Written by Brian Hennebry
Creating a fun and purposeful outlet for oneself is a mysterious undertaking filled with both joy and hardship. Most of my powerful experiences are centered around climbing. I found the passion of movement and the beauty of the outdoors in Allamuchy Mountain State Park.
Action has always been something that made me feel good; living for the moment, in the zone, zen-like. I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old. It made me focused and fit. Learning how to run, coordinate movement and breathe are extremely important skills that I am thankful to continue to strengthen. Then, as a child, I felt connected to something I could barely explain; the ball at my feet, wind whipping the jersey around my body, stride completely open and my mind utterly free. After graduating high-school and leaving the excitement of varsity soccer behind, my life felt slower, lazier and obviously lacking something. Until I entered the climbing gym, I was completely unaware of the world of climbing. I had learned how to belay at age 16, but not until the age of 25 would I discover bouldering and the gymnastic movement that it required.
Bouldering suddenly occupied every moment of my free-time and soon, I was a member at a local gym and getting stronger (and lighter, both in body and spirit) by the day. Surprisingly, before I became a gym rat, much of my climbing experience was garnered at a little-known outdoor location near Hackettstown and Byram, New Jersey called Allamuchy Mountain State Park. More specifically, the boulders off Waterloo Rd (County Route 604) near the Scout Reservation, which are excellent for giving beginners an understanding of rope-less outdoor climbing. There are also a dozen or so top-rope routes, as well as several single-pitch trad lines near the main wall area. The bouldering at Allamuchy is best accessed from the dirt parking lot next to the Scout Reservation entrance. Parking for the main wall area are a couple of dirt pull-offs a bit farther north on Waterloo Rd.
Allamuchy Mountain State Park offers a variety of outdoor attractions including hiking, fishing, mountain biking and some of New Jersey’s only sanctioned outdoor rock climbing. Sourlands Mountain Preserve in Hillsborough also boasts some easy to moderate diabase bouldering.
With all things considered, “the Mooch”, as some call it, has probably been an easy to moderate climbing attraction for at least 40 years. It’s hard to trace the local history but there are without doubt many locals young and old that have cut their teeth and shredded their boots on the coarse, sometimes chossy granite of the Allamuchy cliffs and boulders. I believe that I am the first person to document much of Allamuchy’s boulders in a comprehensive format like mountainproject.com but I am certainly not the first to climb much of what is now public. Contributors like Joseph D’Agostino, Paul Shultz, Brian Monetti, Rob Alexander and Ed Wade have documented the top rope and trad lines farther north in the main area. During several parking lot conversations, I have heard locals in their late 50’s tell tales of past climbs and placing the first bolts. Now, bolting is prohibited and building one’s own anchors is necessary on roped climbs.
Easy bouldering problems are not too hard to come by while walking the trails and after the leaves fall, it becomes even easier to identify possible climbs. During the summer, conditions become a bit humid and buggy but fall through early spring usually bring excellent climbing weather.
In the winter and early spring of 2014, I became motivated by the thrill of finding fun climbs close to my home. I challenged my physical ability and honed my mental control on harder and taller problems at Allamuchy. On the internet, I couldn’t find much information except some vague references to bouldering at Allamuchy Mountain State Park and so I decided to document what I was climbing with Mountain Project. Soon, I had compiled a list of over 40 problems from V-0 to V5, mostly in the V0 to V3 range.
It would be hard to call Allamuchy a destination for climbers but there are places to camp for a fee like Steven’s State Park in Hackettstown. For anyone within an hour’s drive, or those road-trippers traveling on nearby route 80, it should make the day-trip list. Easy but fun problems like Darth Vader and Darth Maul (V1), The Initiate (V2), Leopard Print Pumps (V2), Drop Top (V2) and Mr. Miyagi (V3) make a little bit of hiking worth it. There are also plenty of tall and frightening problems like Oscar the Grouch (V0+), Little Bitta Layback (V2), Nimbus (V2) and other problems yet to be climbed.
Approaching most of the boulders at Allamuchy consists of first choosing your path from the parking lot and then exploring a bit off-trail. To the left side of the lot is an unmarked trail, leading uphill to Drop Top and then the Karate Kid boulder which hosts Mr. Myagi and a few other fun lines. Continuing on this trail will lead to yellow blazes; on this trail sits The Pea or the Monolith at the top of Allamuchy Mountain. Alternatively, taking the teal blazed trail from the parking lot will yield the majority of the fun and immediately reveals Doorknob (V0) and Rubber Ducky (V2) which are off trail to the left about 250 yards from the parking lot. Continuing on the teal trail and headed up the talus strewn stream bed between the ridges will lead to Cross Stitch wall which hosts a few problems from V0 to V3. After that you will come to The Spear area, The Eggy Boulder and The Bread Slice. On the Eggy Boulder is one of Allamuchy’s hardest problems which still awaits consensus called Always Two There Are (V5/6). This 60 degree overhang is short but lends to an extremely powerful compression style, and requires interesting beta and supreme body tension; surely close to classic!
Most bouldering trips at Allamuchy consist of persistent exploration punctuated by intense moments climbing select lines that are visible through the trees! It seems like every hill conceals something, every hollow is full of possibility. At the top of the steepest section of the teal trail and into the woods to the left, past Pickle (V2), is a problem called Leopard Print Pumps (V2) that follows a crack and stacked features through a small opening between two slabs. The easy but wildly fun top out and the amazing features on this climb make it a must-do when visiting the Mooch’s boulders.
While the wildlife is generally quite tame, one may stumble upon black bear, as well as deer and various small game. As state game land, the park is open to hunting, so wear visible clothing in season. Allamuchy enjoys plenty of wet weather and as such becomes fairly overgrown in the summer so plan to brush holds or clean top-outs when necessary but please remember to respect the rock, the wildlife and flora.
My personal journey in Allamuchy has shaped the way I think about climbing as a hobby. I’m now more hungry than ever for the outdoor bouldering experience; finding new destinations and sharing the fun with others. Training hard in the gym is crucial to performance but real rock has a kind of energy, something different, something plastic can’t provide. Maybe it’s sunshine, or fresh air, or the subtle sounds of the forest, or the adrenaline of a scary ‘send. In an overgrown granite talus field in northwest New Jersey, I learned to discover and share outdoor climbing. What we’re looking for will appear, crowded by the vines and ferns, just over the hill.
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