By: Char Fetterolf
Though the first known technical climbing at Haycock didn’t start until around 1980, rock climbing in the region had already been occurring for decades. Therefore, it may be useful to examine the neighboring climbing, and the mindset of climbers in the mid-1900s for context on Haycock’s relatively late start. Climbing at the tall cliffs of High Rocks (originally called Boileau Rocks), was already underway in the 1930s. This is 40+ years before the earliest known climbing at Haycock, despite it only being 9 miles to the east. There are records of climbers bouldering across the nation in the mid 1900s, but early bouldering was done almost exclusively as practice for the bigger routes, or when nothing more worthwhile could be found. Local climbers in the mid 1900s simply wouldn’t have bothered with boulders when the entire expanse of the stately cliffs at High Rocks had barely been touched. If they had bothered to climb boulders, they most likely would not have documented them because they were not considered to be of any importance. In my research, I did find that most early Haycock climbers didn’t name or record their ascents.
Fast forward to 1980. Bouldering was widely practiced, but was still extremely rare as an exclusive pursuit in climbing. Yosemite’s Midnight Lightning (V8) was climbed in 1978, and Boreal had just released the first pair of sticky rubber shoes ever — the Fires (pronounced “fee-rays”.) The first climbing gym in the country didn’t open for another seven years. The first commercial crash pad (the Kinnaloa Sketch Pad), wasn’t released for 12 more years (1992.)
In roughly 1980, two groups almost simultaneously ventured into Haycock’s talus fields to explore the climbing potential, unbeknownst to each other at the time.
Tom Moffatt, a local High Rocks developer (known as the “Mayor of High Rocks”), and Tom Stryker hiked up to Top Rock and found their line. On the downhill face of Top Rock, Moffatt scrambled up a short chimney, traversed a few feet under the cap rock, and pulled the roof with a fingerlock at the lip, completing what could be Haycock’s first technical ascent. Now referred to as The Original Route, the duo climbed it free and graded it 5.11.
Around the same time, a local climber named Jeff Sacks heard about the boulders from a friend that was a hiker and backpacker. Sacks grabbed Pete Cody and the two started exploring the boulders. One early ascent that really stands out is an overhanging finger/hand sized crack that was clogged with dirt. Sacks used his nut tool to clean out the crack, and managed an ascent shortly after. He named the crack When The Bleeding Stops because of the painful first finger lock. We now refer to this line as Teddy Bear’s Picnic (V2). At some point Sacks or Cody changed the name. Moffatt also recalls making an early ascent of this crack, but it had already been cleaned by Sacks at the time of his ascent.
Moffatt would return to Haycock several more times, but most of his ascents have been forgotten over the years. One interesting detail that Moffatt recalls is that they would simply throw a rope over the top of a boulder to rig a quick toprope. Toproping was a great way to mitigate the risk at a time when crash pads weren’t yet available. Many early boulder problems were first done as short topropes, even in renowned bouldering areas such as Hueco Tanks. This method prompts consideration of the irony in the rules we play by now, where someone can toprope-solo essentially any highball out there with nothing but a day pack, only to have to return with the squad carrying all the pads to make a legitimate ropeless ascent. All this for the climbing discipline cherished for its “simplicity”.
Cody and Sacks continued with more of a conventional bouldering approach, albeit sans crashpads, since pads weren’t yet available. They used a rope occasionally, but would typically return to claim their ropeless ascent. They employed this tactic on the tall Corridor Cracks below Top Rock. The duo would go on to establish a lot of the original classics in the very early 80s. Some of the earliest lines that are still well known today include the aforementioned Teddy Bear’s Picnic (V2), The Fin (V1), Moss Clod (V2), and Hematoma (V3).
Pete Cody went to college at Temple University in Philadelphia from 1983-1987. During this time Cody would go out daily in the summer months, filling in the gaps on old boulders, but also adding tons of new problems. Everything needed a traverse as well. Similar to Herb and Jan Conn’s approach to Needles, SD development, in which they would attempt to summit every spire, Cody would attempt to climb a problem on every boulder he saw, even if it was insignificant. It’s mind-boggling to consider how much he climbed during this time, and how much of it has been forgotten about.
Cody also comments on how difficult it was to navigate the talus at Haycock, a sentiment that has been echoed by many over the years. Cody recalls finding a good boulder and then losing it again for the remainder of the season. Bear in mind that this was a time before trails or GPS. Other climbers at this time would use a compass to navigate between certain boulders. One day, Cody stumbled upon the Caves area for the first time. In his own words, “I remember being stunned by this, like I had just discovered paradise or landed on the shores of a new continent.” Cody is indeed responsible for discovering most of the bouldering potential at Haycock, and likely has more firsts there than anyone else.
