Vikki and I have driven a lot of miles lately. From Bloomington, we dropped off the trailer in Edinburgh, IN for repairs and drove all the way to the New River Gorge in the beautiful state of West Virginia. As the primary driver, I have to give Vikki what some refer to as mad props for her navigation skills. She stays awake, she pays attention to the road and can direct me anywhere, and keeps the snacks handy.
We only had one day in the New, and let me tell you, it was not enough. Imagine the Red River Gorge, but with a more blocky, bouldery style of climbing on lighter-colored sandstone reminiscent of HP40. We arrived at some ungodly hour, like 3AM, and camped at the free camping below the Summersville Dam. It was our first night without the Pilgrim, and we slept, Bishop-style, on crash pads underneath the stars.
We slept in pretty late, and we didn’t get to the crag until the early afternoon. Unfortunately, Vikki’s stomach was on the fritz again, and she was only able to do a few laps on the best 5.7 sport climb of all time, Hippie Dreams on the Orange Oswald wall, before calling it a day. She stayed and belayed, but wasn’t able to try hard.
Summersville Lake is amazing. A 15 minute hike leads you to a stream and a waterfall, with a wooden ladder bringing you to the Coliseum, or as I like to call it, the Madness Cave of the New. There you’ll find several 5.13 and 5.14 lines of impeccable splendor. To the left is crag after crag, all accessed by a trail that never veers more than 15 feet from the water’s edge. We warmed up at Orange Oswald, a wall covered in great easy climbs including Hippie Dreams, one of the best 5.7s ever.
We worked our way back through the crags to the Coliseum, ticking classics here and there such as Narcissist, Under the Milky Way, and Satisfaction Guaranteed. Every single climb was amazing, especially Under the Milky Way, a powerful and technical arête that forces some amazing movement just before the chains. We finished the day on Reckless Abandon, a famous and fun 5.12a that climbs out above the lake.
We returned to the car to find this note from a pair of climbers we met at the Narcissus cave! They recognized us as the RV Project (we’re famous, no big whoop), which is pretty cool. It was a capper to an incredible day. Well, the capper was battling fatigue and pulling into a Walmart parking lot around 2:30AM on the way to North Carolina.
We awoke early and made it into Durham in the late morning to get some work done at a coffeeshop. We stopped by Vertical Edge Climbing to get in a quick burn, then met some of our friends for drinks. Julie Soic, Vikki’s best friend from high school was kind enough to put us up in a real bed, and we met my good friend Anastasia Schwab for dinner and drinks at Geer Street. She’s in the Physician’s Assistant program at Duke, along with Kate Pocock, a sorority sister of Vikki’s, who also joined us. It was a great night, though we probably stayed up a bit too late given our driving task the next day.
Awaking early the next day, I was unable to keep my eyes open and Vikki took the wheel. She brought us all the way to Rockville, MD, where we had a lunch date with one of my oldest friends Ari Katz. He and Katie Robidart Katz were married last summer, and are now living near our nation’s capitol. He was kind enough to treat us weary travelers to Thai food, and show us around the family house. It was great to catch up with his parents Laura and Stephen, and his sister Mia who was home from Vanderbilt.
After lunch, we stopped by Earth Treks Rockville to train a little and to drop off samples of Primo Chalk for them to try. They recently expanded, and it’s amazing. The terrain is stupidly cool, with a big orb thing and a long bouldering roof, and a giant prow for sport climbing. The setting is fun too, although I think the sport climbing could be improved with the addition of a few more footchips. I found most of the sport climbs to be fun, but unnecessarily bouldery, and for shorties like Vikki, unnecessarily reachy. Nonetheless, we had a great session and were rewarded with a nice hot shower.
That night, which was Friday night, we departed Rockville and drove to some small town in Pennsylvania, pulling in to a Walmart parking lot around 3:30AM. It doesn’t matter the name of the town, because it has been homogenized by Walmart, which is the same story as for most of the towns we spend our transit nights in. I have to say that even though Walmart parking lots are wonderfully convenient, I would much prefer a small town with a little general store, some local flavor, and a nice park to sleep in.
On Saturday, we woke up earlier than we wanted to and drove to Boston. It was a long drive through Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to meet up with a gaggle of my relatives for a fancy dinner. The carbon footprint for Alec’s graduation is absolutely outrageous, with Grandpa flying in from Hong Kong and my mom flying in from San Francisco, not to mention Bert’s insatiable engine.
She graduated on Sunday, and now Vikki and I are spending a few days in Boston to visit climbing gyms to promote Primo Chalk, and for Vikki to pick up a couple of organ donation shifts. We’ll climb for a couple of days, and then head to Providence for my little brother Eliot’s graduation. I’m very proud of both Alec and Eliot (of the HP40 episode fame), though I don’t envy them entering the job market these days.
Farley, MA here we come!