Central Pennsylvania Ice Climbing Directions and Beta
Some of the following has been taken with permission from the "Bellefonte Climbing Guide" written by Jim Bowers. If you donít already have this guidebook, you should. At least get it for the local scene history and humor...itís a great read. Contact Jim at his Synrock Holds web sites. I also borrowed information on directions from a paper compiled by Chad Kramer.
LOCK HAVEN ICE CLIMBING AREAS:
Good ice is a rare commodity in Pennsylvania, yet there is no shortage of crazed pick-wielding individuals seeking out frozen adventures. Historically, the Centre County area ice scene has been non-existent as the consensus had it that there just wasn't any climbable ice within a short drive of the Bellefonte - State College area. Fortunately some interesting discoveries in recent years have changed this situation and there is sufficient local ice to satisfy the palette of the most discriminating ice climber. The temperature in the central PA area averages a few degrees cooler than eastern and southern parts of the state and more importantly, all the areas are in the shade so the ice that forms tends to last throughout the season.
DIRECTIONS AND BETA:
Between 12 and 18 miles west of Lock Haven on Route 120 along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River are three very nice climbing areas within a short distance of each other. I've climbed at just about all the Pennsylvania ice areas and these rank high on my list in terms of quality ice. Word has filtered out about this area but not detailed information which is necessary as the best ice is well-hidden and not visible from the road. It took a long time for us to discover these hidden areas and people have driven here from as far away as Philadelphia only to return because they erroneously thought that nothing was in shape.
The only obvious Lock Haven ice climbing area is this very long gully located next to Rt. 120 around 12.8 miles north of Lock Haven University. The gully is on the left just beyond the bridge over Baker Run and starts almost directly on the road. Roadside Gully is around 400 ft. long and the bottom is often not completely frozen due to the large amount of water that flows down it. Be careful in this gully because I've seen large ice chunks go all the way to the road from the top (you could too). Also this thing avalanches occasionally! The interesting climbing is in the large amphitheater near the top which starts out with a 30 ft. high flow of the first steep tier. Depending on conditions, this may be a sloping bulge or a steep wall. This tier ends on a sloping series of ledges and if you belay here, anchors must be set with screws. Above this, two more vertical tiers present many intriguing, scary and sick climbs that ascend pillars up the steep cliff bands. Between the second and third vertical tiers is a large ledge with trees that can be used as belay anchors. Escape to the right at the top of all three tiers to rappel to the road. Numerous trees to both sides of Roadside Gully can be used for the descent rappel. Short descriptions of the second tier from left to right follow:
Left Pillar - The wet pillar on the far left usually forms ok but topping out can often be tricky. FFA: Jim Bowers, Brent Buzard - 1986.
Mixed Fun - About 20 ft. to the right of Left Pillar, moderate climbing leads to a left-facing verglassed ramp which ends at a large tree overhanging the cliff (bear hug it). This fun route is almost always in climbable condition. FFA: Jim Bowers, Matt McMillan - 1983.
Thriller Pillar - In the middle of the cliff there sometimes is a super thin pillar (you can put your arms around it) - wild and sick. FFA: Mike Miller, Jim Bowers - 1985.
Mixed Madness - Right of Thriller Pillar, there is a thin drip which goes up under a rock overhang and abruptly stops. Go left from the overhang through a notch on mixed snow, veg and rock - very insane. FFA: Jim Bowers, Ken Kruickshank - 1983.
The following climbs have been established and are described from left to right on the third tier:
Scumbag - Sick mixed route on far left of the curtain. Originally called knee-scum because one of the moves required a hard knee brace move. Amount of ice on this route varies from season to season. FFA: Kurt Merrill, Brian Ladrido - 1996
Motorhead - The left side of the Glass Menagerie cliff band rarely comes into shape and presents the longest steep line in Roadside gully. This hanging curtain rarely touches down and may present a mixed start. The curtain touched down two years in a row in 1996-1997. FFA: Kurt Merrill, Brian Ladrido - 1996. It almost touched down in 2003 and Brint Price and Rob Ginieczki gained the curtain with a mixed variation from the right.
Merrill Project - The roof in the center of the of the Glass Menagerie cliff band is an established TR mixed route that was pioneered by Kurt Merrill in the middle to late 1990's. He never got a chance to finish it on lead. The route needs a bolt to protect above the roof as he couldn't get any pro to stick.
Glass Menagerie - This large steep pillar on the right side of the third cliff band comes in shape in good years - sick and strenuous. This is the most popular route on the third tier. FFA: Hank Andolsek, Jim Bowers - 1983.
The area that is consistently in shape all the time is the pair of 250 ft. high gullies located on the opposite side of the river just past the Roadside Gully. Gemini Gullies take a long time to get to but are worth the drive. There is a large fence here to protect the railroad from falling matter. You can see this area across the river from Route 120 less than a mile upstream from Roadside Gully, but you can't see the ice in the gullies because they are hidden by large pines. To get there, either walk across the river if frozen solid (rope up), canoe across, or drive north on Rt.120 until you cross the Susquehanna on the bridge at Hyner. Take the next left at Hyner Run Road and follow the river and the railroad track back south (crossing back underneath the bridge). Follow this dirt road approximately 7 miles down river. If there is snow on the ground, a four wheel drive is recommended as the road is not maintained in the winter. Both flows start at the same low angle point and end with wide steep amphitheaters at the top. The climbing is obvious and the gullies get progressively steeper as you ascend. Descent is by rappelling the gullies to the tracks. This area tends to give you a feeling of total isolation from the rest of civilization (until a train comes by of course). Also, along the railroad tracks just right of the Gemini's, is a 25 ft. tall shield of steep ice. Above this flow is a low angle gully which is fun for beginners. This is perhaps the most reliable ice in Pennsylvania.
