I took a trip home recently and was able to experiment with some lead soloing. I spent a long time searching the internet looking for a wren soloist/silent partner for sale, and after a while of looking I was able to find one available on Mountain Project for a good price.I have to say, I understand why companies don’t condone the action and why they’re taken off the market BUT they are still great, safe devices and give people another way to experience climbing. In the past I’ve done some top rope soloing with the Petzl micro traxion and theirs always been something appealing to me about lead soloing that I’ve wanted to try. Finally having the time and opportunity, it’s something I’m very appreciative of. On this trip around the country, it’s priority to me to find other climbers and partners in the area to set routes with, but I understand that won’t always be an option. I’ve climbed by myself a lot in the past, whether it be bouldering or routes and I’m comfortable determining my own abilities. Reading the rock, the route, gear placement, safety, and whether my mental game is up for a challenge. I really like to stick to easier stuff when it comes to any type of soloing. It’s more about the mental part for me than it is the grade of the climb. Safety is my main concern and I would never try something that made me feel unsure.
When I visited home it was mainly for a wedding and jury duty (yay). The last day I was there I took off to the mountains of Mocanaqua and did a little excursion of my own. This area is one I’ve always been fond of. I was first turned onto it by my old partner when we would go bouldering at Squirrel Rock (area name). Since then I’ve learned it has about a handful of areas spread throughout including the Main Wall that I was at, Paradise Rock, The Library, and the Boulder Garden. There’s many more areas that have not been published or recently talked about. Many first accents are still available. I’ve read up on a lot of history in some of these areas, Main wall and the boulder garden the most. Squirrel Rock is an area I’ve visited the most, has great high ball problems and a few sport routes. But the Boulder Garden and Main wall have been a huge attraction to me since then. The Boulder Garden has two main areas with many problems ranging from from V0- to V9. I know it doesn’t have the highest ratings but it is quality rock with many problems including highballs, roofs, overhanging, dynamic, static, and campus. The sad part is that every area (at least since I’ve been visiting) is so overgrown that the areas are hard to access and even harder to just find. I’ve spent days in these woods and off trail trying to find each area, and I still haven’t 100% succeeded. The area had a main driving trail through the woods, you can see theirs been traffic in the past. Most of the land is owned by Earth Conservatory and you can tell they’ve tried to clean it up. There’s bags and bags of garbage lined up on the trail along with a lot of random items like broken TV’s, couches, toy horses, and so on. I don’t know where it comes from but it’s been sitting around for a while so each time I visit I take a bag out with me. In the future when I return permanently to Pennsylvania I would like to spend some time here camping and cleaning up the area to make is accessible again. I feel like it has been neglected and isn’t a destination for climbers anymore when it should be. If you follow the main trail far enough up a hill and to the left, you will come to a trail leading to the right that will take you to a campsite. Its legal for you to stay here one night without a permit. I set up camp here for the night because the trail also provides easy access to the Main wall.
The Main Wall gets a little more traffic than the Boulder Garden, at least what I can see from the internet. But out of all the times I’ve visited I’ve never ran into other climbers or even people hiking. Usually theirs also some type of social media connected to often traveled areas, but for this area there is none. Which is why I believe it doesn’t get climbed that much anymore. The Rock is truly beautiful, it has sport, trad, top rope, and boulder problems. Mostly ranging from 5.4 to 5.13a and up to 80 feet. The views are beautiful reminding me of the Gunks. Rob Holzman does a great job documenting each route in his Pennsylvania guide book.
When I set out for my last day in PA I was by myself and planned to just get on easy routes to test out my wren soloist. When I arrived, it was the first time I had ever seen another climber in the area. Coincidentally he was top rope soloing; also the first time I had seen another soloist. He was a young guy, it was nice and kind of eye opening to see another soloist in action, let alone in an area I’m so fond of and had never seen anyone else climb. We were both from Pennsylvania but currently just back in the state visiting briefly. He was just packing up his gear as I was setting up my anchors. I must have spent about 45 minutes checking my anchor points, knots, gear, and clearing my head before I finally started climbing. My first climb was on a 5.6 that I’ve free soloed in the past so I was comfortable with it. I wont lie though, I was nervous as hell. Testing out a new device and going up with all my trad gear, making placements, making sure the rope was right; it was different than before and my mind was racing. Not to mention it was hotttt. I had set up my anchor with 3 trees on the ground using a Figure 9 knot. Also known as Figure 8 with 2 tails. My chest harness is created from a 48″ sling keeping my soloist in the upward position so the rope feeds appropriately. I used mostly cams and some stoppers (most people aren’t fond of) because I enjoy them.
Aaron Stock does great job with his tutorials on lead soloing with a wren soloist. I suggest anyone interested to study them. You can find the first one posted on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhAww0CI-Gw
Needless to say, after finishing my route I felt proud and accomplished. It’s something I look forward to continue practicing and becoming more comfortable with. It’s a technique I see myself using a lot on this trip if I cant find partners in the area and if they’re easy climbs available.