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.

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