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CRAG PROFILES: Hidden Valley

We’ve got the campground to ourselves down by the lake!

Well, if you follow me on Instagram (@cragmama), you may have noticed the poll that went up last week about which crag to feature on the blog next – Hidden Valley or the Red?  It was a tight race, with the winner going back and forth numerous times before finally settling on Hidden Valley.  If you were hoping for the Red, have no fear, that Travel Beta guide will hopefully be up before your fall projects start calling.  But for now, read on for the travel beta for family climbing at Hidden Valley.

First off, let it be known that climbing at Hidden Valley (just like any climbing area), is a privilege, not a right.  We as a community lost access to this amazing resource for about 10 years due to climbers squandering that privilege.  Thankfully, the cliff was reopened in 2014, thanks to the Carolina Climbers Coalition purchasing the land.  That said, some of the climbing areas are still on private property, so please let’s learn from our past mistakes.  Don’t bring your dogs, try to keep the noise to a respectable volume, and pack out your trash.  Don’t be the one idiot that jeopardizes access for the masses.  And if you’re not a CCC member – you should be!  And you can do that HERE.

LODGING

But enough ranting, here’s the deets you need.  There are two main options for camping.  Your preferred level of rustic-ness will likely determine where you end up.  Our family loves camping by the lake.  It is gorgeous, about as convenient as it gets, and is generally pretty quiet.  More than once we’ve been the only tent there.  Usually there’s a couple of climbers and maybe some local fishermen.  The camping is primitive – so don’t forget to bring water!  There is a porta-potty, and while we’ve seen it pretty dirty a time or two, generally it’s fairly clean and not too stinky!  You do need a permit to camp there (it’s actually the same one you are supposed to have to climb there) -get that here.  The park ranger regularly patrols through checking permits, so please take the extra few minutes to get one before you come.  If you have a kayak/canoe/paddleboard, be sure to bring it as well, as the lake is only a couple hundred feet from the camping.  (There’s also a well-marked boat launch in between the camping area and the climber’s parking lot if you’d prefer.)  To reach the campsites, just keep driving past the parking lot and take the second right.  You can’t miss it!

Riverside camping at the (apltly named) Riverside Campground

If a bathhouse and running water are more your jam, check out the Riverside Campground, just a few miles south on Hwy 19.  We only stayed there once, when the road to the above mentioned sites was closed for re-paving, and it was just okay for us.  The site we stayed at along the river was very nice, but the campground as a whole was super crowded, and felt very commercial with a ton of giant RV’s.  It was also more expensive than we are used to paying for camping, probably due to all the extra amenities you wouldn’t normally find at a tent campground – game room, pool, etc.  But the bathhouse was clean, and they did have potable water!

Keep in mind that the temperature will likely be 5-10 degrees cooler than whatever the forecast is in Abingdon on a given day, due to elevation.  That said, camping can get cold earlier in the season than you might expect.  If it’s warm enough to climb but too cold to camp, there are options for varying budgets in Abingdon.  We have often stayed at America’s Best Value Inn…it’s just okay, but it’s $60 per night, which includes a barebones breakfast.  Once we came for our anniversary sans kids and stayed at the White Birches Inn.  It was great for a getaway, but was definitely a little “formal” for bringing the kids.

Hidden Valley Lake

RESTAURANTS

If you are willing to drive the 20 minutes back down to Abingdon, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to food!  Our family likes Los Arcos, pretty good Mexican food at a decent price.  We’ve also had good experiences at JJ’s Sports Bar.  It’s typical bar food fare with some healthier options mixed in, located just before you reach the main downtown area in Abingdon.

More often than not, however, we bring our own food and just do dinner at camp.  The lake and surrounding woods offer plenty for the kiddos to do while we cook, and it’s just so darn relaxing down there, it’s hard to make that drive back down to town again!

Kiddos hanging out in “Salamander Town.”

Finding snakes in the (apparently also aptly named) Snake Garden

CRAG BREAKDOWNS

RIGHT SIDE: Ironically, our family has never climbed at the Right Side.  We’ve heard mixed reviews – some rave, some not so much. If you are looking for more trad/mixed routes, this is definitely your place.  Also I don’t think you’ll have to worry about crowds there.

LEFT SIDE:  There’s really just one trail, so it’s pretty hard to get lost!  The hiking is pretty easy – not a lot of scrambling, and mostly flat or slightly rolling up and down.  The following areas are all on the left side, listed as you reach them from the parking lot.

BUTT CITY and SNAKE GARDEN – My kids refer to this area as Salamander Town, due to all the salamanders we always find in the damp corner separating these two areas from each other.  First areas you reach walking from the parking lot – 5 minutes approach time.  Be mindful of spreading out too much below the base of the Butt City climbs, as the approach trail goes right up to the cliff.  Snake Garden is much wider, and is a great base camp for babies and blankets.

