New River Gorge, WV: Wild, Wonderful, and Unforgettable
The New River Gorge was gorgeous. Yes, I am going to start the blog with that cheesy line. But the good news is I am not lying or overselling it. If you have not been and you are from West Virginia, Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, the Carolinas or any other place that is remotely close, you should absolutely pay it a visit. The New River Gorge is right in the mountains of West Virginia which are known to be “Wild and Wonderful.” That was exactly how I would describe our stay there.
We stayed at the Chestnut Campground and it is worth noting that the owner of the campground, Seth, is a gem of a human being. I say that for many reasons. Firstly, he hit us with this quote that we still hold dear and say to this day…”What are the two least important days of your life? Yesterday and tomorrow.” Let that one sink in. Secondly, we didn’t have to pay until the end of our stay and he offered that we could either pay or put in a few hours of maintenance work on the campground to keep it nice. We elected to work because that felt like it would be more rewarding for Seth and us. Since we completed our work reasonably quickly, we paid on top of that mainly just out of appreciation for Seth’s kindness. The campground itself was perfect as it was deep in the woods, plenty of space for your camper or in our case a 30-foot RV. With the big old Bertha the RV, it is always our goal to find a place that is able to give us that authentic nature camping experience, while still being spacious and well kept enough that we’re not going to get trapped in the woods because Bertha is too bodacious and old. With that being said this campground was perfect.
Now that we were settled in our campground with our good friend Matty who runs the Outer Banks Climbing Club and Sandstone Shredders, we were ready to begin the actual New River Gorge adventure of hiking, climbing, deep water soloing, and crushing ice cold PBR’s. First stop was Sandstonia Wall as a tribute to the Sandstone Shredders and what tribute it was. The wall was not indeed sandstone but the climbs were incredible. It actually gives me joy to reflect on them. The hike in was not terrible but a solid 15-20 minute hike. Since we had a new friend visiting, we had him carry the soul crushing heavy climbing bag because those are the rules when you’re the new climber in the group. We climbed long 5.8 to 5.10c routes that many times had a challenging roof section towards the top of the climb.
One highlight I will not forget about this day was a comedic moment between our friend Miles “the new guy” and Matty. It’s important to note that in climbing communication is always crucial between the climber and belayer. Right before Matty is about to climb Miles said “Oh crap, I forgot my hearing aids.”
Matty responded in shock, “You forgot your hearing aids?”
To which Miles replied “What?”
After Miles got his shit together, Matty courageously sent the climb.
Day 2 we visited the wall Orange Oswald. The *approach* (approach is used to imply the hike into the climb) was not meant to be that difficult but it turned out to be an utter nightmare mainly due to our trust in the app “Mountain Project.” Us getting lost in the woods due to “Mountain Project” literally became a theme on the trip. Multiple times we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere whacking our way through bushes only to find out that we were on top of the cliff of the climbs with no way to get down to them. Luckily, we eventually found the most subtle, obscure pathway to the climbs. Part of the adventure with climbing is always finding your way to the climb. If it were easy everyone would do it. This wall was right on the River with beautiful views all around us. Once again we were able to climb 5.8 all the way through the 5.10s and we even hopped on a 5.11, which at least at the time was brutally difficult for us probably because we were and still are soft. One small recommendation is that if you’re pressed for time, don’t climb the route Orange Oswald. It’s ironic because that’s what the entire wall is called so one would assume that it’s a classic route. Instead the holds were slippery and if you read about the climb it is considered dangerous and not fun. After I began the climb Matty started reading the reviews….
This wall is also where Don’t Half Ass Anything’s own Matt Miller sent his first *trad* (short for traditional) route. It is the same place that I climbed a route forgetting that my phone was in my pocket leading to the tragic, most deserving cracked screen that ever was at the beginning of a road trip where I intended to capture as much footage and pictures as possible. So basically, I’m the worst but we were still able to capture as much magic as we could for you all!
Day 3, we went to Whippoorwill Wall. This was one of my favorite days of all time. We were able to start the day with some awesome 5.10 sport climbs. But on top of that, we did the most enjoyable Deep Water Soloing of all time. The amount of climbs we were able to do was incredible. All within a quick swim were beautiful and safe climbs that were right over the water. For hours we would swim, climb to the top of a wall, and then cliff jump off. This was something I could have done forever. On top of a cliff we met a friendly local who was there to enjoy the sunset after his day of work. He described the geology of the New River Gorge and how they drain the river and fill it up depending on the season. So it turns out we were there right at the end of the deep-water soloing season, thank God. This was supposed to be the last day but it was simply too much fun. So when we made a friend that recommended a place that we “had to visit for the best deep water soloing” we made the no brainer decision to extend our trip an extra day.
On Day 4 of the New River Gorge adventure, with the help of our new deep-water soloing friend, we found Rats Hole. Once you know where to drive, the approach couldn’t have been easier. As a matter of fact, we jogged back to the van for some ice cold PBR’s to stay hydrated for the full day ahead of us. Here we did a ton of deep-water soloing that was more challenging than Whipporwill. It was the same cycle though. Swim, climb, jump, and repeat. At one point some people came by, cheered as we cliff jumped, and gave us a beer on the boat for our efforts. We climbed until the day had reached its end and it was finally time to head on our way.
There is no question in my mind that we will be returning to New River Gorge again for the hikes, climbs, deep water soloing, and white water rafting so we hope to see you there!
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Written by DHAA Founder: Hartley Erickson
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