Mark Ronca showed up on the scene in the late 80s as a student at Palisades High School, just two miles to the north. He barely made it through school because he would spend so much of his time at the boulders. Ronca comments that in those days climbers weren’t really claiming first ascents of boulders. At that point there were several people all climbing independent of each other, and it was hard to track activity. Mark created Ronca’s Traverse–a mountain-wide challenge where he would complete a V5 circuit that covered the Top Rock area, Hangar 18, and North Mountain. This was an interesting precursor to the circuits climbers are completing today, minus all the convenient trails. One stop on Ronca’s Traverse was a boulder that Mark does take first-ascent credit for, and a name that most will recognize–Little Fluffy
Clouds. While the history of Haycock climbing is predominantly bouldering as we know it today, there was more rope climbing taking place in the 80s and early 90s, including some interesting aid ascents. A bashie head still resides in the face of The Hop. Mark Ronca did a right-to-left aid traverse under the cap of Top Rock. He actually dropped in from above (presumably near Iron Lion), and traversed the entire downhill face. Nancy and Greg Stoner visited regularly in the 90s and did short leads on many of the cracks. They commented on how good the rock is for training–there aren’t other local areas where one can practice friction and crack climbing. The interest in Haycock’s cracks and slabs is a common theme among early Haycock climbers as they were honing skills for bigger objectives elsewhere. Dean Hernandez used the boulders to train in this way. He would practice aiding difficult seams in preparation for an expedition to Pakistan in 1995, to climb K6 and K7. Dean also spent a lot of his time bouldering, and even made a crash pad out of layered Insulite–although Tom Moffatt ridiculed him for doing so. Greg Stoner climbed the first (aid) ascent of Yosemite Crack. Greg and Soo Jung would complete
difficult aid ascents ground up. One mistake on a hard aid climb would surely result in decking, but it turns out that they never fell–even the thin stuff was too easy to aid. Soo considered the soft shale at High Rocks far more interesting for aid practice because the gear would go “easy in, easy out!” Greg also aided the nearly blank vertical face below his namesake crack at Rocking Chair. Folks that have been around long enough will remember when Piton Crack at The Caves had three pins along its length–this was a popular free climb. The pins were removed in the mid-2000s. The boulder 3-Star is another example of a line that was led multiple times, which makes perfect sense because it’s height nearly warrants a grade of 5.9 rather than V0.
The mid-to-late 90s brought the bouldering boom. For the first time ever, large numbers of climbers were not only specializing in bouldering, but it was the only type of climbing they did. Growth was exponential, and fueled by many factors. Cordless made the first commercial crash pads that were readily available, and climbing in the talus was instantly more accessible. Bouldering videos like The Real Thing (’96), Big Up – Bouldering In The Gunks (’97), Free Hueco (’98), and Rampage (’99) brought heaps of motivation, and different perspectives on how to interpret the local boulders. The creation of online forums like New England Bouldering and No Rope facilitated the sharing of information to a widespread community in the days before social media. Locally, the Doylestown Rock Gym opened up in 1995 and brought Haycock climbers together on a regular basis, slowly growing the community.
Many eager young climbers made their way onto the scene in the mid to late 90s. The regular crew included Matt Bououtian, Rew Mellor, Mario Tenaglia, Reid Jonczak, Keith Dickey, Dave Lloyd, Pete Heckler, Tim Quick, Drew Davis, Andy Burgoon, Jeff Silcox, Jeff Carrol, Denise Strempzek, Pete Ziegenfuss, Hank Jones, Katie Smith (now Fetterolf), and myself, Char Fetterolf.
Pete Cody partnered with Pete Ziegenfuss to release Haycock’s first guidebook in 1999. This guidebook contained just under 250 boulder problems, but excluded North Mountain, Hangar 18, and several other areas. Most of the trails described in this guidebook were ghost trails that only Pete Cody could see. To this day there are dozens of old Cody lines that I’ve never been able to pick out of the talus. Nevertheless, the guide was a huge motivator and spurred on tons of new development. The 1990s classics that made this edition include Chiba (then V4, Jones), Flaming Moe, Before the Storm, Jesus Calls For War (V4, V7, and V7 respectively, all Ziegenfuss), The Wookie (V5, Lloyd), and Catching Flies (V5, Bouloutian.)
In the late-90s Pete Ziegenfuss and Hank Jones were really leading the charge in difficulty and vision. Jones was certainly the most well-traveled climber in the group. He would spend his summers on the trail crew in Rocky Mountain National Park, where he would find and develop boulders in his free time. Jones opened Hobo (V8) and Riding The Elephant (stand start, V7) during this period. Ziegenfuss was starting to tick harder and harder lines, and soon enough he was nearly impossible for any of us to keep up with. In addition to climbing the hardest lines, he would also find some of the best. His list of first ascents in the late 90s includes L’angle (V2), Under My Thumb (V6), Bokow (then V7), Pele (V8), Of Mice and Men (V8), Black Angus (then V8), Bootleg (then 8/9), and Haycock’s first V10,The Opus- -although subsequent ascents found it essentially a contrivance of Hobo. Ziegenfuss and I lived together for a couple years, and I got to witness his superhuman strength on a daily basis. His tick list may not impress the young crushers of today, but a twenty-year-old Ziegenfuss would most
certainly outperform today’s top climbers on a hangboard. Ziegenfuss moved to England in 2001, and would only return for a few short visits in the coming years.