Sun’s out, gun’s out for these kiddos at the ledge atop Meat Wall

 

MEAT WALL – Approach time 10-ish minutes.  Many routes start on a wide ledge with enough room to play safely, but definitely keep your eyes on toddlers!  The area around Gristle 12a has a large, flat, open area that makes a great base camp for families.

CRAZY HORSE – 15 minutes.  Great place for families to hang.

SNL WALL – 20 minutes.  Another great hangout for kids farther back from the cliff.  It’s worth mentioning that if your parties are interested in Farley or Coke, Not Pepsi (both wildly popular 5.9’s), the belay areas are in a small corner behind some boulders.  Families with young ones might want to make sure to have an extra grown-up handy, as it will be hard for a belayer to keep eyes on both climber and kiddos.

CHOCOLATE WALL, PLANETARIUM, GINSENG – 25-ish minute hike, plenty of good spots for families to spread out in relative solitude.  Seems like most of the crowds tend to stop at SNL Wall or sooner.

FALCON WALL – 30 minute hike, but definitely the best place to avoid a crowd, especially if you get out there in the morning.  There are some good spots to spread out a blanket, but the base is a little more rocky than in other areas.  However, this makes for some great spots for the kids to explore.  Word of caution, however; In the fall a sea of leaves builds up underneath some of the boulders.  This is great fun for the kids to play in, but make sure their shoes are tied tight!!!  Somehow one of our friend’s kids ended up losing a shoe in the leaves…and we NEVER found it!  Every time we’ve come back to that area my kids look for it, but to no avail. 😉  May Remy’s shoe rest in peace!

Impromptu rope swing set up at the SNL Wall

KID-FRIENDLY CLIMBS

One of the best parts about Hidden Valley is the concentration of harder climbs and easier climbs all mixed together.  Mom and Dad can take turns on their projects, while kiddos can run laps on the warm-ups – or vice versa, depending on how strong your kids are!!!  The only area that doesn’t offer much for the 5.9 and under crowd is the Falcon Wall.  Outside of that, it’s a safe bet that any area you pick will make everyone in your crew happy, regardless of their climbing level. And if not, just pack up and migrate farther down the cliff til you find what you want!

Overall, Hidden Valley is a wonderful resource, and I’m very thankful for all the work put in by the CCC to secure access for us!  Is the rock as good as the New?  Heck no!  But truly, not many areas are!!!  That said, there is one thing that Hidden Valley boasts that the New River Gorge cannot – high elevation.  (“High” being relative to the Southeast, that is.)  The crag sits close to 4000′, and as mentioned in the camping section, is significantly cooler than surrounding areas.  We have had very pleasant weekends there in August, while the rest of the Southeast is still sweating their you-know-whats off at the New and the Red!  Another plus for that higher altitude for families – no poison ivy!!!  Your kids can explore without constant parental reminders of “leaves of three, let them be.”

Boulder couches amongst the leaves at Falcon Wall

Psyched and ready to plan your next family climbing trip for Hidden Valley?  Stay tuned for specific route recommendations, starting with 5.10 and Unders happening next week!

 

 

 

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NRG Sport Climbing Superlatives – 5.12 and Up

Thunderstruck 12b Photo: Dan Brayack

If 5.11 is where things really start to get good at the New, then 5.12 land is nothing short of heaven.  Whether you’re looking for one-move wonders or sandbagged classics, spooky slab or straight up roof thuggin’, the New has more than a few 5.12’s for you!

GOOD “FIRST OF THE GRADE” CANDIDATES

LOW BROW 12a (Meadow) – First NRG 5.12 for both CragDaddy and me.  It is a slab, which not everyone likes, but if you have good footwork it shouldn’t be too bad.  Great rests + lower angle means there is not a big pump factor, although there’s a move at the chains that will keep you honest.
FIRED FOR SANDBAGGING 12a (Bubba City) – Seems like everyone migrates away from Bubba City once they graduate past 5.10, but there are several harder gems if you are willing to look!  This one features one very well-protected hard move down below, the rest is no harder than 11a.  Work the opening sequence, then pull the rope and fire for the send!
HOMERECTUS 12a (Endless) – This route can either be a super hard 11b, or a pretty easy 12a.  Keeping the line at 11b requires a long but easy traverse at the 8th bolt to avoid pulling a bulge.  Going direct here will make it 12a, and if you aren’t blessed with a giant ape index, the 12a move will likely feel only slightly harder than the 11b crux down low.  A great way to get experience both ways is to climb the 11b way, then try out the 12 moves on the lower, then pull the rope and go for the 12 send.
STARRY 12a (Meadow, Third Buttress) – Loooong route, but the first 2/3 are no harder than 10a. Be on the lookout for the lay down rest!
MINISTRY 12b (Butcher’s Branch) – Crux is pretty thin, but short-lived.  The majority of the route is 5.10, with a great rest before the business at the finish.

