Literary adventure leads to Whipp’s Ledges

Whipp's Ledges
The 20 to nearly 50 feet tall ledges at Whipp's Ledges are exposed areas of Sharon Conglomerate. (Julie Geiss photo)

Life is an adventure with my youngest son. He can be a cyclone of ideas and pulls us into his schemes due mainly to our proximity to the storm. 

After reading about homing pigeons used for communications during World War I, he acquired four pigeons and built a coop. It didn’t end there. Now, he is training them and wants to eventually enter races. Presently, I know more about pigeons than I ever cared to imagine. 

My husband and I can never assume what will be the next big thing. We are often blindsided by the magnet that attracts his attention for the unforeseeable future. 

Common theme

Getting new ideas from books seems to be a common theme. He just finished reading “Banner in the Sky” by James Ramsey Ullman. It was first published in 1954 and a year later awarded the John Newbery Medal. Ullman, a mountaineer, used his personal climbing experience to write the engaging coming-of-age story about a teenage boy in Switzerland. 

Set in 1865, the fictionalized story closely parallels the first time the summit of the Matterhorn was conquered. Rudi Matt is the very relatable main character that reluctantly works as a dishwasher instead of spending his days in the mountains. Rudi was inexplicably drawn to mountaineering. 

Rudi’s father, like many men in the village, had worked as an alpine guide. The storyline revolves around the untimely death of Rudi’s father on a previous expedition on the same mountain. Superb characterization and rapturous descriptions of the alpine setting by Ullman have drawn in readers for decades. 

My son was no different; he was thoroughly invested in the plot. His enthrallment didn’t end with the last chapter when he closed the book. He quickly began researching the sport of rock climbing. He was determined to rock climb in Ohio. 

Whipp’s Ledges

Whipp's Ledges
The honeycomb weathering on the sides of some of the rocks at Whipp’s Ledges look like burst bubbles frozen in time. (Julie Geiss photo)

One of the closest locations he found was Whipp’s Ledges, a part of Hinckley Reservation and the Cleveland Metroparks. I made it very clear that we could go to Whipp’s Ledges but it was simply for a sightseeing hike. 

I consider us below beginners in the hierarchy of rock climbing abilities. The combination of his overconfidence and my fear of heights knocks us at least one rung below the line denoting beginners into the negative space for people better left to horizontal trails. 

We parked at the picnic area at the base of Whipp’s Ledges Trail. The trail is short, only 1.1 miles in length. However, the 223-foot elevation change made the trail more challenging and has plenty of space to roam and explore. 

We have been to other sandstone ledges in the area like the West Woods in Geauga County and Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in Garrettsville. However, I was not prepared for the height and magnitude of Whipp’s Ledges. 

Immediately, the trail climbs in elevation until reaching the ledges. Then the trail forms a loop around the general area of the ledges. Within the loop, it is a mossy labyrinth of giant ledges and boulders. 

The 20 to nearly 50 feet tall ledges are exposed areas of Sharon Conglomerate. Mainly composed of sandstone, we also noticed other interesting features. There were veins of pebbles, mostly white quartz, drifting in the rock like a wave in the ocean. 

We were also fascinated by the honeycomb weathering on the sides of some of the rocks. They looked like burst bubbles frozen in time. We slowed down to read some of the names carved into the stones. Several were etched in perfect typewriter font. I leaned forward to look closely at the dates, noticing many were from the late 1800s. 

Plot twist

The end of Banner in the Sky contained a surprise twist to the plot, an unexpected ending with an immeasurable reward. The end of the book marked a new beginning for us in our adventure of rock climbing.

During our hike at Whipp’s Ledges, we stopped to talk to several people who were rock climbing some of the tallest ledges. The park does offer climbing maps that list over 100 different climbs ranging from easy for beginners to more advanced. 

In addition, Cleveland Metroparks also offers climbing classes in the spring to assist people new to the sport. There are many areas in the park for bouldering or climbing over lower rock formations without equipment. 

The conclusion to our outing didn’t have a plot twist. It ended the way I expected, someone is even more interested in rock climbing than before. I had the crazy idea to try it indoors first before attempting slippery moss-covered rock. The sky’s the limit, and I am along for the adventure.


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