The record-breaking below-freezing temperatures felt across North Carolina, and much of the country, might have helped break another record: climbing a frozen waterfall.
Linville Falls, the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains, froze, an event that rarely occurs, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Climber Anthony D’Ercole, a climbing instructor with Fox Mountain Guides in Brevard, took advantage of the circumstance. In the process, he may have set a record of ascending 160 feet of the frozen waterfall, with his friend Kyle Harris, according to the report.
“It hasn’t been confirmed that anybody has climbed it the way I climbed it, on lead,” D’Ercole told the Citizen-Times. “Old school climbers may have top-roped it back in the day, but there’s no evidence.”
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Lead climbing is used to ascend and attach protection to the face of the surface. The climber doesn’t have an anchor point above them, and the only way the climber progresses is by using his or her limbs.
In top-rope climbing, the climber is attached to an anchor at the top of the route.
He told the Citizen-Times that it took him about two hours to get to the top.
Western North Carolina’s waterfalls often attract outdoor enthusiasts in spring and fall when the weather is comfortable, but the frigid temperatures last week attracted ice climbers. On New Year’s Day, there was a record-low high temperature of 21 degrees in Asheville, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
On Saturday, Spruce Pine photographer Halley Burleson shared a photo of the two climbers ascending the solid falls on her Appalachian Exposures Facebook page. The post had been shared almost 15,000 times by Wednesday.
Some Facebook users commented on the photographer’s post that they had last seen the falls frozen in the late ’70s and ’80s.
Linville Falls, and others in Western North Carolina, are now thawing with temperatures climbing up to the 50s.
While frozen waterfalls in North Carolina are rare and beautiful, officials with the National Forest in North Carolina is warning visitors to be cautious around ice formations that are thawing this week.
“Large slabs of hanging ice and icicles on cliffs and waterfalls will fail and fall and could cause serious injury or death to those in the immediate vicinity,” officials said. “Ice that had frozen over streams is thinning and is not safe to walk across in most areas.”
Ice and snow on tree branches are more likely to fall, and falling ice can loosen rocks that can roll onto roads and trails. Roads at higher elevations may still be icy, and drivers should not assume roads are safe to travel, even if gates may be open.