First big move on Lost Souls 12a

While I don’t have a ton of experience at the harder grades here at the New (more on that below), the following were my firsts of the grade here, so they are probably good entry level routes.
GREEN ENVY 12c (Beauty)
BOSNIAN VACATION 12d (Fern)
THE RUCHERT MOTION 13a (Beauty)

MUST DO’S

NEW WORLD ORDER 12a (Endless) – Full value climbing, with a lot of variety!
PREPARATION H 12a (Kaymoor) – Delicate arete climbing that, in my opinion, deserves more action than it’s neighbor around the corner, Pockets of Resistance.
LOST SOULS 12a (Butcher’s Branch) – I couldn’t decide whether or not to put this one in the above category….it’s giant, monkey swinging moves definitely cater to gym rats looking to bag their first 12, but if you’re not a great “gym climber” you’ll probably find the opposite – that was CragDaddy’s and my experience.  But regardless whether you think it’s hard or soft, it’s still a fantastic rock climb that is worth waiting in line for!
FREAKY STYLEE 12a (Endless) – Technical face to a big-whipper potential crux move at the top.
HELLBOUND FOR GLORY 12a (Endless) – FA Doug Cosby likes to say that this one was once known as “most flashable 12” in the gorge.  That statement might be a bit of a sandbag, but it’s a great route for sure – once you get past the awkward start, that is.
RECKLESS ABANDON 12a (Summersville) – The position out over the water is spectacular!
BLACKHAPPY 12b (Endless) – Everything you could want out of rock climb – thin, technical crux, big moves to big holds, and a spicy (but clean) runout to the chains.  Yee-haw!
MODERN PRIMITIVE 12b (Endless) – Due to it’s orientation, stays in the shade til late in the day, unlike the rest of Endless Wall. Good candidate when the rest of Endless is too hot.
LE FUTURISTE 12b (Endless) – The “optional but recommended” dyno mentioned in the guidebook is not optional for me…but I can see why it’s recommended regardless!

Mid-crux on Le Futuriste 12b Photo: Javier Licon

BIG FAT SANDBAGS

‘Nuff said.  Transport these routes to another crag and they would probably receive at least another letter grade. These are all amazing.  And also amazingly hard for the grade.

JESUS AND TEQUILA 12b (Endless) – This one has sentimental value for me, see here for more.
THUNDERSTRUCK 12b (White Wall)
HARLEQUIN 12b (Endless)
THIEVES IN THE TEMPLE 12b (Fern)
CHUNKY MONKEY 12b (Beauty)

ROUTES FOR THE TALL NOT SMALL

I don’t like the term “height-dependent,” because I don’t want to limit what we small folk are capable of.  However, unless you’re at least 5’10”, don’t expect these to feel the grade the guidebook gives it.

STRETCH ARMSTRONG 12a (Bridge) – After trying this several times off and on over the years, I finally sent  the day after sending my first and so far only NRG 13.  Honestly the crux of this felt almost as hard for me!  CragDaddy, however, found some amazing beta that almost turned this line into a one move wonder.
FLY GIRLS 12a (Fern) – Also a great candidate for a first of the grade if you can make the reach.  If you can’t, you’re campusing on crimps.
TECHMAN 12c (Endless) – There are some intermediates in the crux, albeit pretty terrible ones, but if you can’t reach a key foothold at the end of the traverse, the exit move of the crux will be pretty low percentage, and will quickly turn this tweaker into “hard in a not fun way.”
MACAULEY’S IRISH STOUT 12b (Meadow, The Other Place) – Most dyno at the crux, but I’ve seen it go static…unfortunately the static beta is just as reachy.

CragDaddy on Modern Primitive 12b

If you are sub par when it comes to height, don’t get discouraged.  Most routes in your grade range can still go down for you at the New, provided you are willing to get creative and try harder than you think you should have to at times.  That said, the following are great options for smaller people, either because the typical beta involves a compact body position that caters to a smaller frame, or because of multiple intermediate options for hands and feet.

ROUTES THAT ARE SWEET FOR THE SHORT

PSYCHOWRANGLER 12a (Cottontop) – Be ready for a queue on a weekend day.
BULLET THE NEW SKY 12b (Endless) – If you can get your feet up on small holds, this route will feel LESS reachy to you than it will for your taller counterparts!
POCKETS OF RESISTANCE 12a (Kaymoor) – Yes that last move is big, but if you can get your feet high early you’ll be able to use the undercling better.
NARCISSUS 12a (Summersville) – Plenty of intermediates and multiple ways to go at the crux.
GIFT OF GRACE 12b (Endless) -Be super careful clipping the 3rd bolt.  Safest way to do it is to sling it really long so you can clip early.  Your ethics may vary.
JUST SEND IT 13b (Fern) – I’ve only been on this route once, and it definitely shut me down…but certainly not because of height!

Me going “full blowfish” on Ministry 12b

AVOID THE CROWDS

As mentioned in the 5.11 post, none of the “must-do” lines listed are a secret.  If you’ve done most the classics, or are looking for a way to avoid the queue, here’s your list.  These routes are all good solid rock climbs, and most rarely have any takers.

