Wednesday, April 29, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 8 – The Hellbender Burrito

---- Current location – The Gendarme Climbing School, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA - Temp: ~18DegC ----

Hi everyone. Unfortunately, there has not been much of interest going on in the past couple of days.

Yesterday, I decided to head up to the cliff by myself and practice some anchoring techniques. So, I loaded up my pack and started the trek up to the East Face. Along the way, I ran into Andrew. So, we hooked up and decided to walk up and see what we could see. It was a long, long, walk up. We got a little confused with the route and had to rope up for the last portion, but that was OK. Once we arrived on the ledge we were looking for, we ran into Enis and Estevan (a German and Hungarian), who were climbing a 5.10 up there. Once they had a top rope set up, we both attempted it and fell off (oh well). Once they took it down, they were done for the day. We decided to pack it in, as well, since it was so HOT (30degC+). So, we walked along the ledge and double rope rappelled all the way off.

Today, it was pouring rain all day. So, I hung out at the shop, pretty much all day. We then drove to Davis, WV, for a burrito at a place called Hellbender Burritos. It was delicious. Then we hit up a grocery store.

Like I said, the past two days have been highly uneventful. Hopefully the pace around here will increase when The Dans arrive, plus there is the Cinco de Mayo party this weekend.

Just because I don’t have any good pictures, here are the past few meals I have eaten ;).

Figure 1 - Steak cooked on the coals, with corn.

Figure 2 - Steak fried with mushrooms.

Figure 3 – Me going stir crazy with no one around and nothing to do.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 5 – The Not So Restful Rest Day

---- Current location – The Gendarme Climbing School, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA - Temp: ~29DegC ----

Today, I was planning on taking a rest day, after the hard routes we have been climbing the past few days. So, I went down to the Gendarme Climbing School to check my e-mail, chat, etc. After about thirty minutes or so, someone came around asking if anyone needed a partner. After awhile, I said I could climb with him. So, I ran up to the campsite to grab my gear. Apparently, while I was gone, Matt and Massey recommended me as a partner (that was cool of them). So, I linked up with Tim and we set off toward the rock.

We started off on The Burn (5.8), which Tim lead. I didn’t want to lead today, since it was my rest day. It went well, Tim seemed solid. We moved on to Marshall’s Madness (5.7). This was a hand crack the whole way up (AKA my worst enemy). So, Tim set up a top rope and I worked my way up. It was good training for Fred’s Folly, back in Kingston. Feeling confident in each other, we moved on to Pleasant Overhang (5.7), a massive three pitch overhang traverse. It was intense. The first pitch was just a flake, too easy. The second pitch (under the overhang) was ridiculously exposed, but easy. The third pitch was a bit of a scramble up to the summit. It seemed like the hardest moves on this route were into and out of the belay stations (which were super sketchy - rusty piton style). I finally got to top out on the summit, so that was cool. I rapped down with to guys and left Tim to climb with a group of three.

Figure 1 - Tim at the South Summit of Seneca.

Once I got down, the two guys and I grabbed some Gatorades and rehydrated. I went back up to the campsite and met up with the other two Canadians (Pat and Bill). We started planning our bivy on the South Summit tomorrow night. Luckily, I was up there today, so I recced a campsite. We plan on heading out around 4PM tomorrow and climbing up the Gunsight to the South Summit. It should be a good time, and a great way for Pat and Bill to cap off their trip. It should be an awesome experience, the site I scoped out seems like a pretty good spot. Plus, the view of the sunset and sunrise from the summit will be great. So, don’t expect a report tomorrow, I will be set up on the summit of Seneca.

Friday, April 24, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 5 – The Shower

---- Current location – The Gendarme Climbing School, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA - Temp: ~29DegC ----

Day five in Seneca Rocks, WV, has been spectacular. 29DegC, sunshine and a breeze. I will need to start climbing in shorts, if it continues like this (which it is supposed to). I have been climbing in pants up to this point and was blistering in them all day today. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures today, sorry.

