Typically, I am not in favor of posting route pages for single-pitch routes, but this route, though in a very popular spot and right between two named climbs, is not in any guidebooks I own or in any online descriptions I have found. In posting this with its own route page, I am hoping the added exposure may generate some climber logs and perhaps lead to something approaching a consensus on the rating for the climb.
The name is a nod to the climb just to the left, Beginner's Chimney (5.1). This climb is slightly harder than Beginner's Chimney, though not significantly so. It might be 5.3 but definitely is not a 5.4 compared to other area 5.4 routes.
If river levels are low enough, this climb goes up about 60', matching the longest climbs at Great Falls. Otherwise, the climb is about 50'.
This route is going to be pretty boring for most climbers. However, it's really good for kids, new climbers, and new trad leaders.
Locals will know their own best ways. For others, though, these directions are easiest to follow:
From the western part of I-495, a piece of the Capital Beltway, take Exit 44 for Route 193, Georgetown Pike; this is the second exit south of the Maryland border. Drive west for a few miles until you see the well-signed road leading to Great Falls Park. Turn right and follow the road about a mile to the entrance station. There are two large parking lots after the entrance station.
Just past the entrance station, though, an unmarked road turns sharply right and leads to the parking area for climbers, where there is a registration box. From there, hike east to a small footbridge crossing the Patowmack Canal, cross the bridge, and hike a short distance more and finally turn right onto the River Trail.
Head down the River Trail (see Getting There). About 0.2 miles along this trail, on the left, there is an outcrop overlooking the river. This overlook is shortly after a sign indicating access to the Sandbox climbing area. On one of the rocks, there is an easy-to-spot informational plaque about Stephen Mather. This outcrop is the top of the Dihedrals area.
To access the base of the climbs, walk a few yards downstream from the plaque and look for a Class 3 way down (some descriptions call it Class 4). NOTE: Your guidebook may mention a sign indicating climbers’ access for Dihedrals; as of November 2012, that sign is no longer there. ALSO NOTE: In periods of high water, the bases of many of these climbs will be inaccessible.
Many people simply rappel down after setting a toprope.
Route DescriptionIf you are toproping, it's as simple as that-- just climb.
I've led this route as well. It is not a very good trad route, but Great Falls does not offer a whole lot of trad, so you take what you can get. Leading the route, I found decent placements for just three medium-size stoppers. A more experienced leader or a more creative one could surely find a few more without making things too sketchy. Only smaller cams will be of much use on the route.
Should river levels be low enough to start from the very base of the cliff, you have two options-- go up some blocky stuff on the left (Class 3-4) or a short, shallow dihedral on the right (Class 4, but very smooth from millions of years of the river polishing it). Then follow the obvious corner/dihedral to the top.
River Start Left
River Start Right
If leading-- small/medium stoppers, small cams.