AUDIOPHERING 12a (Cottontop) – A little weird in places, but definitely worth doing.
POWERFUL OPPOSITION 12a (Bubba City) – Prepare to get funky on this one.
MICHELIN MAN Variation 12b (Bubba City) – Fabulous steep jug hauling to a delicate, reachy traverse.  There’s an 11d version that I’ve never done with a different finish, that’s probably good too?
FINE MOTOR CONTROL 12a (Endless) – Power moves down low, classic Endless face up high.
CONTROL 12a (Butcher’s Branch) – Powerful little boulder problem traverse to better holds and a giant sit-down ledge, followed by more moderate climbing.
FANTASY FACE 12a (Endless) – If Aesthetica and Blackhappy are at Rush Hour, take this back road of technical slab fun.
KAOS 12c (Butcher’s Branch) – Much harder neighbor to the aforementioned Control.
THE STRATEGEM 12a (Bridge) – Did you know there were sport climbs at Bridge Buttress?  Most other people don’t either.  Check out this one, TEAM MACHINE 12a, and STRETCH ARMSTRONG 12a (described earlier) for a sweet bolted trifecta.
UNBROKEN CHAIN 12a – The view is spectacular and the approach can’t be beat.  Plus you’ll never run into anyone else…but bring your A-game because this thing is hard as nails.
WALL DRUG 12c and it’s next door neighbor BOSNIAN VACATION 12d (Fern) – A little sharp, a little tweaky, but cool movement, great views, and I’ve never seen anyone else on them but us!

Shaking out on New World Order 12a

BOMBS

While there are very few true NRG “black holes” at this grade (you know, routes that are so bad they take stars away from other neighboring routes), there’s one that comes close.  One of these is LET THE WIND BLOW 12a, found on the right side of Bridge Buttress.  There are a few reasons why folks end up on this line.  It can be toproped from an awesome full value hand crack – HIGH TIMES 10c, and it stays dry in a downpour.  Don’t waste your time on it though – it’s overchalked, polished, and the holds are sharp and tweaky.

WORTH NOTING:

As opposed to a pretty even spread throughout the grade range in prior posts of this “best of” series (5.10 and under here, and 5.11’s here), you might notice that my 5.12 recommendations are a little bottom heavy.  As in, mostly in the 12a and 12b range. Looking at my tick list, the reason for this is pretty obvious.  Counting only routes I’ve sent at the New – 15 are 12a, 7 are 12b…and then I have one each of 12c, 12d, and 13a.  I’m slowly but surely working to rectify this imbalance, but for now the 12+ and higher recommendations will be grossly underrespresented.  In the mean time though, you’ve got plenty to keep you busy from this list!

CragDaddy sticking the dyno on MacCauley’s Irish Stout 12b

Oh and one more thing.  The following is a list of routes that probably should be on this list but I can’t personally recommend because I’ve never touched them.  A few of them may or may not also be on the list of potential fall projects (hence the obvious technical face climbing slant!)

PUDD’s PRETTY DRESS 12d (Endless)
SLASH AND BURN 12d (Kaymoor)
LIBERTINE 12d (Endless)
STEALTH AND MAGIC 12d (Endless)
BLACK RIDER, aka POCKET ROUTE 13a (Endless)
QUINSANA PLUS 13a (Endless)

If anybody else has any recommendations for hard 12’s and easier 13’s, especially ones that hypothetically might be a good fit for a 5’5″ frame, please let me know in the comments!

Did you miss the rest of this series?  Find ’em here…
NRG Crag Profile
5.10 and Under
5.11 

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NRG Sport Climbing Superlatives – 5.11

Mutiny 11d…the water makes for a big crowd deterrent! Photo: Dan Brayack

Ah, 5.11.  While the New has some of the best climbing on the planet at any grade, 5.11 is where it really starts to get good.  Whether you are looking to bag your first one, rack up a list of classics, or avoid crowds, look no further, because this post can help.

GOOD “FIRST OF THE GRADE” CANDIDATES

WILD SEED 11a (Fern) – The business section of this one is about as gym climb-y as you’re gonna get at the New.  The opening slab moves will keep you honest if you are a true gym rat, but are probably only 5.9 or so.
DELIRIUM TREMORS 11a (Bubba City) – One move wonder that is short but sweet – if all else fails and you can’t do the move, use the tree behind you to avoid having to leave a biner.
MR. CUTE 11a (3rd Buttress, Meadow) – The opening traverse will leave you scratching your head thinking, “Is this really right?!?” but by the time you get to the top, all you’ll be thinking about is pump management.  No 11 moves, just pumpy.
EURONATION 11c (Endless) – Stem off the tree to reach the 1st bolt (stick clip recommended) for a fantastic, rarely traveled 5.10 warm-up.  Eliminate the tree and all you’ve got standing in your way of claiming 11c is a crimpy V3 boulder problem.
SLAB-O-MEAT 11d (Endless) – One move wonder down low makes this one a great option for those looking for a first 11d.  Note:  The crux is well-protected, but after the business you’ll launch into a long slab with not a lot of bolts on it – it might feel a little heady, but there are no moves harder than 10-.