In hindsight, it’s staggering to consider the number of classic lines that were opened in the few years around the new millennium. There is the aforementioned (and wildly truncated) Jones/Ziegenfuss list of classics above. Jason Kehl added Mo Mangos (V7). I added Iron Lion (V7), Yosemite Crack (V10), The Kind That Go Ding (V5), and Y2J (V8) during this time. Chris Redmond moved back to the area right around this time, and it wasn’t long before he set his sights on an old roof project. Redmond was able to span the massive dyno out the roof to open Peligro. RedmondconservativelygradeditV10,althoughsubsequentascentionistswouldfind V11 to be more fitting. With a retroactive upgrade applied, Peligro would be Haycock’s first V11. Sadly, very few people got to climb it in its original form, as a key start hold broke off in the early 2010s. It has been climbed post-break and kept its grade at V11, but with a significantly different sequence that just isn’t quite as good as the original.
I wrote the second Haycock guidebook in 2002. It was a select guidebook with only 237 boulder problems, but it was the first to include the full Caves trail and Hangar 18.
Development slowed considerably after the 2002 guide, at least when compared to the wild pace at the turn of the millennium. Great boulders were still being climbed though, and the difficulty was steadily creeping upwards. Adam Markert joined the scene and quickly climbed most of the hard problems we had previously established. In what would become his finest contribution, he found the Proximity Infatuation boulder and opened its namesake problem, giving it a cruelly sandbagged grade of V9. Subsequent ascents would help balance it out at V10, until a key foothold broke in the late 2010s. Shortly thereafter, Adam opened Confidence over Cockiness (V11). I added Yosemite Arete (V10) in about 2005. Hank Jones reimagined an old Pete Ziegenfuss line called Boff Ritual (V7) to create Rocking Chair Direct (V10). Boff Ritual shared the same start, but exited left onto the slab as soon as possible. In roughly 2010 I finished off Riding the Elephant by adding the sit start at V12.
Hank Jones and I discovered North Mountain in the years around 2010. It turned out that North was a popular stomping grounds for a lot of the original climbers at Haycock, including Jeff Sacks, Pete Cody, and Mark Ronca, although we didn’t learn that until much later. As always, it’s generally safe to assume that at best we’re all just getting second ascents of old Pete Cody lines that he’s long since forgotten about.
In 2012 I wrote the third guidebook to Haycock, and North Mountain was included for the first time. As with all previous editions, the guide became outdated fairly quickly. In 2016 I jumped at the opportunity to partner with Gunks Apps to bring a smart-phone guide to the community that could be updated regularly. The app also brought GPS navigation to the guide, which meant that new visitors could locate even the most remote boulders for the first time ever. In the past four years, the number of documented problems has more than doubled since the 2012 book.
In the late 2010s the potential still seemed endless. Observable Differences (V8, Tim Quick), Samus Aran (V9, Mike McCracken), and its direct (V10, me) were added during this time. Jocelyn Danna ended the generational Caves Crack (V5)/Funky Fridays (V9) saga by completing the full line: Tiny Tuesday (V11). Chris Marley moved back into the area in 2019, and within the span of a few months managed to repeat several hard lines and add a bunch of new ones (and probably more that he never bothered to mention to anyone.) Marley’s highlights
from late 2019 are Gala (V12), Northern Lights (V11), Woodland Rites (V10), Proximity Infatuation (V11, for the first time post break), and his strongest contribution, Fully Infatuated (V13). He also proved that there are still high-quality moderate grade boulders to find with his discovery of Noel- -one of the best V8’s on diabase.
2020 brought my addition of Tomahawk and Blood of a Young Wolf (both V11). Noah Wheeler opened Into The Woods (V12) and then linked it from Fully Infatuated to create Stockholm Syndrome,a contender for Pennsylvania’s hardest boulder problem at V14. Gunnar Schwan successfully persevered through his quest to open the very long-standing “Big” project, naming it Notorious B.I.G. (V11).
The new decade also brought coordinated stewardship projects, such as the graffiti cleanup series, facilitated by the Haycock Bouldering Coalition. The Haycock Bouldering Coalition was started in 2012 by Tim Quick as a way to unite the community and share information about Haycock. Tim made a big effort to grow the HBC community in 2020, and the result was a coordinated effort by dozens of climbers who volunteered their time to give something back to the mountain. These events were closely coordinated with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and strengthened our relationship with them. In the early days there were so few climbers that our impact on the mountain was minimal. Those days are long gone. We are now in the spotlight as a major user group. The onus of caring for the land, fostering our relationship with the Game Commission, and mentoring newcomers is now shifting to the younger generation. It’s imperative that we build and improve on this legacy for future generations of climbers.
With over 40 years of development behind us, one has to wonder what secrets Haycock is still holding. Is the potential actually infinite? What will the next 40 years hold? If the last 40 years give any insight, it’s that Pete Cody’s old lines will continue to get “first ascents”, the regulars will come and go, styles will change, and generations of climbers will continue to find wonder in the woods.