Monday, November 15, 2010

The New River Gorge and beyond...

Our wonderful hosts John and Carrie.
This morning marks two weeks spent in Fayetteville, WV!  We're so thankful to have had the opportunity to engage this new landscape, to visit old friends and make new ones, and to revel in the cosmopolitan megalopolis of Fayetteville, America's "Coolest Small Town".  This scenic "National Recreation" plateau nestled in the West Virginian hills holds some of America's best cragging.  The movement is manifold, bolted and unbolted climbs...and the stone is comprised of skin friendly sandstone that just begs to be climbed.  Moreover, lines here are just jaw dropping gorgeous; most of them full of vibrant hues of orange, yellow, and vertical water streaks.  During our time here we also have enjoyed a change of pace from van living.  Our friends John and Carrie were kind enough to share their awesome digs with us.  They live 10 minutes from the Gorge in a sweet cabin in the woods.  We've had a marvelous time enjoying their company, cooking cookies and brownies, and just kicking it back WV style.  We are truly thankful for their limitless "Southern' hospitality.  Had we only known about their skills with dice...  yes, these people are "Farkle" pros.


As you can see, John is also part T-Rex.  Late one evening I decided to pull out my Velociraptor impersonation... this in turn brought out John's alter ego, the T-Rex.

I've never had a better time waltzing around, pretending to be a prehistoric lizard.  Thanks T-rex!

John 't-rex' shown to the left in our suite.   Look at those feral eyes, that claw like mini arm, and the saliva drooling grimace.

With access to an oven, we made lots of goodies!  Tiffers shown to the right working on some chocolate chip cookies.  We've just not found many good store bought cookies out there.  And, there is nothing better than hitting the road with a fresh batch of baked goods.  Yum!

There were many nights of group cooking as well.  Carrie Bohmer is a wonder in the kitchen, and served up some mean vittles; most of which were not only delicious, but organic and healthy!

John's 5$ haircut.  Apparently, the best deal in the South.

Late last night John and Carrie returned from a weekend in Virginia Beach; where they not only wrapped up some business, but put the hurt on a secret ops, special forces training type of obstacle course.  To prepare himself mentally, John dropped into a Norfolk "Barber", advertising 5$ dews.  Sitting in the hot seat, like a deer in headlights, he came to the realization that the black barber had probably not ever cut a white boys hair before.  But, we all agree that his new bangs could be a trend setter here in Fayetteville.  Now, if we could only get that beard a little thicker.

One of our favorite hangs here has been Summersville Lake.  Perfect sandstone cliffs adorn the shores of this magnificent pond and the sun always seems to be shining in abundance.  The crowds were also non existent (even on the weekends) here.  Yep, everyone must be at the Red River Gorge.

  We spent 3 days climbing here over the past two weeks and each one of those found us stripping down to shorts and t-shirts.   The rock is similar to the New, and there are loads of interesting 8's and 9's that Tiffers got to sample.  Two of those days we warmed up at an area called Whippoorwill that normally sits underneath the lakeshore.  But, at this time of the year the Army Corps of Engineering does a major water release on the Summersville Dam, and conveniently, the Whippoorwill area surfaces out of the murk; its flawless white sandstone, and sun drenched cliffs beckoning.

In addition to the lovely ambience of created by sun and water, I was more than stoked to sample the Coliseum wall.  Although the New is better known for technical masterpieces... there are a few steeper walls where endurance, wash board abs, and raw rock wrestling are the general rule.  Once off the ground in the Coliseum, be prepared for battle, and the sickening pump that will likely ensue.  My buddy Patrick had recommended a route called Apollo Reed 13a. This line tackles the longest, steepest section of the cliff, and was developed by none other than Porter Jarrard.  I launched up into the abyss.  Sequences that appeared reachy from the ground ended up offering just enough holds for me to creatively navigate my way to the summit anchors first try.   The dyno described in the guide which initially caused much apprehension was overcome with an intermediate and a high foot.  Whenever I'm trying to Onsight routes I get nervous about jump moves and deadpoints; because once set in motion, there is one chance to stick the hold.  Pulling out the final hero jugs on Apollo I meat hooked a right hand chickenhead the size of a coke can, kicked my legs loose into the void, and felt for a brief instance like a rock star.  Later in the week I was also able to do the Pod 13b and gave a solid OS effort at Mercy Seat 13a.  After falling off the latter I spent 25 minutes trying to figure it out.  No dice.

Yesterday we went back down to the Cirque so that I could give the Proper Soul rigatoni some last try effort.  The pre climb jitters were in abundance; knowing the following day we'd be headed away from the New and into other parts.  Though a weekend day, we found nobody at the wall.  There was an eerie silence that was only broken by the plummet of dead leaves, that echoed off the cliffs and spoke of change.  And then, it started to Rain.

The dreaded dyno.
Doubts clouded my mind as I lapped the warmup several times.  Climbing in nothing but shorts I was hot and sweaty.  The rock was smarmy and less than ideal...  But, what the heck.  We were there and I wasn't about to throw in the towel without giving some effort.  With Tiff giving me moral support, I launched into the rig, flowing up the easy approach...legs swinging wildly into space.  At the  Dyno I set up, launched, and missed!  Without a hint of pump I was sagging on the end of the rope, somewhat dejected; Arrrg.  Without hesitation I pulled the rope, tied back in, and within moments was setting up for the dyno.  I launched...and missed. At this point I was feeling less than confident.

Earlier in the week I had fallen up much higher.  And now, I was regressing; falling lower, and forgetting important details.  Pulling back up on the rope to recheck the dyno, I was surprised to notice that my right foot was being positioned lower than before; which accounted for my misfires.  After sticking this a couple times from the dog, I lowered off, and took a breather.

Ladder Mainia!
As the Rain increased in cadence, I began to also worry that the finish (if I was ever to get there) would possibly be wet.  Proper Soul is mostly steep and overhanging, but at the end one has to pull onto a vertical face with smaller holds; grips that I was less than thrilled to imagine soaking with water.  With my mind swimming in doubt, I closed down, and quietly ushered my pervasive negativity into a holding area I like to call, the 'ignore' area.  Game time.  With purpose, I cast off into Proper Soul, feeling each movement, and the subtlety of every hold.  The Rain, Smarmy rock, and other self doubts were gone.  Space pulled past me as I Kareem Abdul-Jabbar'd through the air, three fingers of my left hand finding their mark, legs counter coiling back under the roof.  After that it was a blur until my left foot popped at the last Dihedral crux move.  It was only blind luck that my left hand was partially ensconced in the finishing jug.  Feeling more pumped than ever, I pulled another dyno to a jug, and tick tacked my way to the rest.  The rain slowed, the leaves continued their fall, and I did my best to recover.  With mouth completely parched, and tongue sticking, I moved into the second crux.  Locking off with feet smeared high, I found one of the routes small holds, and slapped up into the crux.  Amazingly, I felt great!  Soon, I was fully recovered on the worlds best knee bar; in an airy position with the last draw 20 feet below.   Jugs flew by and then I was deadpointing to a sloper, clipping, drop knee...right hand crimp, left feet up high on jib, left hand crimp below right hand...and PULL to left hand crimp.  Standing up I realized that not only were the holds dry, but that I was going to finish this amazing climb, on a day that I had resigned to failure.  Clipping the anchor I was reminded that the mind is a powerful beast.

Proper Soul is the first 14a that I have redpointed outside of Little Si, WA.  And, it has me fired up to try some other climbs of similar difficulty.  With no outstanding NRG projects, I'm leaving quite happy, and ready for the Red River Gorge!  Thank you New River Gorge.  We love ya!

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