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A midwinter's Glen Onoko hike

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    AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS After an uneventful second ascent /descent of the Glen Onoko Trail, members of the Philadelphia Hiking & Adventure Group practiced anchoring onto trees using ropes and carabiners. Left to right are: Vicki Seak, Julius Geday, and Claire Jarvis.
Published January 09. 2010 09:00AM

It was an easy scramble up and down the ice and snow covered Glen Onoko Falls Trail for 25 members of the Philadelphia Hiking & Adventure Group. So easy that some members climbed up and down the trail twice, plus hiked over a mile across the Broad Mountain summit to view the meandering Lehigh River from the Packer's Point overlook.

Glen Onoko is a regular training venue for the club that trains its members to climb some of the tallest mountains in the world. They do that by practicing at the Glen Onoko Falls Trail-in good weather, climbing both up and down up to five times in a day. "That would be 4,500 feet in vertical elevation," said Julius Geday - the club's coordinator.

"We are having fun at Glen Onoko," he said as he finished his second descent with his more experienced mountaineers, about half the group that started. "Glen Onoko is our favorite spot in the Philadelphia region to practice some basic mountaineering skills. Glen Onoko is beautiful. Every season has its own beauty."

Club members improve their skills with trips to the Catskill Mountains, Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and trips to Peru and Equador.

After the uneventful second ascent/descent of Glenn Onoko, Geday had the group practice anchoring onto trees using ropes and carabiners. Geday had every member of the expedition wear Kahtoola Microspikes-a rubber overshoe harness with chain supported _-inch stainless steel tips that bite into the ice.

Scrambling up and down the snow-covered icy Glen Onoko Trail would be treaturous without the spikes. "The Microspikes have sharp edges that dig into the ice to keep you from slipping," explained Terri Erbacher - a member of the hike. "They Fit over shoes and are stretchy. They feel awesome because you dig right into the ice. They are nice and stable and so comfortable I don't even feel them on my feet."

Climbing the Glen Onoko Trail in winter requires a process called scrambling. Because of the steepness of the trail, it is more than a hike. Often, climbing requires use of both the hands and the feet. In scrambling, the climber must grab onto rocks or trees.

As their post new year scramble was early in the winter season, none of the falls had frozen. Ice had formed but water was still flowing. It is about another six weeks until ice climbing season.

Geday noted that both in winter scrambling and in ice climbing, an ice ax is an important tool. He pointed out that the design of the ice ax is different between the two sports. "For ice climbing, the ax is sharper and of a different shape," he said. "and you need two of them." He also noted that ice climbing requires a crampon with a toe capable of biting into the ice.

Besides the ice ax, in his 60-pound pack, Geday carried a one-person four season bivy sack mini-tent, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a stove, a headlamp with extra batteries, compass, Swiss army knife, a first aid kit, and extra warm clothing.

"Never go to a mountain without this equipment," he said. "People go to a mountain and get into trouble when they don't have the right equipment with them. Any time we go to treaturous places, we pack this with us. If something should happen-the weather could change suddenly. We could actually sleep overnight and not perish."

Three years ago, the club went to the Andes to climb the highest mountain as measured from the core of the Earth, 6,320-meter high Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador. "We failed because we didn't acclimatize long enough," Geday said.

Last year, they returned to the south, this time to 13,650-foot Dead Woman's Pass on the Inca Trail in Peru. "Everybody succeeded," he said. "We acclimatized for a whole week."

During a morning hike on the trip, a man lost his footing, tumbling down a 200-foot drop. Miraculously, the man landed in heavy vegetation along the side of the mountain and walked away with just a few scratches.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Hiking & Adventure Group, see:

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