CragDaddy on the pumpy traverse of Flash Point 11d

MUST DO’s

LEGACY 11a (Endless) – Might be the best of the grade in the whole gorge.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED 11a (Summersville) – The other contender for best of the grade in the whole gorge.
MASUKO 11a (Whipoorwhil) – Spectacular climbing with a spectacular view!
CROSS-EYED AND BLIND 11a (1st Buttress Meadow)  This one wants to Pump. You up. (You have to say it in a Schwarzenager voice.)
DISCOMBOBULATED 11b (Endless) – Right beside Legacy.  Knock them both out and you’ll have had a great day!  (If you’re a shortie climbing with tall folks, be ready to be annoyed with their beta around the 2nd or 3rd bolt.)
FLAMING PELLETS 11b (The Other Place) – Both tech and pump for your climbing pleasure
QTIP 11b (Cottontop) – Technical face climbing, with the right amount of weird to be fun.
COFFINDAFFERS DREAM 11b (3rd Buttress, Meadow) – Textbook NRG lockoffs all the way up this super fun face.
STIM-O-STAM 11c (Endless) – Burly boulder problem to techy pocket crux, with a grand slab-with-a-view finale!
S’MORE ENERGY 11c (Endless) – You’ll deserve a campfire treat after ticking this one!
AESTHETICA 11c (Endless) – Worth the hike, even if this is the only route you get on in the area.  Multiple options for climbers of different heights, but you’re everybody’s gonna have to reach and try hard on this one.

Crux clip on Scenic Adult 11c – make your friend hang your draws for you 😉

SANCHO BELIGE 11c (Kaymoor) – In good conditions you will love these slopers…in the summer, not so much.
SCENIC ADULT 11c (Kaymoor) – Don’t let the crazy beta pic in the guidebook talk you out of this one, you don’t have to do it that way.  But you do have to bring your lead head with you.
DISTURBANCE 11d (Beauty) – Can you get your foot at your face and launch?  If so, you’ll love this one.
FLASH POINT 11d (Endless) – My fave of this grade in the entire NRG.  3 cruxes – each gets progressively easier if you’re tall, progressively harder if you’re short.  Leisurely start, aggro in the middle, zen at the finish.  Brilliant piece of stone!
MENSA 11d (Beauty) – As the name implies, this one is a thinker that requires a little creativity.
OUT OF THE BAG 11d (Kaymoor) – Best route on a wall filled with fabulous rock climbs.
UNDER THE MILKY WAY 11d (Summersville) – You can’t beat the position on this one, with a finish high up over the lake.
TOXIC HUECO 11d (Lower Meadow) – Full disclosure, I’ve never actually touched this one, but everyone I know who’s touched it gives it about a million stars..  At one point I was saving it for a flash attempt, and realized recently I’d forgotten about it!  Should probably add to the fall bucket list!

Initial roof on Bourbon Sauce 11d

5.11s LESS TRAVELED

The one drawback to all of these fabulous 5.11s the NRG has to offer is that there are a heckuva lot of other people who want to climb them too.  So if you are looking to get away from the crowds, check the following ones out.  They aren’t quite as good as the ones listed above, but they are still darn good rock climbs, but won’t draw the crowds the way the others do.

MUCKRAKER 11a (Endless) – It’s right by the Honeymooner Ladders, so you’d think it’d get more action than it does.
OH IT’S YOU BOB 11b (Kaymoor) – Beware a couple of mega reaches on this sucker if you aren’t tall!
MOON CHILD POSSE 11c (Kaymoor) – Usually the only folks getting on this one are taking a quick warm-up lap before hopping on the White Wall 12’s.  This one is shady, tall, and a lot of fun!
COTTON THE ACT 11d (Cottontop)  Most folks never venture this far down the cliff, but this line is a great option for when Cottontop elevates to circus status on a Sunday afternoon.
HOT AND BOTHERED 11d (Summersville) – Right there living in the shadows of MILKY WAY lurks this beauty.  The climbing is just as good, although the position is not.  (Note: Another great neighboring 11 is MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE 11c, and I’ve heard FLIRTIN WITH E 11d is great too, though I’ve never been on it.
BOURBON SAUCE 11d (Kaymoor) – While everyone else is queued up for Sancho Belige 11c and Lost Souls 12a, this unassuming line is usually empty.  I don’t know why though, because it’s so good!
MUTINY 11d (Summersville) – Unlike the previous route, I DO know why this one never has a line – it’s completley off by itself away from all the other walls.  To reach it, turn right towards the water shortly after entering the woods post stream crossing.  You’ll scramble down to a peaceful little cove, where this proud line will be waiting.  Make sure to catch it in low water – late fall through early spring, or else your belayer will need some floaties!

