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…
In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says that Tradition holds the world together.
Bacon and eggs, with a cup of not-bad instant coffee held my world together. It had only been a few days, but I’m confident that this was now tradition, and thus sacred. And I’ll be honest, I was pretty tired and sore already, so the boost was quite welcome.
Today was the day we’d get the final members of the expedition in – Brian’s friend Thomas would be driving in, arriving around 4:00… exactly when Daniel and Erin would be leaving for their date night in Charlottesville, planned to see them finishing dinner just in time to pick up their friend Lauren from the airport in town.
With those times in mind, we headed toward the Endless Wall; an easily accessable crag that would get us a few fun routes without loosing too much time to the approach. In theory, at least.
(Quick Side Note: We all wore nearly the same outfit today. See the pictures below. Kinda cool, Kinda strange)
I was driving again today, but this time our navigation was by phone, instead of by uploading it to the car. A bad decision, it turned out… as we realized that the GPS was trying to take us to the cliff, instead of to the parking lot. And while the X1 is a very rugged vehicle… it’s not qualified to drive down sheer cliffs. Or through peoples yards, which is what google was telling us to do.
You could say that we ended up getting a bit turned around.
That confused ended with us settling in at the Bridge Buttress – literally almost directly under the huge bridge spanning the New River Gorge itself. Although everything was wet, we set some top ropes and enjoyed the rock as best we could:
- Monkey See, Monkey Do, 5.5, TR – Well, this was wet. It’s a slab route, that we climbed right after it rained. Funny story, it’s hard to make friction moves when the rock is an active river.
- Easily Flakey, 5.7, TR – This route. This route was amazingly fun. Simple, pleasant, and great laybacks, I very much enjoyed it and absolutely want to lead it on gear the next time we’re in town.
Unfortunately, the forecast called for rain… and the schedule called for lunch. Neither of which would wait for climbers, so we packed up and headed into town before the 4:00 plans started arriving.
Side story: As climbers, we run into non-climbers at cliffs and parking lots semi-regularly. There’s usually a set few questions that we get asked, along the lines of “what are you doing?” and “aren’t you going to die?”. Sometimes, you meet a lovely family from Cincinnati who wants to know if their 100ft rope is long enough to set up the 70ft climb. As a note, you need a rope 2x the climb length to set it up… so to do a 70ft climb, you need at least 140ft of rope. This gentleman didn’t have that. Instead, he had a massive bag full of gear that would put the most equipped mountaineer to shame. Also, stores don’t sell rope in 100ft lengths, but in 60m (180ft) lengths. So… I’ve got nothing as to what was going on there. When we left, he was walking around to the top… and we haven’t heard any accident reports, so… all’s good?
We ate lunch at the Cathedral Cafe. It was fun. I had a reuben and a cup of coffee. We also explored Fayettesville a bit… nothing majorly touristy, just checking out some tourist shops, and stopping into the climbing store for me to get the new guidebooks that had just recently been released.
We went back to the house. It was relaxing; Daniel and Erin got all dressed up, and Brian and I lounged on the couches.
Thomas arrived, and Daniel and Erin left for their picking-up-Lauren-Date.
Brian, Thomas and I got antsy.
Brian, Thomas and I went climbing.
We picked the easiest wall we knew of – The Orange Oswald wall that we’d done the first day. But instead of setting the harder routes that Daniel had led, I went easy. Because I was being nice to Brian and Thomas. Not because I was being a weenie about leading hard routes.
- Hippy Dreams, 5.7, Lead – I led this twice, and top roped it twice. Brian and Thomas both climbed it twice as well. It’s called “hands down the best 5.7 in the region” in the guidebook, and it absolutely earns that title – not only for the main route, but for the nearly limitless variants to it. I could have climbed it half a dozen times more, and not repeated a line of holds. Not that there’s infinite holds on it, but that each sections is subtly different, with really interesting movements that can be strung together. I loved it.
The danger of leaving to climb at 4:30 is that you stay out late.
We didn’t stay out ’till dark, though. We only stayed out until almost dark – we got back to the car literally exactly as the sun was setting… and you know what? I call that a win. A fully realized day, thank you very much.
Driving back to the house, we met up with Daniel and company on the road. Literally, they pulled in behind us at the traffic light turning onto the road that our condo was on. Kind of creepily perfect timing, but I’m not going to complain because it meant that we all got to the restaurant at the same time, and that Brian, Thomas and I had company for scarfing down our burgers. And I had Daniel to inspire me to order a cup of irish cocoa, which was unbelievably good.
So… that’s a good way to end the evening, right? Meeting up for 10:00 dinner, and gorging on huge bacon burgers and cocoa?