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Our first trip to Coll’s Cove…sure not to be the last

September 4, 2013

Recently I saw a link to a video of sweet looking boulder problems in southwest Pennsylvania.  We figured that Labor Day weekend was a perfect time to go check them out.

The climbers: Max M. (now aka The General), Bob, Jackie, Esten, Art, Tenni, Max W. and Erica
Max’s new theme song (even though he hates this kind of music): The General

Some of us had previously been to the Ohiopyle area for rafting and hiking, but we had no clue that there were boulders nearby.  It turns out that some local SWPA climbers have been developing Coll’s Cove for about 5 years and are currently working on a guide for the area.  The boulders are on PA State Game Lands, where climbing is legal, but parking has been an issue.  Luckily, the Southwest PA Climber’s Coalition (an Access Fund affiliate) has been working on negotiating a lease for climbers to park in a neighbor’s front lot.  Until this is finalized, climbers can park in that lot for $5 per car.  See the Coll’s Cove Facebook page for details.  Please remember to pay (put $ in the red box) if you go!

Even though conditions were not ideal due to humidity and some rain on our second day, there were still plenty of good sends and a lot of exploring.  Initially we had planned to spend a day or two at Coll’s and then hit up Coopers, but there was way more than enough to keep us occupied in PA for the entire time.  We camped at Tall Oaks, which is still between 20-30 mins. from the boulders but is good for a group.  Warning: the road through the campground is a tad bit rough.  There are other closer campgrounds, but some don’t allow certain types of hydration – now, we can’t have that, right? – or warned us that they are extremely strict about quiet hours and fine people $100 – ouch!  So Tall Oaks seemed like a good spot.

The first day we spent a good amount of time going the wrong way not once, but twice.  Moral of the story: let Esten lead because he notices everything,  But, we eventually found the right section of the Main Area and I saw a boulder that was on a video I had seen.  Hooray!  Both General Max and Esten sent Reallyreally Good (V4) and then went to work on Reallyreally Good Direct (V7),  On the second day, Bob sent the 4 and Max W joined in on working the 7, but then the rain came.  Guess this will be a project for next time.

Esten working Reallyreally Good Variation (V2)

Esten on the Reallyreally Good boulder

Erica, Tenni, and I also did some fun easy slab problems to the left of this boulder – a good warm up.

Tenni sending Unnamed Slab

Tenni sending Unnamed Slab

The next problem we checked out was Croc Hunter (V6), a slopey arete climb that would definitely have been better in less humidity.  A bunch of us made good progress, and Bob got the send on Monday.

Bob sending Croc Hunter (V6)

Bob sending Croc Hunter (V6)

To the left of Croc Hunter was Stingray (V9 sit, V4 stand).  The 4 was actually really hard, and only General Max and Bob sent after working on it a good bit.  Maybe it’s easier in better conditions.  The sit start was pretty wet, so no one tried that.

Esten working Stingray Stand (V4)

Esten working Stingray Stand (V4)

On Monday we also did some good warm ups on the boulder, Bindi the Jungle Girl (V1) and Drunken Bear (V2).

Erica sending Bindi the Jungle Girl (V1)

Erica sending Bindi the Jungle Girl (V1)

On Saturday the guys next went and sent White Lightning (V2) and a bunch of other problems on that boulder while I went on a mission to find a roof problem that  I had seen on a video.  Since the area is not well trafficked, the trails are a little rough.  Combine that with the humidity and the rain on Sunday, and almost every one of us took a tumble.  Unfortunately on Sunday, Tenni hurt her finger saving her head during a slip, but at least she sent White Lightning first!  Worth it.  Erica also sent White Lightning after the rain stopped on Sunday.  Caution: rocks on trail are slippery when wet.  And those who don’t fall get stung by bees, as evidenced by Bob’s crazy bee sting reaction on Saturday.

I finally found the roof problem Like the Dickens (V7) on Saturday, but at first it looked like a big kids problem with a long move.  However, I found an intermediate and worked out some of the beta.  On Sunday, it looked like a good problem to work after it rained since most of the holds were dry under the roof.  But, the mantle at the end was pretty soaked, so I slipped off while standing up on the top out (aka what I do best).  Good thing it was a long weekend so I could send it on Monday.  I was told it was the FFA, so I guess that’s pretty cool.

Jackie sending Like the Dickens (V7)

Jackie sending Like the Dickens (V7)

First thing on Sunday, we went to the Sharp Shooter boulder.  The easy warm ups to the right of the boulder were all wet.  So we went right to Sharp Shooter (V6) and also BB Gun (V3).  Like usual, Wario Max showed up after General Max already figured out the beta for him, and Wario got the only Sharp Shooter send.  He recommends not going directly though a tree at the top like he did.

Max W sending Sharp Shooter (V6)

Max W sending Sharp Shooter (V6)

After Maxica left on Monday, the rest of the us had the good fortune to run into Mike (one of the guidebook authors) and Nikki and got a good tour of the middle section of the Main Area.  Bob, Esten and General Max all sent The Snake (V5) and another V4/5 on the same boulder while I was doing Like the Dickens.  The same three also sent Giving the Finger (V5) after Mike and Nikki showed us how to get there.

Max M sending The Snake (V5)

Max M sending The Snake (V5)

What we learned:

1) If you drive out of the way and over the mountain, there are not one but TWO Dairy Queens.  Oh, and General Max really likes ice cream.

2) People in the area seem to like that D-O-double G.  We went to Nate Dogg’s to pick up beer and Joe Dogg’s for food on the way out – the outdoor seating meant Pepper could join us.

3) Gas stations and markets around there don’t seem to have restrooms.

4) If you want to hang out with hundreds of rattlesnakes, go up to the cliff line.

5) The official drink of Coll’s Cove is a bottle of Yukon Jack with a sweet tea chaser.

We liked the place so much that there may just be a return trip next weekend.  And Art even gave it a mention on the Travel Channel blog.

If you’re interested in checking the place out, like Coll’s Cove on Facebook and get the link to the pre-guide.  The official guide is on its way.  Also, this link has a lot of videos from the area.

Thanks again to Mike and Nikki for the tour!

Here are more of Art’s photos from the trip:

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