Hot and Bothered 11d Photo: Dan Brayack

GOOD FOR KID-CRUSHERS

As mentioned in my NRG Crag Profile, the New is notoriously reachy.  There is a reason why all the strong climbing team kids flock to the Red (and it’s not because the rock is better there!!!)  However, there are a few diamonds in the rough.  While at 5’5″ I am by no means a giant, I’ve still got about a foot over your average 10 year old, so just because a route is doable for me doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for a kid, even a super strong one that likes to dyno.  Thankfully, the McDermott family has several small crushers at their house, and they were gracious enough to recommend some routes that cater to those under 5 feet tall.  So if you are a pint-sized beast looking for 5.11s, check out SATISFACTION GUARANTEED 11a, Q-TIP 11b, and UNDER THE MILKY WAY 11d, all listed as classics above, ironically all out at Summersville.  Also check out NO WAY JOSE 11b – I didn’t list it above because I’ve never been on it, but I’ve heard good things about it, and it also is apparently short-person friendly.  You can look forward to more input from the McDermotts on hard kid-friendly routes as this series progresses!

So there ya have it for 5.11s…now it’s your turn – if 5.11 is your jam, what are the absolute must-do’s?!?

If you missed the rest of this series, check it out here –
NRG Crag Profile
Best 5.10 and Under
5.12 and Up

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NRG Sport Climbing Superlatives – 5.10 and Under

Big C taking a breather after the hard opening moves on Flight of the Gumby 5,9

Welcome to Part 2 of my new Travel Beta series focusing on the NRG!  If you missed last week’s Crag Profile of the New, catch up here. Some crags might be able to get through a superlative list in one post…but not this place!  There’s just way too much goodness here, so I’ll have to split it up.  For our family’s fave 5.11’s and 5.12’s, you’ll have to wait.  For 5.10’s and below, read on!  Routes were chosen based on a few factors, most of which were entirely subjective, so I won’t be offended if you disagree with my choices!  Where there are special circumstances that might pertain to family craggin’, I’ve noted those as well.  I hope you enjoy this list – it was REALLY hard to narrow it down this much! and please feel free to add your own in the comments!

GREAT FOR NEW LEADERS:

While the New is not known for its beginner sport climbing, there are a few good options for a climber that is ready to tackle the sharp end.

MICROBREW 5.5 (Beer Wall)
BOBBY D’s BUNNY 5.6 (Sandstonia)
BONGO 5.7 (Whipoorwhill) – Only climbable in the fall/winter when the lake is low.  For families, the base is a little rocky but the approach is short.  Note: The neighboring climbs, AIMEE’S JUGS and WENDY’S JUGS, are also great candidates for a first lead.
WUNDERKIND 5.6 (Bubba Buttress)
HIPPIE DREAMS 5.7 (Summersville) – Beautiful arete with a great view at the top!  (Even if you’re not a beginner, this should be on your must-do list!)

BREAKING INTO 5.10s:

SHE GOT THE BOSCH, I GOT DRILLED 10a (Summersville) – I think this one is easier than the other 10’s at Orange Oswald, and I’d also give it a tie with BABY’s GOT A BOLT GUN 10c for most fun on the wall.
ZEITGEIST 10a (Sandstonia) – This one is an extension of a 5.9.  (And actually I think the crux of the 5.9 is harder than any of the moves on the extension!)

Taking in the view atop Free Range Show Poodle 5.8

MUST DO ROUTES:

FREE RANGE SHOW POODLE 5.8 (Area 51) – Tall and with a great view, a good mix of both pump and slab.
TOTALLY-CLIPSE 5.8 (Endless) – Will feel a little more committing if you are not tall.  Will definitely feel very committing if you are allergic to slab.
GEISHA GIRL 5.8 (Sandstonia) – This and its side by side neighbor, MRS FIELD’S FOLLIES, also 5.8, get a lot of traffic, but for good reason.  Super tall, and super fun!
THE UPHEAVAL 5.9 (Endless) – After Totally Clipse, definitely come and do this one.  Or do this one first…I actually think this one is a little easier!
FOOL EFFECT 5.9 (Endless) – This neighbor to the previous route offers better variety of movement, but in my opinion loses a star because of cleaning shenanigans.  It doesn’t have an anchor, so bring some long runners to sling the tree at the top.  Rappelling from the tree with a 70m will get you to the same ledge where the Upheaval begins from.
FLIGHT OF THE GUMBY 5.9 (Butcher’s Branch) – You’d better get down there early for this one, or else you’ll be in line for hours.  Don’t let the often manky start deter you – the goodness above is worth it!