Today, I went climbing with Matt. Massey had to take some clients out to the rock. We met up around 9AM, racked gear and headed off with the plan to climb Ecstasy (5.7), a 3 pitch Seneca classic. Unfortunately for us, Chad (from the other guide service) was taking a client up it, so we moved on. We went around the corner to a lower section of the East Face than we were on yesterday. We set up to do a link up of TNT (5.8-) and Bee Sting Corner (5.7). I lead the first pitch (TNT), which was a run out, bolted, line. Those of you that know me well, know that I rarely swear, but I was shitting myself up this route. Even though it was bolted, the run outs were nuts (or at least I thought so). Apparently, Seneca bolted lines are known for this, I had no idea. I set up an anchor off some bolts to the right and Matt followed me up. He carried on to the second pitch (Bee Sting Corner) and set up off a tree. I followed, much more confidently now that I was on top rope. We rappelled down quickly, but soon realised that the second rap wasn’t going to reach the ground, so we had to downclimb the last 20 feet or so, oh well. After that route, we ate some lunch and did a route that is not in the guidebook, we think is called M&M (5.8). We pumped it out in short order and moved back to Ecstasy. There was a line forming by this point, so we moved past and hopped on Ecstasy Junior (5.4). It was an easy ascent, but the hardest 5.4 I have ever done. It was a large, over hanging, crack system that seemed as if it would let loose at any moment. We made it up and chatted with Tom, the head guide from the other guide service, and rapped off. This was the last climb of the day, as Matt had to open up the shop at 4PM. On the walk back, it was so hot, we both stuck our heads in the river to cool off. It was great, the water was frigid and it felt good to get that first layer of sweat off my face and hair.

Figure 1 - Me at the first anchor on Ecstasy Junior.

After sorting out our gear, I took the short walk up a hill to my tent and decided to take my first shower since arriving. Up until this point, it had been too cold and rainy to do this. It felt great. Washing all the sweat and grime off myself, I felt like a new person. After taking the shower, I put away my gear, grabbed some beers and my laptop and am now sitting on the porch of the shop typing this blog post.

All in all, today was a great day. Be prepared for more adventure, the crowds are starting to arrive for the weekend, there is talk of bivying on the summit Sunday night and best of all … “The Dan’s” plan to be here on Wednesday. Now that I have had the grand tour of this place, we should be able to quickly get on some of the classic routes here at Seneca Rocks.

Figure 2 - Me, post climbing, with Seneca in the background. Like I said, not a lot of pictures today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 4 – The Yokum Burger

---- Current location – Shower/Bathroom at Seneca Shadows Campground, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA (Again) – Temp: ~10DegC ----

The weather today, after 3 days of rain, sleet and hail, was beautiful. Not only was it beautiful, it was perfect. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was hot in the sun, but there was a breeze … oh it was perfect. So, I finally got to hit up some Seneca climbing.

Figure 1 - Me in the Gunsight Notch.

I went out with the two guides from The Gendarme Climbing School, Matt and Massey. It was great, because they knew where all the best lines were and how to get there. We met up at the gear shop around 9:30AM, Massey was there, so we started sorting gear. Matt eventually showed up and we continued getting our gear together, and were ready to set off, when we realised that we each had enough to go out by ourselves. We reorganised and set off with still too much gear. We decided to start on the East Face of the South Summit, so we would be in the morning sun. We hiked up to the ledge, which involved some exposed scrambling, and set up on Conn’s East Direct Start (5.8) to warm up on. We then moved on to some harder routes also on the East Face – Hidden Asset (5.10), Nip and Tuck (5.10c) and High Test (5.9+). I didn’t climb Nip and Tuck, instead I scrambled up into the Gunsight Notch (the huge notch between the North and South Summits) and took pictures as Massey lead it. It was great. It felt very “Alpine Style”, as I scrambled up, wind in my hair. Massey left after we did High Test, so Matt and I scrambled through the Gunsight and rappelled down. We both lead Seneca Daze, a bolted 5.7, and came down.

Figure 2 - Massey climbing Nip and Tuck.

Once down, the three of us decided to go to a local restaurant for burgers. We drove over and ordered. As soon as they started cooking, the entire place filled with smoke – I was alarmed – apparently this is normal. Luckily, they were the best burgers $6.95 could ever buy. If you are ever in back woods West Virginia, I would recommend you stop for one.

