After a 4 days interlude for some more proper honeymooning we moved on to climbing destination number 2, West Virginia’s New River Gorge, in search of some more honeymoon sends.
The New is not on everyone’s destination radar but I had heard good things and had always wanted to go there after having seen a picture of the Cirque, the New’s most hardcore sector, in an issue of Climbing magazine. I had less expectations for the New in terms of goals. Vertical sandstone is not my forte but I did want to try the area classic 5.14a (8b+), Proper Soul at the Cirque, just in case.
The New is a beautiful place. The tree choked Gorge was just starting to change colour while we were there. Although we didn’t see it, you can just imagine the splendour when the bronzes, burgundies and golds take hold. The rock, is in places almost identical to Font, a hard white sandstone with technical and generally reachy moves. In other areas the rock is almost Gritstone-like with a thicker grain. Coming from the UK where such rock never has bolts, it was a guilty pleasure to just clip and go.
The weather in the New, was once again too hot for hard routes. The Cirque is part of an area, appropriately named Endless Wall. The wall which stretches for 3 miles (!) is immense and, were it not for a ban on further bolting, has a long way to go before it is worked out. Despite the thick tree cover which helped with the belaying, the south-facing “Endless” was too hot to climb on and hopes of trying Proper Soul were ditched straight away. Perhaps is it was a good thing. In the cool of the evening on a shady wall I discovered just how hard the New is. One of the routes of the gorge is a stunning white face climb, with rock straight out of Font. I really wanted this one. My onsight ended at the 2nd bolt. Max effort bouldering took me bolt to bolt to 2/3rds height from where I could no longer make upward progress of any kind. I discovered just how evil The Racist 5.13b (8a) is. It has been 10 years since I have found 8a so hard. In fact I am stumped as to how you climb this thing.
Chris Sharma, of course, has onsighted The Racist.
My mortality, well and truly stuffed down my throat and the heat still in force we opted for the shady areas and a bit of onsighting. Brilliantly American-named routes like Lactic Acid Bath 5.12c (7b+) were tremendous fun, but any attempt at breaking into the 8th grade seemed to be foiled by desperate bouldering that spanked me just as hard as Font does. Another victory for the home team in the ongoing fixture of Sandstone vs Cassidy.
With most of the best of the New in the sun we struck gold by driving 20 miles North to the incredible Summersville Lake. More phenomenal Font-esque rock by the side of a large, warm lake, perfect for swimming and a much more successful 2 days of climbing were the highlight of the West Virginia leg of the honeymoon. The first day at Summersville I bagged the “Triple Crown” of four star routes; Apollo Reed 5.13a (7c+ flash), Pod 5.13b (8a onsight) and Mercy Seat 5.13a (7c+ 2nd go). The next day the remaining 5.13c (8a+), B.C. was polished off just leaving the stunning looking 5.14b (8c) Still Life to return for.
And I would return to the New. A month or so later and I’m sure the coefficient of friction improves to the point that impossible cruxes turn into passable moves, just as in Font. Later in the year too, the falling leaves must open the crags out to the full beauty of rural West Virgina offering a truly dramatic arena in which to climb .