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Seneca Rocks - 2nd week in April

Original Post
Clare Angelora · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 30

My husband and I have a week off in April. Our home crag is the Gunks, but we're interested in going to Seneca Rocks for a few days on our way down to Linville Gorge. We lead up to 5.10 (Gunks rating) but are looking for easy-moderate multi pitch routes.  Some routes that have caught our eye are: Le Gourmet, Green Wall, Thais and Pleasant Overhangs.  With that said we have some questions.

Can we get by with just using the mountain project app as a guide or is it necessary to buy a book? If not, which book is recommended?

Are the rappel stations easy to locate?

Will one 70m rope be enough or should we bring a 60m also?

We plan on calling the local climbing shop in advance but any information from the forum would be much appreciated.


anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

You can find most of the information you are looking for in the Seneca Rocks area here on MP:

Read through all of the description and the comments for good information.

Just like any other crag, not every climb is posted on MP. So get the guide book if you want more comprehensive climb listings. That being said I think using MP in conjunction with the guide book makes sense. The guide is very bare bones information for the climbs which is not atypical. But I find the pictures, gear recommendations and comments on MP for each climb can be really helpful for identifying the climb, which direction it goes, what and where the anchor is, and judging whether it is a worth doing and in your range of ability as the ratings are harder for the grade than most areas much like the Gunks. What the link above doesn't tell you is where to buy the guide online if you want to study it ahead of time which I highly recommend before you leave for your trip.

Edit: Yes, the rappel anchors are easy to find. I did not have any problems in that regard. Although see my comment in the first link about what you have to do to get to some of them. Also be mentally prepared that some of your anchors will be natural formations that you have to sling. 

Luke Lindeman · · Lancaster, PA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

The Mountain Project App will get you all of what you need to know for classic routes such as the ones you listed. They'll be easy to find and very well documented. You should also stop in at the Gendarme and talk with those guys and girls. They'll tell you exactly what you need to know and give you up-to-date advice on conditions.

Rap stations are established and pretty easy to find. There will likely also be other folks there who will be able to direct you to them. Keep in mind, like the Gunks, some rap stations are strictly for rapping. Don't use them as an anchor and you'll be in much better shape. Two 60m ropes gets you to the bottom from most rap stations if you're planning on hitting the summit. A single 70m won't do it, so be careful not to rap past any midway stations.

Green Wall and Pleasant O are two of my favorite routes at Seneca. I'd say Pleasant O is a bit more adventurous and spicy for the 5.7 grade. Green Wall is straight forward, but exposed and exciting. Do both! If you've got some time to kill and want some good single pitch stuff, do Ye Gods and Little Fishes (5.8+) on the South End. Super fun dihedral climb. It's also right next to Candy Corner which is a classic 5.6.

Have fun!

ZABain · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 0

My partner and I just got back from Seneca last week. The above comments cover everything well, but I might add many of the routes top out a couple dozen yards from the rappel or descent trails; so you'll have some very exciting scrambling and traversing to get to anchors. We chose to do a route that topped at a rappel station so we could check out situation at the top and see how comfortable we'd be with the scrambling and down-climbing at the summit.

Last comment, while I hesitate to call anything sandbagged, Seneca felt sandbagged; even compared to Gunks. Also, felt the protections ratings were a bit generous, but not ridiculous. This could also be because I hadn't climbed on gear since October, though!   

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
ZABain wrote:

Also, felt the protections ratings were a bit generous, but not ridiculous. This could also be because I hadn't climbed on gear since October, though!   

I agree with you. The PG rated routes I didn't feel comfortable climbing as the protection was a lot more sparse than I'm used to for climbs of that rating. I opted to do Front C instead of the second pitch of Le Gourmet and backed off of Ecstasy Junior because of this. 


One thing I forgot to mention is that the guide book lists out all of the rappel routes and descents for each area of Seneca Rocks in detail which is really useful. I don't believe MP gives this information. 

