Ascent of Sampson Rock on 2014-12-30

Climber: Ed Wandall

Date:Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sampson Rock
    Elevation:2934 ft / 894 m

Ascent Trip Report

On December 30th, 2014, I drove up to Sampson Rock to see if I could find the other benchmark and eliminate the two candidates southwest.

I took the Finzel exit off Route 68 and headed north of Finzel road (State route 546) for about 2.5 miles. I took a right at Sampson Rock Road, which starts east but heads NNE after about a quarter mile. There is a sign on the right stating “School Bus Turnaround” and “Tower Road” but the sign seems to face Sampson Rock Road, so just make the right and head southeast up Tower Road. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will come to a gate, marked “Positively No Tresspassing. Any and all violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” This was signed by “Piney Mountain Sportsmans Club” and “Big Savage Sports Club”. Joy. You have to park as to not block the gate or the house on the left (with an active, barky dog). I conjured a reasonable excuse (lost dog, I had a cordellete I could claim was a lead), and hiked up the road.

After a few hundred yards, you will see the first of two rocky ridges that run parallel to the ridge crest. The road bears right at the first one. Toward the southern end is what I think is Sampson Rock, which matches the ‘chimney like’ description in the datasheet. Except no ladder, which I will discuss shortly. If you follow the road, it passes the second rocky ridge, then starts downhill. So I went back and focused on finding the high points of the two ridges.

The first ridge, with what I think is Sampson Rock looks to be the highest point in the area. The Rock itself is several boulders piled on top of each other, with some graffiti on it. To get on top, go to the southeast side. A small ladder would be extremely helpful, as you only need a few feet to make it very easy. I didn’t have a ladder, so freeclimbed most of the way, got creeped out by the awkward drop if I popped off, climbed down, tied my cordelette off to a small tree on the west side, threw it over the top for a handhold. If you climb it, the holds are good, and positive, but getting onto the top boulder is a bit awkward. From the top (sitting), it seemed like it was the highest spot in the area, but I didn’t have a level to be sure. The rope made all the difference coming down, and if you can’t bring a ladder, bring some rope.

Recognizing that the topo shows the second benchmark east of my rock on the second ridge, I investigated that. Checking the 20th Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior (1898-99) on Google Books, it says: “On a high point of Savage Mountain, about 7 miles from Frostburg. About 100 feet east of “Sampson Rock.” The timber is low on the top of the mountain, the backbone of the ridge being rocky. Station mark: Copper bolt cemented in solid rock.” The high point of this, second, ridge is pretty close to the height of Sampson Rock, but to my eye, lower. I did not see the bolt. There were no leaves on the trees, so a level would have been quite helpful. I need to procure one.

I hate that I can’t really be definitive here. I checked both ridges from the powerline right of way to the road (after the road, it slopes off), and what I think is Sampson Rock seems highest. Bring a small stepstool and a level and hopefully you can solve the mystery.

NOTE: Lidar data posted to the COHP weblist on 6/9/2015 confirms Sampson Rock as the high point of Allegheny County! THANK YOU LIDAR TEAM!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble

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