Bongo 5.7 and Gimme a Clown 5.9 at Whipoorwhil

RICO SUAVE 5.10a (Kaymoor) – Another one where you might get stuck in a queue.  But worth the wait!  Watch out for poison ivy on the approach!
ST PAULI GIRL 10b (Beer Wall)
STRIKE A SCOWL 5.10b (Endless) – This technical face starts on a ledge that is a) difficult to get small children up to, and b) not safe for them once they are up there, unless you have an extra “kid-watcher.”  But the views and movement make this a fabulous climb!
BADASS TATTOO 10b (Sandstonia) – If you crush it, it’s pronounced “Badass Tattoo.”  If you get crushed, it’s a “Bad Ass Tattoo.”  At least that’s how FA Eric Horst explained it to me once a long time ago!  If you can find it dry, it’s awesome!  It’s awesome when a little wet too, just a little harder…
BRAIN TWEEZERS 5.10c (Beauty) – Not steep, but the movement is a little cryptic, so if you hang out too long in certain places you will still get pumped.   A good one for those wanting to improve their footwork!  This route also has several easier routes nearby, both trad and sport, so it can be a good place to spend a day.
BABY’S GOT A BOLT GUN 10c (Summersville) – Shorties might hate the start, but the rest is an awesome pump fest with a gorgeous lake backdrop!
LIEBACK AND ENJOY IT 10d (Sandstonia) – A good candidate for a headpoint (rehearsing the moves on TR first before leading), since you can easily rig a TR from the easier neighbor, Shady Lady 5.7.
COTTONHEAD 5.10d (Cottontop) – Definitely not entry level for the grade – this one is great, but a little sandbagged.  Bring some power and some lock off strength for this one, and get your buddy to hang draws for you!
RADIAL RIMMED 10d (Ames Wall, Bubba City) – Great fun, you’ll have to get jumpy if you’re short.
GOING BALLISTIC 10d (Summersville) – Known as “Jesus is My License Plate” in the older guides.  Full value line that will make you work for it til the very end.

This pic of Lieback and Enjoy IT 10d, taken circa 2011 was when I first discovered I make an underbite when I try hard!

CragDaddy topping out Brain Tweezers 10c

ALSO WORTH NOTING:

While the New is home to some of the best routes on the planet, they can’t all be 5 star classics.  At the risk of getting a little flack, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my opinion of the following black holes – ie, routes that are so bad they suck stars away from neighboring routes.

BIOSLAB 5.7 (Cottontop) – This route is usually wet, but if you stumble upon it dry, don’t assume that it would be a good warm-up based on grade.  The movement is awkward, and there is potential for swinging falls low to the ground.
TOTALLY TAMMY 10a (Kaymoor) – If there’s a line on RICO, you will probably be tempted to give this one a try.  Go for it only if you like insecure climbing over poorly-placed bolts.
EXODUSTER 10b (Endless) – It’s gotta be the grade and proximity to the Fern Point ladders that draws everyone here.  But in my opinion, it’s probably one of the worst routes at the New.  Polished, caked in chalk, and weird, reachy movement.  Maybe I’d like it if it had a good pressure washing.

Now it’s your turn – if you climb at the New, what do you think are the best (and perhaps worst) of the moderate grades?

Looking for more info?  Check out the rest of this series here…
NRG Crag Profile
Best 5.11’s 
5.12 and Up 

 

 

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CRAG PROFILES: New River Gorge

The river crossing at Beauty Mountain

This post marks the start of a new Travel Beta series that will hopefully eventually include all of the Southeastern crags our family climbs at on a regular basis – starting with the family favorite of course, the New River Gorge! The first post for each area will include general beta for the area, as well as a breakdown of the family-friendliness of all the major crags within the area.  Subsequent posts for that area will include our family’s top route picks for each grade.  None of this info is intended to be used in lieu of a guidebook – you will definitely still need one for the New!  And in fact, Mikey Williams’ newly updated guide just became available a few months ago, and it’s awesome!  But what this series will hopefully do is provide your family with a good overview of the area from a family craggin’ perspective, and point you in the right direction of where to start in an area that can seem overwhelming at first.

LODGING –

There are a lot of camping options available in and around Fayetteville.  Our favorite place hands down is Chestnut Creek.  We’ve been camping there for 10+ years.  The family that owns it is very nice, and my son loves hanging out at camp with their son.  This campground has individual, shaded sites, and most, if not all have a picnic table and fire ring.   It’s quiet at night and the bathrooms/showers are always clean.  The AAC is also nice – we’ve never had a bad experience there, but if you’ve got young kiddos, the atmosphere can get a little loud/rowdy at times.

Typically by late November camping gets pretty cold at night, so if we find ourselves up there after Thanksgiving (or before March), we opt for a cheap hotel.  The Comfort Inn in Oak Hill is very nice by climber standards, and they have a really good breakfast.  The Quality Inn is a motel, and while it’s not quite as nice, the rooms have always been clean and their breakfast is also decent.  We realized recently that the latter has been somewhat of a good luck charm for me – my two hardest sends at the New were after a night there, so there’s that!  The prices vary somewhat, but we use Hotels.com to book, sometimes even the day of, and we typically pay anywhere from $70-100 at either place.  If prices are the same at both, definitely go with Comfort Inn…unless you’re superstitious about good luck charms 😉

At the base of Guide’s Wall

RESTAURANTS –

Pies and Pints and Secret Sandwich Society are what all the guidebooks always recommend…and with good reason, because both offer great food and drink.  But they are expensive and the wait is often over an hour.  My hungry kids can’t wait that long!  Instead, our go to’s are Gino’s and Rio Grande.  Gino’s is next to the Wal-mart and is decidedly NOT as good as Pies and Pints, but there will never be a wait, you get homemade chips right when you sit own, and our family of 4 can get our fill for about $20 including a good tip!  Rio Grande is a little more pricey, but not unreasonable, and of course you also get chips as soon as you sit down.  It’s in Oak Hill, just a few minutes south of town on Highway 19.

