Climbing Jamestown Crag

Three brothers buy climbing hot spot to share with the public

By Jill Rohrbach  Photos by NOMADS

 A carabiner hangs from a bolt on a newly created route at Jamestown Crag near Batesville. Facing page: Bill “Fitz” Fitzgerald, an avid climber from Little Rock, scales “Pagan on Sunday.”

A carabiner hangs from a bolt on a newly created route at Jamestown Crag near Batesville. Facing page: Bill “Fitz” Fitzgerald, an avid climber from Little Rock, scales “Pagan on Sunday.”

 
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Jamestown Crag, just south of Batesville, is one the largest, most exposed areas of Atoka sandstone in the region, making it the best sport climbing rock in Northeast Arkansas. 

In fact, most of the well-known hot spots for rock climbing are found in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas—places like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and Sam’s Throne. So the location of this sandstone outcropping near Batesville makes it unique.

“It’s the only one that I know of that is on property open to the public that has a lot going on,” says Cole Fennel, author of Rock Climbing Arkansas. He knows of a few places with two or three routes, but most in that area of the state are closed to the public.

With more than 100 bolted routes, Jamestown has chicken head holds and styles of climbing that are typical for Arkansas. “It’s really straight forward with cool rock formations on it,” Fennel says. “It has good holds and nice gritty texture.”

The tallest route on the rock is 90 feet, and routes range in difficulty from 5.5 to 5.13. “It’s probably some of the best beginner and intermediate climbing in the country,” Fennel says.

“The style is fairly comparable to Horseshoe Canyon,” adds Bill Fitzgerald, an avid climber from Little Rock, known as “Fitz” to his friends. “It’s very well featured. There are a lot of pockets and knobs to hold on to. Not a lot of slab.” 

He loves that the location is only about one and a half hours from Little Rock, yet it’s not as heavily trafficked. “It’s less crowded. That’s one great thing,” Fitz says.

He also likes that the rock is easily accessible from the parking lot. “You walk into it from the top of the bluff,” he explains. “There’s a slot canyon at the north end that you can walk down using rope handrails. It’s called Dog Walk because it’s the best place to take your dog down. On the other end are rungs to climb down to the bottom of the crag and in-between are a couple of routes with top anchors so you could rap down from there.”

Fitz has been climbing for about 20 years and first heard about Jamestown almost a decade ago. “People had been climbing it long before I got there,” he says. “There may have been half the routes then as there are now.”

“The route I’m kind of infatuated with right now is called Flaming Piss. It’s a 5.10c. It’s really tall and really interesting,” he says. “I haven’t climbed it clean yet. I want to climb it clean.”

He likes it because it offers varying sections, starting with a climb to a ledge. “You could have a picnic up there,” he says. Then there is some slab and bulging overhang with a wide open finish above the trees. “It reminds me a little bit of Pepsi Challenge on Mount Magazine where you climb above the trees,” Fitz explains. 

 Here, Kyle supports Aaron as he drills holes for a route at Jamestown Crag. Nathan, the eldest of the three brothers, works above.

Here, Kyle supports Aaron as he drills holes for a route at Jamestown Crag. Nathan, the eldest of the three brothers, works above.

His climbing partner, Monika Rued, says she likes “The Crag” because, as a fairly new climber, it offers her plenty of route diversity. “Plus, Jamestown is such a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. There’s a waterfall and the Arkansas sandstone is not only beautiful but easy on your hands,” she adds.

They also like that it’s a nice winter crag. “The leaves drop off and it has that west exposure,” Fitz explains. “About noon the sun warms the rock and it’s fairly sheltered from the wind.”

There’s one more element that climbers agree make Jamestown Crag special—its owners. “They are out there almost every weekend and they are really great people,” says Fitz.

Three brothers, Nathan, Aaron and Kyle Christopher, own the property under the name Nomads. They purchased The Crag and about 40 acres in 2013 with the goal of preserving the area for future visitors and developing the property for outdoor recreation use.

“We’ve utilized probably about 40 percent of the total rock that’s out there,” Kyle Christopher says. “We all have day jobs, but when we can break away from those day jobs we work on building those trails and bolting more routes.”

Nomads currently own about 500 acres surrounding Jamestown Crag. They have established about eight miles of multi-use trails and camping sites. All camping is primitive. Campfires are only allowed at the designated sites above the bluff line, but people may camp anywhere on the property, which is gated. Text 870-613-4662 for the current gate code.

Additionally, visitors will see signs regarding liability as well as a donation box. Donations go back into the property and recreation, such as buying bolting hardware for new routes, which the brothers install. They also hold a climbing competition, King of the Crag, in October of each year as a fundraiser and community gathering for climbers. 

“We didn’t buy that property to make money or to keep it to ourselves,” says Christopher. Nomads also wants to set a model that shows individuals can have an outdoor attraction and let people enjoy it without it having to be owned by the state or federal government.

“What they’re doing over there is really special,” Fennel says. “So people really need to pick up after themselves and respect the area. Not that people shouldn’t do that everywhere.”