Climbing the Walls: West Virginia

Posted: 15th June 2011 by 7ucyClark in climbing, not a sports blog, review

This past weekend, Lucy & I took an excursion to do some outdoor climbing.

The New River Gorge, or “the New”, as those in the familiar refer to it (as opposed to “the Red”)*  is the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian area; the environment was (and continues to be) created by the river cutting through the sandstone terra that lines the banks.
The gorge is also home to the longest arch bridge in the western hemisphere (according to the sign, anyway).  As you’re traveling over the bridge, that fact seems rather underwhelming… but when you see viewed from below, it is a pretty spectacular thing.  Ask me if I took any photos of it.  Go on—ask.

–artist’s rendering [stunning, no?]

The cliffs are quite respectable, many having a ‘painted’ quality to them (also no photos**). Several of the cliffs are undercut, revealing  roofs of awe-inspiring proportions.
And don’t get me started on the Endless Wall.

The climbing routes (over 1400) are primarily in the range of what the NPS site says are “advanced” routes– between 5.10 & 5.12.  And while I wouldn’t normally think 10s or 11s are “advanced”… well—these aren’t your (or, at least my) average 10s or 11s.

In the different areas that Lucy & I have climbed, we’re pretty comfortable in the 10 range… but we were struggling a bit out at the New.  The ratings seem very conservative.
And according to the NPS site, about half the routes are bolted.  Not sure if this is accurate or not, as we only visited a handful of the climbing sites.
Which brings me to scope.  This place is fricking sprawling.  There are climbing sites all over the place (with 1400 routes, there would pretty much have to be), and many of the walls are horizon-busting (Endless Wall? [glower]).
But the routes– that ones that we could finish—were a lot of fun.  The variety of features, from cracks to chimneys to the aforementioned roofs are prolific, and as such, about any level of climber can find such a feature on a route of their ability.  Which is nice.  Because who doesn’t love crawling over a big, juggy roof?  Really?  Who doesn’t love the big jugs?

The routes that we did ranged from straight-on-up 120’ runs (bring a 70 meter rope) to traversey ledges with no feet (was my favorite***).
Not all the routes are equally traveled, and a climber may find themselves smearing lichen, or competing with spiders for real estate… but those are the dynamics of outdoor rock.  Yay, adventure
(Seriously?  There were some impressive spider colonies… like, scary impressive)
So the climbing, while challenging (which also is a nice thing), was very satisfactory.
And following your climb at Head Wall, stop off at Smokey’s for an adult beverage, and some additional training!

–Torey free-solos at Smokey’s.

And apparently, there’s a town in the area, too.
We camped, so we didn’t get much into town… but Saturday evening (after the Endless Wall fiasco) we treated ourselves to a well-earned dinner at Pies & Pints (not to be confused with Pies & Pints …), which I heartily recommend.

So… yeah.  West Virgina.  The New.
It’s only 6 hours from Baltimore…

Oh– one last thing: do not go without a guide-book… and a good one, at that.  And, of course… your towel.

–Consulting the ‘guide’.

*apparently the Crooked and the Virgin aren’t ‘hip’ enough to have their descriptors dropped.
** you know?  It’s not like we didn’t have a camera.  Funny.
*** to qualify: that was my favorite after I’d finished it.  During? I wasn’t too thrilled about the prospect of swinging back to the last bolt.  But finished?  Hell, yeah!  It was great!  I’d [watch somebody else] do it again!

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