In the middle of racing between Grandma's funeral and trying to fit in a full week of work (on the road in West Virginia), we came by the famous Seneca Rocks formation in the Monongahela National Forest. The Rocks are part of a larger formation, the River Knobs, which are a tilted band of dense quartzite that runs across this part of the South Branch Potomac Headwaters (the parent material - sandstone - would have eroded centuries ago).
The site is an extremely popular destination for rock climbers, and has numerous pitches inbetween 5.1 and 5.8. I'm sure there are steeper climbs, but I could find reference to none on the internet. Native Americans camped along the River for centuries, but who first climbed the formation? According to my good pal Wikipedia, a highly publicized ascent in 1939 ended with the happy climbers finding the inscription, "D.B. 1908" in the rocks! One story is that the initials belong to a company surveyor, D. Bittenger, who worked in the area.
In 1943, the US Amy 10th Mountain Division (recently famous for their efforts in Tora Bora, Afghanistan), "assumed temporary control" of the site to train mountain infantry. Up until this point, most mountain infantry were trained in flatland sites, on man-made structure. Thousands of soldiers were trucked in for intensive 2-week courses on the Seneca Rocks. The instructors and students were unsure why these rocks were selected, or what type of assault they were training for. Their primary training site (Camp Carson, Colorado) featured extensive hiking and mountaineering but few or no multiple pitch climbs, multiple rappells, etc. So why?
.The objective of this particular training exercise remained a mystery through D-Day (at which point the facility was closed), and until January 28, 1945, when the 10th Mountain Division assaulted Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Three other Army divisions had captured the summit (the site of entrenched Axis heavy artillery), but all had failed to hold it. The German troops manned Riva Ridge lightly, because they believed it was impossible for any troops to scale the rock walls. The 10th MD troops scaled the 1,500 foot wall at roughly 1:00am, each carrying between 60lbs and 140lbs of gear, and captured Riva Ridge before dawn, leading to the fall of Mount Belvedere and the first significant retreat of the Nazis to the north. The technical climbing skills required of these men was gained at Seneca Rocks.