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Spring Break 2018 – West Virginian adventures, Sunday, 27-May

Spring Break 2018 – West Virginian adventures, Sunday, 27-May

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…



Sunday dawned sometime before I woke up.

The dawn wasn’t what woke me up, obviously. I was sleeping like a log after the flying and driving the way before, and had no intention of waking up easily.

Thankfully, Daniel likes eggs for breakfast. And, while he doesn’t personally like bacon, he knows that the rest of us very much appreciate a few slices with breakfast. What woke me up was the smell; bacon and eggs, frying up as people bustled about.

Side thing that I appreciate about Daniel – he does breakfast. Not a large or heavy one, but a few eggs and a cup of a beverage. And he’s insistent on it. Ohh, we’re running late? Nope, doesn’t matter. I’m making eggs. Ohh, we planned on leaving 45min ago? Yeah, that’s nice. Here’s a plate of eggs. Eat it.


Our target of the day had been planned out the evening before – Our rental was right near Summersville Lake, so that was our starting point. Specifically, a section of wall between the Narcissus Cave, and the Orange Oswald section. It was somewhere Daniel and I had climbed before, so we figured that it would make for a good first day; something familiar, but also close to the house to minimize driving time.

I was pleasantly surprised just how much of the hike in, and the walls that we stopped at, I remembered from previous trips. It was like walking back into a memory… but without the creepy connotations or unhappy changes that we inevitably run into.

Once we set up camp, we got right to work ripping up the few climbs that were unoccupied. I mean, it was Memorial Day Weekend, so what do you expect? Empty walls? Hah!

  • Locumba, 5.10a, TR – not in the guidebook, but a recently bolted route. Daniel set it up thinking that it was a 5.8… and the rest of us paid the price. It was enjoyable though, definitely so, even if it did burn a lot of energy right early on.
  • That Eight, 5.7, Lead – this was a fun first-lead for the week. Simple and pleasant.
  • Jeffs Bunny Hop, 5.8, TR – Honestly, kind of a forgettable route. It was definitely fun, but I can’t really say I remember much about it.
  • Sniff the Drill, 5.8, TR – Same as the above. Enjoyable, but I couldn’t give you any beta for it.
  • Narcissus Direct Start, 5.12d, TR – yeah, no. I didn’t actually legitimately climb this. It’s better to say that I flailed around on it like a gutted first sprinkled with soy. Daniel had led the first five bolts of Narcissus, an “easier” 5.12a, and I was trying to follow him up. But I couldn’t do the start of Narcissus… so I had him basically haul me up the direct line, ’till I got to the easy bouldering section. Yup. Strong climber right here. Mmhmm.


One downside to this week? Rain. The forecast that we looked at in the weeks prior had been getting wetter and wetter… and now that we were here, it looked like the theme would be sunny mornings followed by rainy afternoons. This afternoon was the trend setter – as we were hanging out in the Narcissus Cave (yeah, it’s an actual cave. Neat, huh?) it started pouring on us. But remember – cave. So… nice and dry. We even met some super strong climbers, and got to watch them rip out some brutal routes… not sure which, but it was either a 5.12d, or a 5.13b. Either way – cool to watch.


The hike out was quick and painless – the rain kept falling, but thankfully it stayed at the cooling drizzle, instead of ever evolving into the drenching downpour that West Virginia sometimes throws at us. Once at the car we headed North to the grocery store, with everyone planning out their meals for the week.

Our plan was that each person/group would take one evening, and then we’d do two evenings eating out at restaurants. My dinner would be Monday night, so I bought all the various bits while everyone else searched out the ingredients for their own meals. I wasn’t super convinced at first… but honestly, this was a surprisingly efficient way to do a group grocery run… I think we were in and out in less than 45min!


The rest of the evening was filled with fajitas a-la Brian, relaxing and hanging out, sitting in the hot tub, and doing my first evening call with Sarah. A good start to the adventure.


Exploring the mountain streams of Venezuela


I woke up when Ana nearly kicked the door in with the assistance of her friend Andrei. It was nearly noon, and I had slept through Savas getting up, his Dad leaving for work, and a huge pool party right outside. Damn but I’m good at sleeping. Respect.

Anyways, Ana Savas Andrei and I ate a quick breakfast and headed out to grab a small townie-bus up to the Barrio South of the city, up in the mountains. Now two definitions for you: the townie-bus? That’s a gutted molester-van with its windows knocked out and the engine barely running. But by god it made it up that mountain like nobody’s business, and it was DAMN awesome. And the Barrio? Think Favela’s of Brazil or the deeper ghetto’s of LA. Sketchy, but if you’re from there completely cool. And luckily for us, we were meeting two of Ana’s friends from the area; Yelvin and his younger brother.


After we got off the bus and did introductions we all started heading the rest of the way up the mountain to the main river. That was the goal of the day: hiking up the riverbed to a great swimming area that Yelvin knew. We walked through the Barrio for about ten minutes before breaking out into the river area; a lone water transfer station marking the end of town. I guess this river is the primary water source for the town, so the path that we took was actually a maintenance trail used to keep the water systems running. We took off our shoes as soon as we got to the river and headed up barefoot so that we could hop between the river and the path easier. The path itself swapped between concrete walkways with handrails, bare packed earth, and extremely sketchy rock traverses that wouldn’t be out of place climbing in New Hampshire. Thank you rock climbing, for letting me get across those without incident.