Mark Thesing · · Central Indiana · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 60

You can get by with a single 60m rope but may need to do multiple raps to get to the ground. If you want a good route to get you up to Luncheon Ledge where you can walk to the routes you mentioned above then hop on Ecstasy. One of Seneca's classic 5.7 and one of the easiest approaches.

Norm Rasmussen · · North Jersey · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 868

Gunks is usually touted as one of the most sandbagged places in the country. And people at the Gunks always complain about the stair master. I find the ratings at Seneca stiffer and the stairmaster twice as long. 

Green Wall is one of my favorite Seneca climbs. Definitely get on it. I was also told, and also found this was the case, that you don't always end up dropping down to where you lifted off in Seneca. Bring a pack to carry around. 

First time I was there I was very confused as to the layout, which climb started from which section, etc. Ask a lot of questions, you'll be better off. Between a book and MP, it didn't make things easier. But perhaps that's my less than adequate reading skills. 

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 793

I agree with what Norm said about Seneca's grades and its stairmaster compared to those at the Gunks. 

If you don't mind doing up to three raps instead of 1-2 to get to the ground, a single 60m rope should be just fine.

If you're looking to do only the classics, MP should suffice. But as others have pointed out the Barnes book has some nice photos of where the rap stations are. Alternatively, you could simply ask around when you top out. The Falcon Guide on VA/WV/MD by Horst is also adequate if you're just hitting the classics.  

Echoing Norm again, I recommend racking up at the car so that you don't have to leave anything at the base of each climb, since you may well not return to the base of the route you just climbed before heading on to the next climb. Bring plenty of water for the whole day. 

Clare, the classics you mentioned are all great routes, but they are all concentrated on the west face of the south peak. Admittedly, that's where the highest concentration of moderate classics are located. But if you're looking to stay warm in the morning, or stay cool in the afternoon, you should also have a few routes picked out on the east faces (again, more options on the east face of south peak than north peak). Soler (5.7+) is my favorite at the grade in Seneca -- pitch 1 has a daunting off-width section above a ledge with bad fall consequences (bring a big bro if you have one), and pitch 2 is simply amazing. I also recommend Dirty Old Man, Conn's East, and Alcoa on South Peak East Face. There's also Gunsight to South Peak, which is worth doing at least once for the exposure regardless of whether you climb 5.3 or 5.13.

To avoid going up the stairmasters on the west side (or the steep hike on the east side), popular options include the ones mentioned above -- Ecstacy, Candy Corner, Ye Gods -- as well as Ecstacy Junior just around the SW corner and Skyline Traverse just around the SE corner. If you head up Candy Corner, Ye Gods, or Skyline, it's worth checking out Bee Sting Corner (accessed via Kauffman Cardon) for a sustained pitch in a corner that will have your calves burning. 

If it gets too sunny/hot or crowded, check out Climbin Punishment (5.8) on the south pillar, which is north facing and therefore mostly stays in the shade. If it's sunny but cold, check out Triple S+ (probably a 9 at the Gunks) in the afternoon.

SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 252

I'm no Seneca expert, but I'm a Gunks regular who has spent three days climbing at Seneca. I'd just add this:

1. The climbing at Seneca is often steeper than the Gunks. The rock, however, feels similar in texture to the Gunks conglomerate. So I felt very comfy climbing at Seneca, but the routes felt more sustained to me, which may explain why some people think of Seneca as even stiffer than the Gunks.

2. There are a lot of beautiful climbs at Seneca in the 5.7 & 5.8 range, and if you lead 5.10 at the Gunks you should have a lot of fun on them! 

3. The Mountain Project info is as complete or better than the guidebook, generally speaking.

4. A single rope will get you down, but if you plan to do Pleasant Overhangs or Green Wall (which both top out at the same spot), there is a very convenient double rope rap right where they reach the summit. Just one double-rope rap to the ground. If you are using a single rope (as I did), there is a slightly complicated scramble over the top of the formation and down to a tree, and then you have to do three raps if I recall correctly, down to the bottom of the Old Man's Route. So if you plan on Pleasant Overhangs and/or Green Wall in particular, it might be more convenient to bring two ropes.

