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Wanna make like Spider-Man? True, the chances are slim of you ever being bitten by a radioactive spider, but with the help of rock-climbing professionals and some specialized gear, you can be an arachnid and crawl up a sheer cliff.
"It's a real heart-pumping experience," says Darrell C. Spence, who runs Allegany Expeditions in Cumberland. "I get on that rock ledge, and I still get that heart-pumping excitement."
Maryland is home to plenty of prime rock-climbing spots. Near Baltimore, the best are to be found in Patapsco Valley State Park, off Gorsuch Run Road in Eldersburg, and at Rocks State Park in Jarrettsville. Near Washington, there's Carderock, along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal near Potomac. Popular sites in Western Maryland include Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson and Annapolis Rocks, on South Mountain near Boonesboro.
Spence, who takes most of his customers to Willis Mountain, just outside of Cumberland, says he's helped outfit climbers as young as 5 and as old as well into their 70s. "You have to be in reasonable physical condition," he says. "What I worry about most is people with weak hearts."
More customers these days, he says, are into rappelling -- heading down the rock face -- than climbing. "People say about rappelling, it takes a little bit of guts but no skill. Rock-climbing people, there's some muscle and strength and skill involved."
Both, he adds with haste, are equally exhilarating.
"What I really enjoy is being able to see people who have never done this before and get that total look of fear on their face," Spence says. "But then they do it, and that look of fear changes to joy and excitement."
More info: Allegany Expeditions, 301-722-5170, alleganyexpeditions.com