As we ascended we passed a good number of other folks bathing and hanging out. I guess Sunday is an international rest day, so there were a ton of families out with the kids and grills, swimming and cooking. I have no idea what kind of meat was being cooked (and don’t want to know), but damn it smelled good 🙂 The ascent took us about an hour, give or take, hiking through some of the most beautiful country-side that I’ve seen. The river had cut a valley through the mountain, and the steep sides were covered with fruit trees (none ripe yet, unfortunately), but the views were amazing. Another kind nice upside to where we were hiking is that, since it’s the main water supply, there were a good number of water transfer stations that we could drink out of. I tried to keep the drinking to a minimum to lower my painful-stomach-risk, but I will say that the water I drank was amazingly clear and crisp. We’ll see if I regret it in the future. (Editors note: He did regret it, but not too much so. A light case of bathroom “oh god why! Why hath thou forsaken me!”, but it only lasted for half a day or so, thanks to Azithro)

And then we were there: an opening in the river-bed had created a large area of shallows backed by an extremely deep section carved by a waterfall in the back. Perfect for cliff-jumping, though I’ll admit that I pansied out at the last minute and didn’t jump. We swam and chatted, climbed the side-walls and danced, and rocked out as befitting the perfect scenery surrounding us. The river was cold, according to my Venezuelan compatriots, but perfectly warm according to Bostonian water temperatures. I took the chance to give my dreads a good washing, took lots of pictures, and enjoyed the sensation of the riverbed between my toes. Sounds dumb, I know, but the riverbed was this amazing mix of clay and sand, so it felt really neat, especially on all the bug-bites that I’ve been getting.

Before headed out I was treated to an impromptu “new life ceremony” courtesy of Andrei; I guess the primary reason for walking up here today was so that he could “turn over a new leaf”, and start a new chapter in his life. I hadn’t realized when I met him, but this dreadlocked and tattoo’d guy had just turned 18, and so had decided that now was as good a time as ever to drop all his bad habits and rebuild his life to be a bit cleaner and simpler. Him, Yelvin and Savas all did a neat Hindu ceremony of… something… (not sure, sorry!) where he chopped off his dreads and all his hair, and discarded all of his vices: weed, cigarettes and booze specifically. Then, we burned it all. Luckily the smell of burning Wine, weed and tobbacco over-rode the smell of burning hair, so it wasn’t really that bad. And seeing him shaved completely bald was a rather interesting sight. The guy who had looked a bit like Bob Marly not half an hour earlier now looked like Aang from Avatar. Creepy… but kinda funny too 🙂

After the ceremony we headed back down to the Barrio for some well earned snacks. I’ll admit, when Yelvin started asking around for something, getting directions and furtive answers from the residents of the barrio, I was half convinced we were trying to find the resident coke-dealer. Turns out the target of his hunt wasn’t the resident DRUG dealer, but the resident POPSICLE dealer, and I was treated to an amazing chocolate-milk pop. Awesome!

While cooling off with the pops we took another sketchy bus back down to La Guira, and headed towards the closest surfers-only beach. I guess bathing in the ocean is a fairly normal occurance, so this beach had huge signs all over reminding people that they can’t get naked and get their soap on here, it’s a strictly surfer-dude-only atmosphere up in here. Kinda nice, I’ll never complain about not seeing naked old dudes, and seeing smoking-hot surfer chicks instead. And do not forget this one fact: Venezuelan women are HOT. Like… holy hell. Thank you, whoever invented the itty-bitty bikini 🙂

The beach was quite excellent, but before long the sun was setting and I was getting on the bus headed back to Caracas so that I could head back to the hostel to prep for my flight to Buenos Aires. Ana and I had planned on going to a concert that night, but when we learned it was nearly 400 Bolivar (only $50, but I didn’t have that much changed) we bailed on it, since we couldn’t find anyone to change the cash. Thus, the bus ride was solo for me, though I think I was technically in a threesome on the way back… The folks sitting next to me were a surfer couple who were, literally, having sex next to me. And by “next to” I mean “his leg pressed up against mine thanks to the small seat,and half of her ass-cheek on my lap”. Yeah… awkward, but I won’t complain since she was, as I stated before, quite hot.

After getting back into the city I unsuccessfully hunted for the Metro… I had intended on getting off at Gato Negro, one of the main metro stops, but either I had missed it, the bus driver was wrong, or it was closed. I’m leaning towards the later, since I did find an obvious station that was quite definitely closed. So a little scared and worried (since it was night, and the area looked pretty bad) I did what any red-blooded Jewish-American boy would do: I ordered myself a fucking HOT DOG. WITH EVERYTHING. And, much like the hamburger of yesterday, everything means everything in Venezuela, and this thing had condoments all up in its business; they ran the gamut from onions and cheese to mayo and french-fries. And damn but it was good.

My belly full and my mind distracted from my predicament, I went about solving my problem. Keeping my head on a swivel and dodging around the sketchier groups of people (I did get a few called of “Hey! Gringo!” from the groups, which I ignored) I picked out the best looking cab and jumped in, telling him the closest metro station to where I wanted to go. On the ride we chatted (my Spanish is getting better yay!), and I found out that he studies at the university near my Hostel, that he wants to visit the US, and that his English was impressively bad. Almost as bad as my Spanish 😛

But soon the ride was over, my adventures for the evening completed. I settled into the Hostel, watching some stupid Youtube clips and typing up some stories.