Article & Images by Sam Raia
Forward by Pete Sancianco
Sam Raia is a passionate climber who enjoys getting on real rock as much as possible. [At the time of this post], she is a local ambassador for the Access Fund along with the Ladies Climbing Coalition and she has always been a positive role model for climbers interested in transitioning from gym to crag. Please enjoy this article she wrote that shares her experiences at this local climbing crag.
What to expect
College Rock Park is in Hopkinton, MA and serves as a great place for some technical top rope climbs ranging from 5.4 to 5.11+ and some boulders ranging from V-Beginner to V7. The main wall is about two hundred feet long and up to thirty-five feet high and easily accessed from the parking lot. Some routes can be done on gear, but the placements aren’t always ideal and you can generally get more climbing in if you set up top ropes. There is an easy walk up from the base of the wall to the top, so no leading is required to set up an anchor system. Creating top rope anchors will either require slinging trees or using trad gear like cams. Either way, it is important to have knowledge of how to do this safely before venturing out. The boulders are anywhere from a short walk to about a mile drive away from the main crag. There aren’t many of them, but most of the problems are perfect for beginner climbers because the majority fall into the V-Beginner to V3 range. Overall, this crag shines mostly for its rope routes, but the boulders serve as a decent warm up.
Right side of Main Wall
The parking lot is a small dirt lot located off the suburban road of College St. but be warned that this lot fills up quickly with visiting climbers, dog walkers, and mountain bikers especially on weekends. The lot itself can only hold about six or seven vehicles if everyone parks efficiently. There are a couple of pull offs along the road but because it’s narrow and residential, please be careful to only park in designated areas. To avoid the crowds, it is best to go on the weekdays if possible. Respect mountain bikers and avoid parking in front of the obvious trail line that runs across the lot. If you follow the widest path across the entrance to the lot, you will see the main wall on your left within a couple of minutes.
Reynald on It’s Late September (5.7)
Distinguishing the routes
College Rock spoils climbers in that it has beautifully laid out topos, or drawings of each of the routes, on the bulletin board right at the base of the main wall. Unfortunately, there are no such drawings for the boulders, but both the guidebook Boston Rocks and the website Mountain Project contain information for all climbs in this area. Be warned that the routes here are known to be stiff for the grade especially if this is your first time outdoor climbing. In typical old school New England fashion, even beginner to intermediate grades may feel much harder than what you might anticipate. The style here is very technical, crimpy, and often beta intensive. The crux is evident on several of the routes but can be overcome with a good eye for vital holds and sequencing. If you need any advice, a lot of local old timers climb here and are often willing to help.
The coolest thing about the main wall at College Rock is how diverse the terrain is. You can get some overhangs around A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste (5.9) and The Militant Left (5.11). There are some thin, vertical face climbs like My Mind is a Blank (5.11) as well as easier but still enjoyable face climbs like More Money (5.7). It’s Late September (5.7) contains a small roof that you pull through. There’s even a short but fun crack climbing section of Exercise Left to the Reader (5.9+). For kids and beginner climbers, there are a couple of variations of “Exercize Buttress” (5.5) that involve some stemming and mantling. Oh, and did I mention there’s a full 200 ft traverse of the entire wall? The entire College Rock Traverse goes at V3 and serves as the perfect warm up if you are not willing to venture away from the main wall for smaller boulders.
As mentioned previously, Boston Rocks (conveniently sold in our retail shop) contains a section on College Rock along with other lesser known crags in Massachusetts. Mountain Project (mountainproject.org) is a website available to the public containing information on the approach, routes, access issues, local etiquette, etc. Go to this link to see more information on College Rock specifically: https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105908233/college-rock There are some discrepancies between the topo at College Rock and what’s on Mountain Project, but in essence the majority of the routes are the same with some minor variations.
College Rock is heavily trafficked by climbers and non climbers alike, so please remember to respect the area and others who outdoor recreate. Since there’s limited parking, make sure to park considerately. Please bring all trash out to the bin in the parking lot. Take all waste with you especially because people hike and bike through the woods surrounding the main wall. If you set up top rope anchors, remember to ask other climbers if you can share the same trees prior to doing so. Especially because of COVID guidelines, it’s important to wear a mask because you might be belaying next to another group. Some routes can be chossy and the top of the wall can be easily accessed by others, so remember to climb in a helmet. The crag has convenient benches near the wall, so you can leave your gear there and away from belay areas. The area is managed by the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, so please abide by leave no trace principles to keep access open for other climbers.
If you’re interested in booking a guiding experience or learning how to set up top ropes at College Rock, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be safe and enjoy all the climbs College Rock has to offer!
Sam on The Militant Right (5.9)