- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

The Washington area offers a lively selection of activities and groups for rock climbers. Some of the best climbing spots on the East Coast are located within a few hours’ drive of the city, and several indoor gyms offer year-round climbing. Here’s a guide to get you started.

Learning

Climbing lessons are available for beginners through experienced climbers both outdoors and at indoor gyms. Classes cost as little as $35 and are available for children as young as 6. Most climbing schools provide gear with the lessons.

• Adventure Schools Rock Climbing: 7687 MacArthur Blvd., Cabin John. 301/263-0900, 800/39-CLIMB or www.adventureschool.com

• Earth Treks Climbing Center: 7125-C Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, Md. 410/872-0060, 800/CLIMB-UP or www.earthtreksclimbing.com

• Sportrock Climbing Centers: 14708 Southlawn Lane, Rockville; 5308 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria; 45935 Maries Road, Sterling. 703/212-7625 for all centers or www.sportrock.com

Rocks and hard places

Places to climb also are plentiful in the Washington area, and the mild climate allows climbing through much of the year. Climbing rules and seasons can be obtained by contacting the park offices, and a variety of commercial guides are available for more detailed information on climbs:

• Great Falls Park: 9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean. 703/285-2965/2966 or www.nps.gov/gwmp/grfa/

• Carderock Recreation Area: Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac. 301/767-3714 or www.nps.gov/choh/

• New River Gorge National River: P.O. Box 246, Glen Jean, W.Va. 304/465-0508 or www.nps.gov/neri/home.htm

• Seneca Rocks: Seneca Rocks Visitors Center, P.O. Box 13, Seneca Rocks, W.Va. 304/257-4488 or www.seneca-rocks.com/seneca.rocks.nra.html

Clubs

For climbers looking for like-minded company, the following clubs have chapters in the area:

• Potomac Mountain Club: The mountaineering section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, 118 Park St., SE, Vienna. 703/242-0693 or www.patc.net

• Sheclimbs, Inc.: a climbing club for women climbers, at www.sheclimbs.org

Climbing guidelines

• Always climb with a qualified instructor or climber who is more experienced.

• Always wear a harness that fits you properly. Various types of harnesses are available. Try on several until you find one that is snug but not too tight.

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for keeping all your gear in top condition.

• Don’t expect your harness to last indefinitely. Weekend climbers can expect a new harness to last about two years. The more you fall, the faster your harness will wear out. Replace your harness whenever it shows signs of wear or damage.

• Replace your ropes after any hard fall, or if they develop flat or soft spots, become stiff or show other signs of wear and tear.

• Don’t use your climbing rope for anything other than climbing.

• In general, the longer and more vertical your course, the higher your risk for injuries.

• Lower your risk for belayer’s neck — a spinal syndrome caused by prolonged upward gazing — by rotating belayers regularly and doing flexibility exercises between climbs.

• To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your climbing sessions, particularly if you are climbing outdoors in a hot or arid climate.

Source: American Sport Climbers Federation

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