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Hello I have a question that I ask myself every morning when I commute to work. I live New England and I take the I-95 south from New Hampshire to Massachusetts every weekday. During my commute I drive across faces of rock besides the highway. I have only climbed outdoors once and I am itching to get outside this spring. (I started climbing a few months ago but it is 99% indoor because winter in New England stinks.)

I've lived in New England my entire life but I have never seen people attempt to climb the rock faces besides the highway. I was wondering, is it legal to climb these rock faces at all? And if it is, why don't many people do it (I haven't seen anyone do it.) Are there just better places to climb at?

Thanks

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    Are these natural formations or cuts with exposed rock? – Erik Feb 12 '16 at 22:45
  • Would you have to park on the side of the highway? Parking is not generally allowed on the sides of interstate highways. – renesis Feb 12 '16 at 23:47
  • @Erik I'm not an expert (I just started climbing recently so I have a lot to learn still) but the rock definitely looks like cut/exposed rock. – Dzhao Feb 13 '16 at 1:01
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    @ShemSeger In this case I am asking for interstates (I think they're also called freeways) – Dzhao Feb 14 '16 at 17:58
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    In some parts of the world a good part of land beside the freeway is kept under maintenance by the same part of the government (or private consortium or organization) that manages the highway and they would not want people climbing a rock face within that ground because of maintenance and liability – Erik vanDoren Feb 19 '16 at 16:22
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This answer is specific to the US interstate highway system The vast majority of this system is closed to pedestrian (and bicycle) traffic. These are dangerous roads to be on; on average 600+ pedestrians die each year on them

While there are many place (namely the state of Oregon) where walking on the Interstates is not illegal, it is in most areas of the US. Nearly every on ramp will have a sign stating the legal requirements for access. For a specific section check for signage at the on ramp just prior to the location in question. If it says pedestrians are prohibited, there is your answer. If it does not, you will need to do more research with local agencies. Self propelled traffic may be allowed, but stopping may be limited to emergency use only.

enter image description here

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Climbing next to a road is, in general, not a pleasant experience. Any roadside rock face is artificially shaped by the excavation that created it. The rock can be more likely to crumble under you as you climb than naturally exposed rock, and it is likely to be dirty from dust kicked up by passing traffic. You may think that dirt is a silly complaint, but it can greatly reduce the friction between rock and your hands. Passing traffic is distracting, to say the least. And all of this ignores the legal issues involved.

If you live in southern New Hampshire, you are within 45 minutes of fantastic bouldering at Pawtuckaway State Park. The climbing there is well documented on Mountain Project and there is an excellent guidebook. If you have questions, the staff at the closest climbing gym should be familiar with Pawtuckaway.

There is also great bouldering at Rumney and around North Conway, although it is not the dominant style of climbing in those areas.

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I have no special knowledge of this subject but it is my understanding that rock cut by blasting fractures deeply, beyond the part that is removed, and that as a result climbing on such rock is typically not safe as entire blocks are liable to come loose. A bolt is worse than no good if it pulls a boulder down on top of you, and trad pro, especially cams, create outward pressure on cracks and may force apart the fractured blocks even faster.

Some climbing does take place on blasted faces but I believe a lot of work goes into preparation, and it still may be rather chossy so care is advised. Quoting http://www.summitpost.org/riverside-rock-quarry/491337

Because the wall has been subjected to blasting, development for sport climbing has necessitated a substantial amount of cleaning dangerous, loose blocks, and reinforcing some loose holds with glue. Stay off red-tagged routes, as these are in the process of being cleaned, and are not yet safe to climb.

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It's not illegal in Montana, in fact the road side crags at Stonehill near Rexford Bench are some of the best, and most popular sport climbs in NW Montana (for Canadians at least):

enter image description here

Roadside crags are what sport climbers live for, as long as there's enough room in the ditch to belay safely off of the road, then you're good to go.

enter image description here

  • This looks much cleaner than I expect for blasted, is it natural? – Chris Mendez Feb 13 '16 at 18:08
  • @ChrisMendez It's a large area, some of the cliffs aren't cut, but I just added a photo of one of the road cuts. I think this one was a 5.11, the drill holes make for interesting features sometimes. – ShemSeger Feb 13 '16 at 19:35
  • oh yea, you can see the cuts much better, nice – Chris Mendez Feb 13 '16 at 19:45
  • At least the top picture is clearly not an interstate highway, that makes a difference as @James Jenkins pointed out. – renesis Feb 14 '16 at 16:32
  • @renesis The two pictures are within walking distance of each other, but no, this is not an interstate. Although, I've spent hours on an interstate in Montana without any traffic going in either direction (I-15). The amount of traffic, and the size of the ditch will likely be the delimiting factors. If it was me I'd just go ahead and play on the rocks (which I have done multiple occasions while driving past irresistible rocks). Just be safe about it, and even if you do attract some officers, they'll likely just tell you to move a long. – ShemSeger Feb 14 '16 at 17:31

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