My friend, Jen, gets her gear in order for a lead climb at Safe Harbor crag in Lancaster County. Safe Harbor is some of the only pitched climbing in central Pennsylvania. By Stephanie Reighart
There’s not a great many places to climb pitched rock outside in central Pennsylvania. There are lots of boulder fields to explore, but outside of the cliffs along the Susquehanna, rock that is at least one pitch (aka requires a rope for safety) is limited.
One great resource is just across the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. The crag is called Safe Harbor. The drag has a long and storied history.
Last November the crag opened after 15 years. To make sure everything was safe, volunteers, lead by Eric Hörst, cleaned the rock of plants that had grown over the holds, replaced the permanent bolts and anchors and started publicizing the newly-regained access.
On a recent Sunday morning with a sunny forecast, my friend Meghan and I drove over to visit Safe Harbor. The crag was man-made from blasting to build a train passage nearly one hundred years ago. As a result, the exposed rock is a formation called slab.
At the very top you can see Jen after she finished her lead climb at Safe Harbor crag. By Stephanie Reighart
Slabs are rock faces that are angled at less than 90 degrees with very small hand and foot holds, if any. Keeping your weight on your feet is essential. (By contrast, overhanging climbing involves larger holds, but the wall leans toward the climber at an angle over 90 degrees.)
When Meghan and I arrived, we were alone. The crag faces west and is completely exposed with no tree cover. In the summer, it bakes in the afternoons, but in the fall and winter, sunny days are pleasant. I climbed in January this year and the mild winter weather by the wall had me down to short sleeves.
The first pitch was still in the shade and my toes were white after the climb, but after that things warmed up nicely.
We climbed four pitches in three hours; a leisurely clip.
My friend, Jen, preps for a slab climb at Safe Harbor on a sunny, January day. By Stephanie Reighart