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Ice Climbing - White Oak Canyon

Coastal and Piedmont Virgina share more climatic similarity to the south than the frozen tundra of New Hampshire, but a few times each year the mercury drops far enough in the nearby mountains to change the order of things, for a few days. We hastily dig out our ice tools and crampons, give them a quick tune-up with a file as needed, and drive through the early morning to grab our share of ice time, before it fades away.

Amphitheater Falls, WI 2
The climbing is mostly on the lowest falls (grade 2-3, 60 feet) and on the canyon walls further up (grade 3-4+, 25-70 feet) and depends very much on the season. The lowest falls is great for beginners and beginning leaders, as it is moderately angled and generally thick enough to take screws on several lines. On the canyon walls further up, particularly in the grotto surrounding the next major falls, the ice tends to get steeper and thinner, with fewer leading opportunities; good ice periods produce leadable grade 4 lines, though some rock gear may be prudent. Small pillars and climbable free-hanging icicles are possible, but rare.

For Northern Virginia climbers, there is also some tune-up potential at Great Falls, on the Virginia side. A few short lines freeze reliably, some near the Micro Dome and some near Gorkey Park, about 200 yards upstream, all at the waters edge. Don't climb under the tourist overlooks - the rangers will chase you off.

North Wall, WI 3+ to WI 4+
White Oak Canyon is located on the drive-in to the Old Rag Saddle Trail parking lot (Berry Hollow side). Some additional guide information to White Oak Canyon ice is given on the link-list to the right.

It's not a lot of ice, but it is a change of pace and place to learn before heading to New Hampshire and other points to the north.

 Routes. Remember that ice formation varies so much from year to year and condition from hour to hour, that specifics are pointless.
1)  Lower Falls WI2+, 50 ft. Good for first leads.
2) Lower Middle Falls WI2, 40 ft
3)  Bear Falls WI2, 40 ft
4)  Amphitheater Falls WI2, 20 ft.
5)  Upper Middle Falls WI2+, 40 ft.
6)  Upper Falls WI3+,  6O ft
7)  Ursa Crag WI3,  30 ft.
8)  North Wall WI4+, 50 ft;
(Top outs marginal normally Top Roped)
9)  Amphitheater Crag WI3+4, 40 ft. Often leadable.
10)  Upper Amphitheater WI2-3+, 30 ft;
(Another Ice Pillar 15-20 feet above)
11)  North Amphitheater WI3, 40ft

Note: there is little worthwhile rock climbing in White Oak Canyon

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