Juan Vargas · · Bakersfield, CA · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 656

Most of the climbs on your list are right next to one another. If you are looking at exploring as much as you can, check out the other classics. There is good stuff pretty much in every area. I would usually do the south peak-east face, then drop into the west face (or vice-versa), then go down and do something in the southern pillar. I have led a lot at the Gunks and every time i visited Seneca i had to drop down a grade or two. The climbing and protection is very different, but you can still find a few very well protected climbs in the 5.9 - 5.10 range.

Like others, i'd suggest Ecstasy, Triple S, West Pole, Soler, Climbing Punishemnt, The Burn...And you mentioned you wanted to climb easy moderates, but there are also good climbs in the 5.9-5.10- range that protect well and that are worth doing if you can lead at that grade.

Pepe Climbs Rocks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

I have climbed extensively at both Seneca and the Gunks.  If you can lead 5.10 in the Gunks, you can probably lead 5.10 at Seneca after a day or 2 to get a feel for the place.  

Skip Le Gourmet.  There are WAAAAAY better options, especially if you can climb up to 5.10.

Don't mis Soler, West Pole, Ecstacy ( 5.7) or SSS (5.8+ and similar to Ants Line in style and difficulty)

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Norm Rasmussen wrote:

First time I was there I was very confused as to the layout, which climb started from which section, etc. Ask a lot of questions, you'll be better off. Between a book and MP, it didn't make things easier. But perhaps that's my less than adequate reading skills. 

It's not. My climbing partner and I had the same problem. We spent a half day scouting out the base of the climbs trying to identify them according to the book and still ended up misidentifying the base of a few climbs. We should have made more use of the pictures from MP to help us. Thankfully there was a very friendly guide that we had a few conversations with that pointed out the base of some the climbs and corrected our mistakes. That was useful. Talking to other climbers there at the base can help you orient yourself as to where you are and need to be. 

Chris Rice · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 50

This will start my 33rd year at Seneca.  Don't miss Lichen or Leave It on the back side of the North peak at 5.8.  And Back to the Front at 5.9 is one of my favorites also - it starts off the Old Man's ledge about halfway across.  If it's a weekend there will be guides all over the place - all of them very friendly and open to helping you find your way around.  Enjoy!  Rapping is easy once you figure things out but can involve some interesting scrambles/downclimbs to reach them - just stay on rope and things are easy enough.  With one rope just look for the middle anchors is all - they are there.  Seneca ratings are just that - "Seneca" ratings but fine once you get used to them.   Not mentioned yet is the "exposure" aspect at Seneca - it's different than the Gunks.

Clare Angelora · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 30

Just wanted to close the loop and say that we had a very interesting time at Seneca Rocks.  Everyone's comments about the place were pretty accurate. It's very different from the Gunks in the following ways:

  • hike to the cliff is SO LONG AND STRENUOUS - that stair master was killer
  • climb ratings, IMO, more stiff than the Gunks
  • finding rap stations involve some sketchy Class 4 scrambling and sometimes down climbing at the very top of the fin
  • it wasn't crowded so that was really nice
  • route finding with the mtn project app was somewhat hard.  we did meet a very nice couple in the parking lot that actually escorted us to our climbs on the first day - i can't remember their names but they were from virginia and super nice to us - thank you if you're out there!

Thank you all for the info!

SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 252

Compared to the Gunks approaches, the stairs at Seneca might seem long and strenuous. But I think compared to most other places the approach at Seneca is quite short.

Sounds like a nice trip anyway!

Kyle Hartung · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 70

Agreed.  I've been climbing a lot at Red Rocks and some approaches (many) are 2-4 hours for some of the best climbs.  Seneca to me was a welcome change.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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