Hidden Amphitheater is located approximately 4.7 miles past Roadside Gully in a notch in the mountain on the left before you cross the river at Hyner. Once you can look ahead and see a narrow field along the left side of the road, park as soon as the guard rail on the right ends. You can also park in a plowed parking area on the left a couple hundred yards before the narrow field. You can't see this climb at all from the road but look for the notch in the ridge line and follow the steep stream gully past fallen trees about 100 yards until you come to an impressive amphitheater. Not always in shape but usually some nice steep ice. Hidden sports three vertical tiers divided by large ledges. The harder routes are on the right of the amphitheater with the second tier pillar being the crux. Easier climbing can be enjoyed to the left.
WILLIAMSPORT ICE CLIMBING AREAS:
PINE CREEK GORGE - PENNSYLVANIA GRAND CANYON
Pine Creek Gorge between Ansonia and Blackwell is also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Many small waterfalls exist in the gullies flowing into Pine Creek. This area produces fairly consistent ice during most winters. There are many steep single pitch routes and a few gully climbs that approach two pitches. Follow the access road to the ghost town of Tiadaghton on the east side of the canyon to the bottom, then follow the rail trail and look for ice. The largest route is Falling Springs on the west side of the canyon. Physical access here may be an issue as it is on the opposite side of Pine Creek from the rail trail.
ROUTE 15 NORTH
From Williamsport, take Rt. 15 north for approximately 10 miles. Route 15 offers a lot of different ice climbs but do not offer much protection. There is one flow which offers some toproping potential. Be sure to pull completely off the highway or you may get a ticket.
Weis Amphitheater is an abandoned quarry that sports several steep lines. Located across Loyalsock Creek behind the Weis grocery store along Business Route 15 just north of Williamsport. Access is an issue here due to no trespassing signs along the approach.
The river cliffs at Montgomery offer probably the highest density of good climbs in the area. Unfortunately it is south facing so the climbs get a little soft in the late afternoon. Most climbs are less than 60 ft. tall, but offer steep gullies and pillars to practice leading or toprope. From Williamsport, take Rt. 15 south to Rt. 54 east to Montgomery. Where Rt. 54 veers left in the middle of Montgomery, go straight over the railroad tracks. Take the first right after the tracks and cross the bridge, veer left and don't cross the tracks again. Park on the right just before the sewage treatment plant. Walk down the railroad tracks away from town. The climbs are on the right and are all set back approximately 100 yards from the tracks. There are climbs dotted throughout this ridge line until the railroad tracks cross the bridge over the Susquehanna River. If anyone has any documented first ascent information, contact me.
This 70 foot high falls is usually full of ice even in dry years. Angel falls is located in southern Sullivan County. From Williamsport/Montoursville, take Rt. 87 north until you cross the Lycoming-Sullivan County line, then turn right on Ogdonia/Brunnerdale Road at the Camp Lycogis Girl Scout Camp. Follow this dirt road 1.5 miles to a large parking area on the right. Cross the dirt road and follow the trail north. The trail goes slightly downstream then turns right up Falls Run 1/4 mile to the ice. Angel Falls is on State Forest land and has access issues in the summer due to vegitation degradation. This should not be a problem in the winter with snow on the ground.
WORLDS END STATE PARK
Worlds End State Park boasts possibly the longest vertical ice in Pennsylvania on High Rocks along Loyalsock Creek in the middle of the park. Unfortunately, ice climbing is not an approved activity and officials will ask you to leave. There is also ice on a road cut along Rt. 154 just east of the park, but you still risk being harrased by the officials. It's hard to believe you cannot climb here as the next closest state park (Ricketts Glen) welcomes climbers. From Williamsport/Montoursville, take Rt. 87 north until you reach the town of Forksville. Turn right on Rt. 154 and head southeast to Worlds End.
RICKETTS GLEN STATE PARK
Ricketts Glen State Park harbors Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark. Ice Climbing is an approved activity here and you may call the park office (570-477-5675) for current ice conditions. They do require signing in and out in a logbook that is located at the park's maintenance building. The 94-foot Ganoga Falls is the highest of 22 named waterfalls in the Glens and is the most popular area to climb. Ganoga Falls is a casual grade 3 route and the right side of the amphitheater below the falls sports several grade 3+ or grade 4 pillars. Ricketts Glen is located in Luzerne Co. along Rt. 487 north of Bloomsburg. Park at the Maintenance Building, sign in at the open restroom, and hike towards Ganoga Glen. After crossing a bridge, take the left and follow the Falls Trail into the Ganoga Glen branch of Kitchen Creek to the amphitherater.