The Northeast’s newest climbing area is officially open! Thacher State Park will become the first public sport climbing crag to officially open in New York State. As many climbers know sport climbing in this part of the country is few and far between. With New Hampshire’s Rumney Rocks long being the staple for sport climbers in this part of the US, there has been quite an excitement & anticipation for Thacher State Park to open up access to sport climbing closer to New York City.
John Boyd Thacher State Park is located in Albany County, in the Capital Region of New York. Sitting just 20 minutes outside of Albany, the park is home to limestone cliffs that contain fossilized images of the world 400 million years ago from the devonian era of geologic time. The park also has some great trails, picnic areas, pavilions, and now the newest sport climbing cliffs in the northeast! Kicking it off with close to 50 bolted routes to start. This is the result of 4 years of work by what is now the Thacher Climbing Coalition(TCC), all of its founders, volunteers, donors, and counterparts at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation(OPRHP).
A brief history:
In 2013, Thacher State Park was approached by a few folks about allowing rock climbing on it’s limestone cliffs. It has been illegal to do any form of climbing at Thacher for the last 50 years or so it was to be a drastic change in historical park policy. The initial players who had approached the park were bracing for a fight, but surprisingly, were met with consideration and open mindedness from park officials. Some of New York’s state parks have been underutilized in recent years, including Thacher, so the idea of bringing in a new contingent of outdoor recreation & people was quite attractive. Since there is very little rock climbing in New York’s state parks currently, it wasn’t really about if climbing should be opened up inside of Thacher but the bigger barrier was figuring out how to bring climbing to Thacher State Park. This was a hurdle for both the TCC and also the staff at OPRHP who were very helpful & integral part in bringing sport climbing to Thacher.
Parking, Waivers & the Approach:
When arriving at Thacher State Park, there will be no climbing fee but all climbers will be required to fill out a waiver at the Visitor’s Center folks. The only fee anyone will be required to pay for is parking at Thacher which will be only $6. You will find the primary parking lot for the climbing area at the trail head for Helmus Crevice located at the top of the cliff. If parking here is full climbers can find an additional parking lot located closer to the visitor’s center. Climbers can then walk to the trail head from there.
The hike in from the trail head to the climbing area is roughly 15-20 minute walk down through Helmus Crevice to the base of the cliffs.
When you approach the cliff trail head you will find Helmus Crevice – a 3rd class scramble with a tight squeeze. This is a tight, and sometimes claustrophobic crack that runs down to the base of the cliffs and will be an obstacle for climbers to pass through especially with packs on. There is a squeeze box at the trail head to help gauge how wide the approach passage will be for folks and will give climbers an appreciation for its difficulty. This part of the approach may be difficult or impassable for some people, so keep that as part of your expectations when coming to climb here.
Climbing at Thacher: Do’s & Don’ts
All of the climbing at Thacher State Park is bolted for sport climbing. With roughly 50 routes established there is a good amount of routes to cut your teeth on. There’s no use of trad gear or trad style climbing permitted at Thacher State Park. This is due to the nature of the rock and being comprised of Limestone. All climbing routes at Thacher must be approached from the ground by lead sport climbing. The dropping of a rope or rappelling from the top of the cliff and the building of anchors at the top of the cliffs is STRICTLY PROHIBITED at Thacher State Park. This is due to the prevalence of loose rock, dirt & choss found at the tops of the cliffs. There is also general public’s access at the top of the cliff. All routes have designated stainless steel bolted anchors that are equipped for climbers to either lower and/or rappel off of. As standard practice at any sport climbing crag, use your own quickdraws when top roping through the bolted anchors and should only be accessed by leading climbing up to them.
The official guidebook & app for sport climbing here is the Thacher Park Routes Guide App, provided by Gunks+ Apps. This guide app was developed in conjunction with the TCC and 50% of the sales goes directly to support the TCC in future development, expansion, and maintenance of the cliffs.
The sport climbing at Thacher State Park is going to range from 5.5 to 5.12+ along wit some unsent projects waiting for you to send them! Based on some early opinions so far, the harder routes of 5.10 + are the more aesthetic routes to be found here. There are some few high-quality easy grade routes which are definitely worth checking out and can be found at the Mahican Wall.
**An important note for when sport climbing at Thacher:**
The climbing routes here are all very new and have not yet seen much traffic. There will be choss, dirt and potential rock fall. Please use a stick clip and always wear a helmet when climbing at Thacher State Park.
Remember to bring a brush and please make the TCC aware of anything at the cliff that needs attention!
You can email the TCC at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Special thanks to Jeff Moss, Brad Wenskoski, Monica Blount for their contributions, photos & help with this article!
Important links to check out for Sport Climbing Thacher State Park:
Thacher Guidebook App – Here
(50% of sales goes to support the TCC) Android and iOS supported.
Become a member of the Thacher Climbing Coalition (TCC) by joining as a joint member of the TCC, the Access Fund and/or please consider making a donation directly at www.ClimbThacher.org