Figure 3 - The town of Seneca.

Now I am back at the camp site, more groups are rolling in for the weekend. It looks like it will be a real party soon. I’m off to mingle.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 3 – Strange Seneca Weather

---- Current location – Shower/Bathroom at Seneca Shadows Campground, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA – Temp: ~10DegC ----

Welcome to part three of my series of reports. I am currently sitting on the floor of a bathroom at Seneca Shadows Campground. I am in here because it is the only electrical outlet I have been able to find, in order to charge my computer. It is also a convenient refuge from the rain, snow, sleet and hail that has afflicted the Seneca area today.

Pat and Bill successfully returned from their attempt at Old Man’s Route, yesterday. I was glad to see them walk back up the trail to camp, as I had been totally rained out of fishing. I rode my bike about a mile upstream from Seneca and had just started fishing when the sky opened up on me. I continued fishing as the water level rose at an alarming rate. I quickly decided to bail and head back to my tent. The rain followed me all the way back to camp, so I decided to hole up for awhile. I read a book and did some thinking as I waited for the rain to subside. It did not. So, I decided to heat up some soup inside my tent, in order to appease my rumbling stomach and heat up the tent. As the soup began to steam, Pat and Bill ambled up the trail following their successful summit of Seneca. They seemed happy, unlike me, who had spent the past several hours wet or avoiding being wet. That night, we made a delicious dinner. We made Philly Cheesesteaks that consisted of beef, vegetables, grease, cheddar, pepperjack cheese and baguette. Like I said, it was delicious. Following our dinner, we built a huge fire and just sat around it warming up. We went to sleep with plans of hitting the South Pillar area, which we assumed would be lit up by the rising sun (obvious foreshadowing).

Figure 1 - Me cooking on solid fuel in my tent.

Figure 2 - Seneca in the morning.

This morning we woke to brisk temperature and wind. Pat and Bill spent awhile getting out of their tent, but that was OK as I had to rack my gear anyway. When they got up, we all ate breakfast and headed off to the South Pillar. We were planning on climbing Block Party (5.8) and I was excited to finally do some climbing. They had checked out the area earlier and thought they knew where we were going. Soon, we arrived and Pat began leading what we thought was Block Party. The climb up to the first bolt was up the outer rim of a cave and was about 20 feet. So, Bill and I spotted him as he placed a yellow TCU about halfway to the bolt. He made it, falling a split second after clipping the first bolt. I mean a SPLIT second, I heard the gate close as the rope went taut. He kept climbing and made it to the second bolt, but was out of gas by that point. I was up next, so we pulled the rope and I lead up to the second bolt, where I also flailed and didn’t make it. Bill followed, toproping from the second bolt and didn’t make it that far. So, I decided to check out the guidebook. Realising we were about 25 feet right of where we were planning and were attempting a 5.12, we decided Pat would make an epic down climb, while unclipping the bolts and we would move to Block Party. The temperature began rapidly dropping and we realised that the South Pillar is not in the sun at all. We saw that the South End of Seneca was in full sunlight, but we were in the shade. Oh well. Pat lead up and I planned to follow. As he approached the anchor bolts, the sky again opened up and we bailed. Pat cleaned the route on rappel and we went back to the camp site.

Figure 3 - Pat leading what we thought was Block Party.

After a nap, I headed down to the town of Seneca Rocks, where I met up with one of the guides (Matt) and his client (Tom). They had just come off Old Man’s Route and said that the weather was not that bad. So, we had a few beers and burgers. Tom is planning to climb the Grand Teton this summer and was learning the basics at Seneca. Matt and I plan on climbing Ecstasy (5.7+) tomorrow. We also watched a couple of ladies who were also staying at Seneca Shadows. They were up on Old Man’s Route, as well (it is a very popular Seneca route). They didn’t move the whole time we were watching them. I hope they were eating lunch, or something, and they make it back tonight. We proceeded to hang out for a while and Tom drove back to Alexandria, VA.

