* AND AWAY YOU GO: When dreaming of climbing it does not take much to overreach. I've had three lessons and one day on the rock but a catalog of desire -- the Mazama Glacier, Aconcagua, the Vinson Massif -- quickly is taking shape. Two things are missing: technique and experience, both of which will be on full display on April 5 at the 14th annual Cathedral Crank Climbing Competition at the St. Albans School in Northwest Washington. The longest-running event of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic features the school's 50-foot, man-made climbing pinnacle and several competition categories (beginner to expert). It is a great way to kick off the season. For details, call the National Cathedral School's Voyageur Program at 202-537-6468.

* SPRING CLEANING: The Potomac Watershed Clean Up, the Washington area's largest volunteer-led effort to rid the river and its tributaries of funk and junk, will take place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Potomac Conservancy is in charge of dozens of clean-up sites and is looking for volunteers, especially those with boats. Visit www.- potomac.org for details. . . .

The Appalachian Mountain Club will head out to Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro for its annual trash-collecting from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. It won't be all labor, though: The trip starts with a boat ride upriver and will end with a four-mile hike for those not too worn out by the work (waders will be supplied). Call Paul and Mary Ann Ray at 410-745-6852 for more information.

* SHAD MADNESS: The Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited will gather on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for fly-fishing guide Smith Coleman's talk on pursuing shad (April is high season) and other finning desirables on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg. The public is welcome; site is the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, 400 Center St., SE. Visit www.nvatu.org for details. . . .

The Virginia Fly-Fishing Festival, which will feature catch-and-release river fishing for rainbow and brown trout, will be held in Waynesboro (between Charlottesville and Staunton) this weekend. For details, call 540-942-6705 or visit www.vaflyfishingfestival.org.

* TIME TO DINE: The Bull Run Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host its Big Game Banquet on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Hilton Alexandria at Mark Center. The fundraiser will feature dinner, raffles, auctions and stuffed game displays. Contact Al Zane (703-264-7782; azane@erols.com) or Leo Gonnering (703-490-4571; ibohunt@aol.com) for tickets and details.

-- John Mullen

mullenj@washpost.com