New River High Step

      By Route Setter/Gym Staff Jake M.

As states started to reopen, the route setters of Kendall Cliffs finally got to take a long overdue outdoor climbing trip. Seth Merkabah and I loaded up my Subaru with food, climbing gear, and dogs and set off for New River Gorge, West Virginia.

“The New” is a world class rock climbing and white-water rafting destination that is 4.5 hour from Kendall Cliffs. The drive is an extraordinarily easy straight shot down 77 South, and the drive is more than worth it. More than 2,000 high-quality rock-climbing routes await, as well as world famous hikes, Class 5 rapids, and a popular bridge high enough to BASE jump off of.

We took off early on a Monday morning, and drove straight into the heart of The New, Fayetteville. We made a quick stop at Wood Iron Eatery for some great food, and then Water Stone Outdoors for new guidebooks. The first area we hit was called Kaymoor. This crag features a fantastic hike in, as well as an awesome range of routes. These include classics like Rico Suave (5.10a) and Flight of the Gumby (5.9+). Our main focus that first day was Sancho Belige (5.11), a slopey sport route with a super specific and famous sequence at the top that will keep anyone on their toes.

That night, we made camp on a beach at one of the many clearings down by the river system. We gave ourselves plenty of time to set up hammocks, build a fire, and cook some food before the sun set. We would need plenty of time to eat and rest before the day of climbing that we planned ahead.

We woke up with the sun in order to stretch, eat, and take a short walk before grabbing all of our ropes, draws, and other climbing gear to head to the crag. This time we were in the south side crags, specifically Area 51 and The Other Place. These crags are known for tall, technical climbs, with some huge roof sections and grades ranging from about 5.8 to 5.14, with a heavy concentration of 11’s and 12’s. We climbed for about 8 hours straight, until our skin was torn, and our hands could barely close anymore. Some routes we conquered; others shut us down. We crammed in as many pitches as we could in one day, while still leaving us light to get back to camp and make our fire and food.

That second night, we made a much bigger fire and rewarded ourselves with fruits and drinks that we had been saving for this occasion. We sat back on crash pads and reflected on the day’s climbs. We had some great talks and bonding moments as the sun went down. The New River Gorge will always hold a special place in my heart and remains one of the best rock climbing locations in the world for a good reason.