Elevation: 100 ft
GPS: 39.264, -76.791 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Dominic Albanese on Jul 26, 2009 with updates from peterkd5bwt and 1 other
Admins: Frances Fierst
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Access Issue: Use discrestion while on the approach via the tracks (CSX property) Details


Friction wall is an old quarry that has been out of operation for some time. Friction wall itself lies on park property and is open for climbing. The approach has changed in the last few years and the old approach along the tracks from Ellicott City has been replaced by an approach from above. See map below for more details.

Despite the approach complication Friction has some great climbs. From the perfect slab of The Truth, to the 5.12 Drilled Pockets, to practice nailing, this forgotten relic finds a way to keep on giving.

While this area has been bolted in the past, use discretion and find a local that can help sort through the history of the area to make sure that a new route would indeed be new. Also a few routes here (on the Sport Wall) were "created" via chipping and drilled pockets. While this quarry is essentially man-made the current ethic is to leave the existing routes but to refrain from the creation of new ones.

The top of the cliff is subject to extreme erosion, and reaching the top anchors is best done by rapping off a tree. The severe rainstorm of 2016 that effected the area may have further destabilized the top, in particular a block has come off above and to the left of the main slab. Use your best judgement and consider evaluating the condition of the top-outs from above before climbing below.

A video showing some of the aid in the back right corner can be found here

Getting There

Historically, climbers have accessed Friction Wall by walking down the railroad tracks from Ellicott City which is, in fact, trespassing on CSX property. Since the train derailment in 2011 that killed two people, CSX has stepped up enforcement and MAC has urged climbers to stay off the tracks. Some climbers have been parking across from Sheppard Pratt on the shoulder of College Ave. In Google Maps you can see the green property of the park make note of the narrow strip of park land that touches College Ave.

Another possibility is at a new development that just went in off College Ave, at Old Leaf Ct and taking the first right on Red Stag Ct brings you to a dead end about 50 feet from the park boundary. At this time it is unclear if parking on the shoulder of the road and entering the park will be permitted however it may become an ideal access point. It may be more appropriate not to park at the very end of the street blocking the turnaround. Maintaining access is all about considering how your presence and actions affects others, and this also includes your safety on any property including the State park. Pleases let MAC know if you encounter any issues with these approaches.

Friction Wall Approach

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Classic Climbing Routes at Friction Wall

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
The Truth
Trad, TR
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Drilled Pockets
Sport, TR
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Truth
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad, TR
Drilled Pockets
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport, TR
More Classic Climbs in Friction Wall »

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There was a fatal train accident along the tracks in this area and hiking the tracks is very likely to result in an arrest. The area can be accessed from above;
from the train station downtown drive up St. Paul St; turn left on College Ave. There is a new subdivision on the left. Turn on Old Leaf Ct and then right on Old Stag Ct. There is guard rail at the end. The woods on the other side of the railing is state park. Proceed directly down hill and you should find the top of the quarry. Bring a wide brush to clean off the sand on most climbs Jan 26, 2016
Ellicott City, MD
Mjf   Ellicott City, MD
Since the flooding in Ellicott City, roughly 5 trees have fallen over the main part of the crag. It blocks the beginning section to hop onto the main slab, as well as the ground where we usually stand to belay. Bolder people might not mind climbing around and over trees, but when we went we did not want to test it. Sep 6, 2016
John Kelbel
Eldersburg, Maryland
John Kelbel   Eldersburg, Maryland
Update 11/20/2016 The Trees are Clear thanks to the help from the Patapsco State Park. The crag is open but beware of the new erosion at the top of the buttress.

Old post 9/21/2106 Mid Atlantic Climbers and John Kelbel are working with the Patapsco State Park to clear the fallen trees from the rock face. It just takes time as the park has limited resources and other more pressing issues to deal with since the flash flood. Some of the trees hanging on the cliff face are a potential hazard to anyone climbing on the slab. We are asking that climbers do not climb at friction wall for the time being. This self regulating act show the Park that we are a responsible user group, which goes along way to preserving access.
For more info midatlanticclimbers.org/new… Sep 21, 2016
John Kelbel
Eldersburg, Maryland
John Kelbel   Eldersburg, Maryland
Rock fall at Friction Wall - 12/4/2016
I've notice today there was some significant rockfall off the buttress near the top of the slab. The rock slid down the slab scaring it and appears to have hit the second bolt as the hanger is rotated sideways. It's still hard to tell the stability of the remaining rock on the buttress so climb at your own discretion, for myself I'll be avoiding the slab for at least a few months as time will tell how stable the remaining rock is. Also check out that second bolt before trusting it. Dec 5, 2016
Today after climbing at Friction I was able to talk to a owner of a house on Red Stag Court and asked him about parking there. He said that he was ok with the occasional parking but preferred that it be done in the turn around area (so as to be out of the way) and that as long as it wasn't becoming a super crowded area he had no issue. That being said he did tell us new people would be moving in and that he couldn't speak for them but if he got the chance he would mention this parking to them.

We asked that if anyone that moved in had serious issue with parking there that a note be left on the car asking so that we (as climbers) no longer park there, rather than calling any towtruck/police. He seemed 100% on board with occasional parking as long as it was not becoming lots of cars. If driving multiple cars, please meet at a free public lot in Ellicott City and only park one car on Red Stag Court.

Please park at the turn around spot at the end of the road and if you get a note on your car please share with all of us. There is no 100% guarantee of no issues while parking on Red Stag but it seems like its likely this will be a parking option Dec 10, 2016
Patrick Sweeney
Boston, MA Chamonix, FR
Patrick Sweeney   Boston, MA Chamonix, FR
Time for some locals to give this crag a day of love. It was dirty - the crag was dirty and the route were really dusty. It's Fourth of July weekend and I was the only one there, so maybe it's just not a popular sport anymore. The 5.10 slab had my feet screaming! Good friction climbing and a great route to improve your slab climbing. Jul 3, 2017
I parked in the subdivision to climb here in August and it worked great. Nov 25, 2017