Tomorrow’s weather report looks like it will be a great day. If Matt and I do Ecstasy it will be even better. If not, Pat, Bill and I will probably hit up some shorter climbs. I am still looking forward to the arrival of “The Dan’s” so I can really get going on some of the classic Seneca routes.

Figure 4 - Me at the "House of Trad", Seneca, WV.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

West Virginia Trip – Part 2 – The Final Approach

---- Current location – Ground Up CafĂ©, Seneca Rocks, WV, USA ----

This is the second instalment of my blog-type trip report. I will hopefully be able to post many of these throughout the trip, now that I have discovered free wifi in Seneca (who would have guessed). So, I will be able to post these as long as I am not climbing and my fingers are warm enough to type.

18 APR 09:

So, for the past three weeks, I have been trying desperately not to injure myself before leaving on this trip. I had a few close calls, but had made it to Virginia injury free. Saturday was the day of my Dad’s 50th birthday party and we spent all day preparing for it. About 10 minutes before the party was set to begin, I dropped a porcelain bowl. It, of course, shattered, slicing my hand open. I patched it up and made the assessment – it required at least 1 stitch. So, I had a call to make – spend 5 hours in a US Naval Hospital trying to explain to them who I am OR wrap it up and carry on with the party. I chose to wrap it up. So far, it looks fine.

Figure 1 - My hand in its dressing.

20 APR 09:

Today, my Dad and I finally set off for West Virginia. After the weeks of planning, prepping and packing, I was on the mountain roads that would eventually lead me to Seneca Rocks, WV. It poured rain the whole way. The fog on the mountain tops gave us 20ft visibility at times. It was a generally bad day to be travelling. When we arrived at the campsite, though, the rain stopped and it wasn’t so bad. Dad left quickly, as there had been a hail warning on the way in. I was left to my own devices, so I set up camp (noticing the site across from me had a plethora of MEC gear) and headed down to town. Introducing myself to the local guides, I realised there is not much to do around here when it is raining – they seemed very bored. So, I hiked up to Seneca for a quick look. It was beautiful, I scoped some routes and my anticipation grew. I then headed back to the campsite, no one had returned yet, so I did some reading. All of a sudden two guys were at the door of my tent wondering who I was. So, I told them, and asked who they were – “Pat and Bill from Gatineau” they said. I replied with “I’ve got Kokanee”, they said “we’ve got Moosehead”, we soon became friends.

Figure 2 - Welcome to West Virginia.

21 APR 09:

The weather today is better, though it is calling for snow tonight, apparently. I plan on doing some fishing, while Pat and Bill climb Old Man’s Route. We might do some climbing together tomorrow. If they make it back, I will feel more confident in their abilities. Anyhoo, I will leave you with that and hopefully have a good report tomorrow.

Figure 3 - Trying to get some rock in the background.

Figure 4 - The view from my campsite.

Friday, April 17, 2009

West Virginia Trip - Part 1 - The Initial Approach

Welcome to the first installment of my twenty-five day trip to West Virginia.

For those of you who don’t know, I am taking a 25 day vacation to West Virginia. I will definitely be climbing at Seneca Rocks, and hopefully at Nelson Rock Preserve and New River Gorge, as well.

So, far the trip has been quite uneventful. Following a colossal mix-up with my leave, we finally hit the road at approximately 10:45 on Wednesday morning. 12.5 hours and over 1000KM later I arrived at my parent’s house in Norfolk, VA. Thursday was spent shopping and preparing for my Dad’s 50th birthday party, which we are having Saturday night. I also took a trip to the rock gym in town, in order to stretch my muscles after the car ride and catch up with people I haven’t seen in over two years. The gym was as good as ever, caught up with people, made some new friends and, of course, climbed. It was good to do some actual bouldering, for once. Today, we continued prepping for the party and I spent some time getting my gear sorted out for my actual trip. I also picked up the bicycle that Brian Thompson was so generous to lend me for the three weeks. It will definitely make travelling around the Seneca area easier than if I were on foot.

Anyhoo, not too much of an update because not much has happened yet. I will try and continue posting these, but I don’t know how reliable the internet will be once I arrive in West Virginia.

PS – If anyone sees “the Dan’s” tell them to get down here ASAP.