. The trail soon leaves Upper Rock City behind and continues on its own, skirting along near the base of an intermittent cliff line on the edge of Cheat Canyon. Numerous climbing possibilities exist right alongside or just uphill from the trail. The tallest rock, and some of the best, is about a mile along the trail to the west -- almost at trail's end -- where the rocks get up to 50'. The rock here is white-to-light-grey in color, and Option Chimney (5.4 – 5.8, 50’) goes up the middle of the tallest stretch of cliff. This route features up to four different starts and at least two finishes across a range of grades, all climbable from one top-rope anchor. As you face the route, there is an obvious roof route just to its left of approximately 5.11. To its right, near the top, is a square-shaped roof. Access to the top of the cliff (which features wonderful views) is a bushwhack scramble 100 yards to the left. Rattlesnake Trail terminates at the Outer Rock City Chalet, a wooden structure that is walled-in on three sides, about 250 yards past this section of cliff.