I recently headed up to New River Gorge to do some rock climbing. Considering I had never been there it seemed like something I should do before I move from the east coast to the PNW. Planning is not my M.O. but I was meeting a bunch of my brother’s friends at New River Gorge and this was the only weekend that fit everyone’s schedule. The downside to planning a weekend in advance and what I use as an excuse for not planning is that you are at the mercy of the weather. The gamble on this weekend did not payoff and we got rained on pretty steadily which sucked.
We went to the NRG to climb and climb we did, weather be damned. We originally planned to climb at Bubba City but as the heavens opened up that plan was quickly derailed. Hoping that the rain would pass we all huddled under overhangs in a rather futile attempt to stay dry. There was a brief break in the rain and Dave decided to put up a top rope on a damp 5.7 but other than that it was a bust.
As the weather continued to deteriorate the consensus was that we should head over to Bridge Buttress and climb under the shelter of a gigantic roof. When we got there I was pretty impressed by the size of the roof. It had to be at least 30 feet deep. The crazy thing about the roof was not its size but rather the fact that the roof was bolted. I can hardly imagine climbing a roof that deep and that steep.
Dave got on the rock a little before me and started putting up the first pitch of High Times at 5.10c. In good fashion he started hiking it but struggled at the top which involved some friction steps. The rock was sweaty and the crack was in his words “moist.” Last I checked friction moves don’t go along with wet rock but he assured me the rock was fine after he scrambled to the anchors.
I’ve been trying to suck it up lately and lead more, especially when I’m scared and conditions are less than ideal. There happened to be a very short 5.7 crack on the wall (Horton’s Tree) and I decided that I had to force my way up it. After racking up and making sure my chalk bag was full I started up it and by “started up it” I mean slid off the start about a dozen times. Despite the pit in my stomach I was resolved to get up it. 1/2 a chalk bag later, the crack went from wet to damp and the feet went from slick to sweaty. Despite my poor form, in the end I thrashed and dangled my way up it and to me that is what counts. Funny thing is, about an hour later I TRed it smooth like butta.
I don’t typically climb with a large group at popular crags so I rarely see bona fide strong climbers working hard routes. Prior to the New River Gorge trip I had never seen someone put up a 5.12 line. With a top rope already set up on High Times, Dave danced his way up Let the Wind Blow at 5.12a. I have to say that I am now inspired to climb “hard” and even though I probably will never be able to climb harder than say 5.11 on TR, I am determined to become a 5.10 trad climber. Maybe that is unrealistic but with some serious gym time and a bit of miracle gro to put hair on my chest it just might happen.
The rest of the day we climbed on other classics such as Zag (5.8), a generic 5.6 and Jaws (5.9+) which is an incredibly awkward corner crack and much like wrestling a bear. Despite the weather, it was a good day and a great introduction to New River Gorge rock climbing.