Hiking and Rock Climbing Pennsylvania: Laps Along Glen Onoko Falls and Sport Leading at Birdsboro

It was tough to get motivated to leave the comfort of my air-conditioned bedroom this weekend when the forecast called for record-breaking temperatures and humidity.

But every time I hesitate to leave for a Summit for Someone training session, I remind myself that Mount Rainier won't have sympathy for me if I choose to forgo an outdoor workout for an AC unit and a strawberry smoothie. Nor would I ever have any fun. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em right? This weekend, I mixed up the activities a bit, but still managed to get myself outside to play.

Day 1: Hiking Laps at Lehigh Gorge State Park

Saturday's objective was Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park. It's one of my favorite Philly-area hikes, both because of the scenery and the opportunity to cool off under chilly waterfalls. The falls begin from a mountain spring and form a cascading stream all the way down to the Lehigh River. The water doesn't get much above 60ºF even in the summer, which was exactly what I needed.

Beautiful Glen Onoko, Photo by Kevin.
The Falls Trail can be difficult to find and to follow, despite being in a well-used recreation area. The amount of use the area gets means there are small trails all around the river banks, and it's tough to pick out the start of the poorly marked Falls Trail. After descending wooden steps to the river from the parking lot, hikers proceed under a graffiti-covered bridge and turn right up a small incline, where blazes eventually appear. The trail follows orange/red blazes up the falls and branches off at the top for a descent through the forest.

The objective was, of course, Rainier training. My goal and do as many laps of the Falls Trail as I could before either (a) my legs gave out, (b) I lost my mind, or (c) I lost all my body's electrolyte reserves through sweat. During this month's training program, I'm supposed to gain 2800' each weekend with a 30-40# pack, which meant I had to do the 2-mile loop four times. When I made it back to my car, I was so drenched in sweat that a friendly gentleman loading a kayak into his truck asked me whether I'd been hiking or paddling.

One recommendation I have for anyone planning to play outside in this heat is to take a combination of plain old water and some sort of electrolyte replacement drink. I found having NUUN Active Hydration Tablets in two of the 4.5L of liquids I carried with me made a big difference in how I felt during and after the hike. 

Day 2: Self Sufficient Sport Lead Climbing at Birdsboro

Sunday was reserved for sport climbing at the Birdsboro rock quarry, the site of my first outdoor sport lead. Being a rock quarry and all, there's often a bit of rock fall. If there's any outdoor climbing spot I've been to in my short career that I'd never go without a helmet, this is definitely it. That being said, it's a great little local crag full of people willing to share beta and advice.

Orange Sunshine Wall, Birdsboro in 04/10 - by Randall Carroll

My partner in crime led Tap Dance (5.10) on the Main Wall and set up a top rope, which gave us access to that and two other challenging climbs - Fracture (5.11) and Puss in Boots (5.9+). I got on and finished both Tap Dance and Fracture on TR, but neither without a fall. They'll be good future projects for me. We moved on to the Zorro Face where he got on Zorro (12a) and attempted what would have been his most difficult lead yet. He made it to the second clip, which was an incredible accomplishment, and I'm sure he'll be back on it again next time!

He reminded me at the end of the day that it was our first day outside sport climbing, just us, without any help. It gave me pause, just as our first day of self-sufficient top roping at Livesy Rock in November did. I love that climbing allows continued evolution; there's always something new to learn. The most important thing I took away from the day was a lesson I'd been taught when I started climbing - I came away with renewed sense of the importance of clear communication. I might touch on situation specifics in another post. We preach this to new gym climbers all the time, telling them to get used to yelling commands as a belayer and a climber to prevent accidents, but even the most seasoned climbers can get complacent. It's just too important to forget, and practice makes perfect!

Hope everyone else in the Northeast managed to get outside this weekend despite the heat!