A West Virginia adventure – Spring Break in the New River Gorge, 2018
Saturday, 26-May, through Saturday, 02-June, 2018
“Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. Country roads, take me home… to the place, I belong! West Virginia, Mountain momma… take me home, country roads.”
I’m pretty sure that the first real spring break I ever had was with Daniel, years ago, when we drove down to the New River Gorge to climb, and attend the New River Rendezvous. Since that year, we’ve done our best to always link up and go on some glorious climbing trip on or around Memorial Day. This year was a tough one, with Sarah breaking her leg, but she insisted that I go anyways, and let her live vicariously through me as she convalesed at home. I’d already cleared the week as vacation with my boss, even before I was hired for the project, so I was free and clear for a throwback adventure…
Per what would become the usual, I woke up to the smell of bacon.
Not coffee though. Interesting note: of everyone at the cabin so far, I was the only coffee drinker. I blame Sarah for this – before meeting her, coffee was a mid-afternoon thing. Now, it’s more of a morning thing. Not that it’s bad to have coffee in the morning. Just an interesting note.
So I woke up to the smell of bacon, eggs, and tea. Good way to wake up.
This time, I get to drive. Yesterday, Daniel had driven us all to the cliff… but this time, I was behind the wheel, getting to test out the BMW. And, just in case I wasn’t sure who owned it, Daniel reminded me right off the bat by uploading the directions from his phone to the cars navigation system. Yeah, That’s a thing that it does.
After maybe 5 minutes of trying to figure out all the various autonomous, assisted, or downright robotic aspects of the car, we were on our way to Sandstonia!
We set up camp at the Tattoo Wall, the far Northern section of Sandstonia. It did have some people… but for memorial day, it was surprisingly empty. Well, we’re not going to complain… so let’s set some routes!
- Bobby D’s Bunny, 5.6, Lead – My first lead of the day, it was a simple and pleasant line. Nothing hard… but not quite as easy as I’d expect a 5.6 to be.
- 5.5 my ass, 5.6, Lead – This route was short and strange. I think even calling it a 5.6 is a bit sandbaggy, though it was only 40ft tall, and the only real move was pulling over a really simple ledge.
- Kinesthetica, 5.10c, TR – This was nice. This was obscenely, gloriously, brutally nice. The main route was simple and delicate, the kind of climbing that I enjoy on top rope, but avoid on lead. The final moves, though, were my jam. Hugely burly, strong overhanging jugs that simply require you to commit, pull, and move. Seriously – it just had me grab a huge dinner-plate sized jug, and haul up over a 3ft roof. Just like the gym.
- Geisha Girl, 5.8, TR – Another really fun route… the start was my favorite part, though everyone else hated it. It’s a clean hand-crack, the kind that I feel most comfortable in, but that Brian and Erin can’t stand. Ehh, their loss, I loved it.
Now, that was the climbing portion. There were two other bits that very much deserve a mention:
- We met Cindy Hintz. The name might not mean anything to you, dear reader, but if you read the guidebook for this crag, you’ll see her name mentioned all over its pages. She was one of the original route setters for the crag, one of the pioneers who not only set the routes, but discovered the rock itself. And we met her, and got beta from her!
- I helped a team nearby. See, I finished Geisha Girl in the rain. Did I mention that? I should have. And I don’t mean some silly “ohh, tee hee, it’s misting” rain. No, I mean “Ohh wow, who took a fire hose to my face? Ohh, the sky did. Okay”, fully drenched in 2minutes, deluge. And I was on the wall.
Thankfully, it wasn’t lightening, and I’d already gotten through the tough bits. So all I had to do was clean and lower.
But then I looked right, and saw the family next to us. Their rope was still set up too – and they had just barely started the route. They’d need to set up an ascender, ascend the 100ft route, clean, and then descend. All in the rain, with three kids all less than age 6 milling around.
I couldn’t make them do that.
So I traversed. In the rain. On top of a slippery rock cliff, 100ft in the air. I mean, I was obviously roped in, and in no real danger at all. But man, that’s scary. I was looking at a huge swinging fall, probably smacking various bodyparts against the rock if I slipped. But I am truly a glorious specimen of humanity, and I prevailed. I grabbed their gear, dropped their rope, and lowered myself safely to the ground.
By the time we got to the car, we were soaked.
I’d managed to help out the family next to us, but that didn’t help us stay any less wet. By the time I was on the ground, I was fully saturated, and my rain gear didn’t fare any better… being left in a puddle at the base of the route. Nothing was damaged, but it did lead to a rather squishy walk back to the car.
Thankfully, I was in charge of that night’s dinner… which meant we were having my type of comfort food – surf and turf. I’d gotten a pound of salmon, a pound of steak, dinner rolls, and ingredients for a spring green / pear salad. Which I set to making with a passion, just as soon as all of our gear was laid out to dry in front of a fan in the basement.
Dinner went well… I hesitate to claim that it was the best dinner of the trip… but let’s be honest. I’m not humble. I think it was the best. Not that anyone else’s was bad! Not by a long shot! But I just prefer mine, since… you know, I make what I like. It went over well though, and I didn’t have any major complaints, so yeah. I’m proud. Go chef Ben, go.
The rest of the evening? Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and some catching up over glasses of wine. And of course enjoying the fact that we were warm and dry.