13th July 2021
13 miles / 4,000 ft ascent / ~10 hours
Lexi’s parents came to stay with us for a few days after the family vacation, which meant we could get away for a few days just the two of us. It was our first adventure together in nearly 18 months, because of the pandemic. We were excited!
I found a cabin on AirBnb near the base of Old Rag mountain. We’ve climbed it before, in 2019, and had such a good experience that we decided to go back. It’s also near Sperryville, a cute town in Virginia with a wonderful coffee shop (another reason to return).
Old Rag is one of the most popular mountain climbs on the East coast (All Trails route), probably on account of the fantastic rock scramble along the summit ridge. We set off early to avoid the crowds and the heat; it was forecast to get to 95 F (35 C). Yikes!
The first part of the walk, from the car park to the ridge line, is a pleasant walk through the forest.
After a couple of hours of walking, and about 3 miles into the hike, we reached the shoulder of Old Rag. We stopped at the lookout here, refueled and readied ourselves for the ridge scramble that follows.
For a flavor of what the ridge scrambling was like, here’s some footage from the scramble up Old Rag:
The scramble is a ton of fun! Never hard but entertaining from start to finish, it’s a real joy. It’s physical: you have to pull yourself up and over blocks and down and through canyons, which is great fun and distracts you from the heat and one’s weariness.
The scramble along the ridge line takes you all the way to the summit. Even with our early start (we were walking by 6.30am) there were already other groups up here.
The views are spectacular from the summit. Shenandoah to the West, Robertson Mountain to the North and the Virginia plains to the East.
As we looked across to Robertson Mountain, I asked Lexi “hey we could climb that today if you’re interested?”. Nevermind that it was hot as hell, we had plenty of water. Game on!
We descended off the back of Old Rag, passing Byrd shelter and Old Rag shelter. At the fire road junction where returning hikers turn right to head back to the car park, we continued straight on.
The hike up the fire road, in the heat and blazing sun, felt interminable. Eventually we reached the turn off for the trail up Robertson Mountain.
We’ve climbed this mountain before, on day 3 of this trip.
The summit is tiny and overgrown with trees and brush. A few big boulders and breaks still give tremendous views, including back towards Old Rag where we’d come from that morning.
The descent off Robertson Mountain was the crux of our route. It was a steep, loose trail for 1.6 miles back to the fire road. Easy to follow but hard on one’s knees. We were happy to reach the relative comfort of the fire road!
From there it was a couple of easy miles back to the car, with a quick dip in the river en route to cool off our weary feet.
All in all, it was an amazing day out!