Outdoor winter rock climbing is gaining in popularity throughout the country. While the mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia may not offer the same altitude and challenges of the Rocky Mountains, many offer unique challenges for all skill levels of climbers. Experts recommend that before tackling any outdoor climbing challenge, you enroll in a course in which skilled instructors may provide supervised training both indoors and outdoors. No matter your skill level, don’t miss out on these fun area options.
The drive to some of the best outdoor rock climbing sites from Baltimore can range from less than one hour to more than three hours for some of the closer sites in Pennsylvania. I-695 North is a logical starting point to reach points west and north. A trip to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., following I-70 West to U.S. 340 West takes about one hour and 13 minutes, while an ice climbing experience at Seneca Rocks, W. Va., takes about three hours and 40 minutes. It’s all up to you.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
171 Shoreline Drive
Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 25425
The difficulty of favorite climbing spots varies from relatively easy to difficult and dangerous. Many of the traditional top-rope climbing sites may be accessed on Shenandoah Street into the downtown area. Sick Pursuit, a traditional roof crack is a notable climbing site for the area, definitely one of the harder routes. Other rope climbs in the area include Skin Splitter, Guide Slab and Drilled Wall. For bouldering, Crack Boulder and Crimp Wall offer a variety of challenges. Visit www.harpersferryclimbing.com for more specific information on climbs offered in historic Harpers Ferry.
Seneca Rocks Climbing School
Seneca Rocks, W. Va. 26884-0053
Seneca Rocks, W.Va., is one of the few rock climbing destinations nearby that offers ice climbing experiences. The Seneca Rocks Climbing School is said to be the oldest school of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region and one of the oldest in the nation. Operating for more than 35 years, it customizes its training to fit students’ skill and interest levels, and learning styles. The facility also offers the Gendarme climbing shop, which provides the latest gear and equipment. It is staffed by certified outdoor guides trained by the American Mountain Guides Association. The school also provides a Wilderness First Responder certified training program for qualified candidates. Located in the Tuscarora Mountains, Seneca Rocks is composed of quartzite, native to the area. Lodging nearby ranges from rustic campsites to motels and cabins.
Ricketts Glen State Park
695 State Route 487
Benton, Pa. 18656
Located in the Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties of Pennsylvania, when winter weather conditions grip this scenic mountain area, the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, one of the highest of 22 named waterfalls in the park, becomes a magnet for ice climbers. The park includes more than 13,000 acres of mountainous terrain with varying slope degrees. In the winter, the park also operates a snowshoe program, among others. It features 26 miles of trails from level to extremely steep. For more ice climbing sites in Pennsylvania, go to www.hikebikeclimb.net/ice/iceclimb.htm.
7125-C Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, Md. 21046
Earth Treks’ Climbing Centers, with locations in Columbia, Timonium and Rockville, provides indoor climbing gyms, climbing instruction programs as well as rock and ice climbing expeditions. The indoor climbing gyms are the largest of their type in the country, with more than 16,000-square-feet of climbing space at each facility. It offers climbing experiences for a variety of skill levels, from beginner to advanced. The indoor facilities offer more than 150 climbs, from 23-foot high slabs to 50-foot overhangs. It also offers ice climbing seminars in which more than 21,000 students enroll each year. If you get really good, take advantage of ice climbing expeditions to the Adirondack Mountains.
Related: Top Winter Bird Watching Spots
Patapsco Valley State Park
8020 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, Md. 21043
Located along the Patapsco River, the Patapsco Valley State Park includes more than 16,000 acres of outdoor recreation areas. The park offers hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding and provides some winter climbing opportunities. Popular boulder climbs include Alberton Rock Road, Liberty Dam, Mercer Hunting Property and the Slab House. Alberton provides both bouldering and top-rope climbs. It is known for its distinctive Alberton Roof formation. Slab House features a polished rock face that reaches elevations of 60 feet in some areas. For rock climbing routes in Maryland and other parts of the country, go to www.rockclimbing.com.