Rock Climbing in Crow Hills, Massachusetts

by Susan MacDowell
Wear a helmet to protect yourself from debris disturbed by hikers on the trails above Crow Hill Ledge.

Wear a helmet to protect yourself from debris disturbed by hikers on the trails above Crow Hill Ledge.

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Crow Hill, also known as Crow Ledge, is a popular rock climbing location in central Massachusetts. Crow Hill, located in Leominster State Forest, is on Route 31 south of Fitchburg. There is no charge to climb, but you do need to get a permit for rock climbing when you enter the park. Permits are valid for a year.

About Crow Hill Ledges

Crow Hill Ledges' gneiss rock faces range from 40 to 100 feet tall. The Midstate Trail crosses over the ledges at the top, which provides great views of Mount Wachusett to the east. The climbing season begins when the cracks and faces dry out, which is somewhere between March and June, depending on how wet the winter and spring have been. Crow Hill features traditional climbing, which uses removable gear, although a few of the routes do have permanent bolts attached. There are about 50 routes up the 500-foot-long ledge.

Easier Climbs

The easiest climbs at Crow Hill are on the Practice Face and the End Crags. The Practice Face is on the far right, and the End Crag is on the far left. The Yosemite Decimal System -- a rating system for describing the difficulty of climbs, hikes and walks -- defines easy climbs as those rated 5.1 to 5.6. Two popular beginner climbs are the Boardwalk and Tom's Dilemma, which are both rated 5.5. The classification of these routes as easy climbs means that there are two hand and two footholds for every move. Since these climbs are at the top end of the easy category, however, these holds may not be obvious to the novice climber. The Boardwalk route follows a long crack that runs 8 feet up the center of the Practice Face. It is a one-pitch climb, which means it only requires one length of rope to scale the face. There is a permanent bolt at the top that makes it easier for beginners to set up. Tom's Dilemma is a one-pitch climb of 35 feet. It's in the center of the End Crags, about 5 feet to the right of a sharp corner.

More Advanced Climbs

Fisherman's Wall has some of Crow Hill's most challenging climbs. Cro-Magnon, rated 5.10, or difficult, heads up the steepest part of the cliff. The jams are different sizes; you'll mix fingers, hands and fists getting up Cro-Magnon. Cro-Magnon tends to be very dry, which causes dust to accumulate in the cracks, so it's best to bring a brush to ensure you get a solid hold. Jane is a 5.11, or very difficult, crack at the right side of Fisherman's Wall. Jane is the crack that is the third from the right -- the two cracks to the right of it are Cheetah, 5.11, and Tarzan, which is a 5.8, or intermediate, climb.

Directions

Take Route 2 to exit 28, Route 31 in Fitchburg. Head south for 2.4 miles. Leominster State Forest will be on your right. Stop at the park ranger's headquarters at the entrance to get a permit. Continue down the road past the swimming pond. There is parking at the pond for $5; the climbing area is a five-minute walk from the pond parking. If that lot is closed, or if you'd like to save $5, continue down the road about 1/4 mile to a dirt lot. This lot is free, and the walk to the climbing area is about 10 minutes up a gravel road.

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