CRAG BREAKDOWNS:

BRIDGE BUTTRESS, JUNKYARD – Access is an easy, peasy walkup with flat areas at the base to play.  You will pay for this convenience with crowds!

Bottom two ladders at Fern Point

ENDLESS WALL:  Our family’s fave area at the New!  The most important thing to know about this for families is that the only way down is via bolted ladders.  There are 3 options at various points along the cliff line.  The first ones you reach are the Fern Point ladders, which signify the beginning of Endless Wall.  If this is your first time there, or if you have young kids, especially young hikers, this is the safest option – it’s just 3 short ladders, very doable with a backpack carrier, and pretty easy to provide a spot for older kids.  The latter two options, Honeymooners and Cirque ladders, are significantly taller and much more exposed.  If you are nervous about kids that are too big for a backpack carrier tackling any of these ladders safely,but you still want to climb at Endless, jsut bring their harness as well, and belay them down.  You can use a quickdraw as a directional at the top of the bottom Honeymooner ladder.  Common practice for us was to come in at Fern Point in the morning, and hike out at Honeymooners – going up always felt easier than going down, and we already had our gear out from climbing all day anyway!

BEAUTY, FERN, LOWER MEADOW, SOUTH SIDE CRAGS, BUBBA CITY – Reasonable hikes, depending on where exactly you’re wanting to climb.  Beauty has a river crossing that is pretty reasonable to rock hop, and Fern has a short exposed section that is not difficult, but might warrant holding a young hiker’s hand.  Bubba City has some fixed lines that my kids really enjoy!

Z, on belay and working up the final Honeymooner Ladder

KAYMOOR – The Hole and First Buttress are reasonably short hikes, the trek down to Butcher’s Branch is long and uphill on the way out, but the base is great for kids.  There is even a creek to splash around in when it’s hot.

COTTONTOP – The hike is short, but it’s a death march – so steep!  Base is good once you get up there though.

SUMMERSVILLE LAKE – Good option for kids that don’t mind a hike, although be prepared with something motivating for the up hill on the way out (hiking bears always work for us.)  There is a short ladder at the base of the cliff, but it is very mellow compared to Endless Wall.  Don’t forget bathingsuits (and PFD’s for non-swimmers) in the warmer months!

UPPER MEADOW – Long hike for short legs, though most of it is along a flat 4-wheeler trail.

Big C getting a belay down the Honeymooner Ladders several years ago

KID-FRIENDLY CLIMBS

If you’ve got kiddos old enough to want to do their own crushing, there are a few areas to check out.  GUIDE’s WALL is listed in the guidebook at the very end of the Endless Wall section, and is best accessed by following the approach to Beauty.  Look for this section of cliff on the right as you descend the gravel road.  There are 3 different trad lines (that can easily be set up as topropes from above if you didn’t bring gear) ranging from 5.2-5.7.  SMALL WALL is not in the guidebook, but can be found pretty easily by parking at the Bridge Buttress pullout, then hiking back up the road until you see a narrow but fairly obvious trail heading down and to the right.  Take that trail for a few minutes until the trail splits off – head up to set up TR’s, head down to the cliff base.  There’s nothing impressive about this wall, but it does offer several good kiddo lines.  There are also a number of easy lines off to the right on the way down to the Lower Meadow.  They are not in the current guidebook, but my guess is that when the updated version comes out they will be included.

Keep in mind that the long reaches found at the New can be particularly unfriendly to vertically challenged beginners (or the vertically challenged of any level for that matter!)  A climb may have a seemingly “kid-friendly” grade, but have moves that are giant for a child’s ape index.  Just like anywhere else, it might take a kidcrusher a little trial and error to find their mojo.

Craggin’ at the Small Wall

Overall though, the New River Gorge is a great place for families!  We climbed here for years pre-kids, and weren’t about to stop going once they came along – and now it’s one of their fave places to adventure too!  In addition to climbing, there’s also great white-water rafting, mountain biking, and hiking in the area.  Check in with the fabulous folks at Water Stone Outdoors for the best family-friendly beta on that stuff!

Ready to plan your trip, and looking for specific routes recommendations?  Must-do’s, first of the grade candidates, and how to avoid crowds?  Check out the rest of this series!
5.10 and Under
5.11 
5.12 and Up

 

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