Written by Lauren Stepp
Regional Winter Sports Experts Provide Insider Intel for Making the Most of the Coldest Season
The 160-foot spray column quivers. Anthony D’Ercole, now an hour into his ascent of Linville Falls, senses the cauliflower-like ice chunks shifting. Though January temperatures dipped low enough to partially freeze the waterfall, it never quite attached to the underlying rock. Instead, the glassy cascade floats almost mystically, halted midair.
D’Ercole continues, unaffected. He kicks one crampon; the second follows. He jabs one ice tool; the second follows. It goes on like this. And then, near the waterfall’s crest, D’Ercole hesitates. There is a fissure he must traverse—a hiatus in rock and ice where there is nothing but a bitter drop. The move is sketchy, but he makes it.
“The best alpine climbers are the ones with the worst memories,” D’Ercole laughs, reflecting on this 2018 climb today. Though others have top-roped Linville (climbing while clipped into a rope system that is anchored at the top), D’Ercole is thought to be the first to lead climb the infamous waterfall (climbing with no pre-established anchor point). His repertoire includes other Blue Ridge cornerstones: the 100-foot Catawba Falls, 60-foot Looking Glass Falls, 2,000-foot ice flows on the Black Mountain range, and equally treacherous stretches on Whiteside Mountain.
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