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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Old Friends

There are places that are near and dear to the beat of my heart; places a bit wilder, often much more extreme and demanding, but places which reward every extra ounce of determined effort and required fortitude with a sense of wonder that transcends simple place and experience.

One of them, for me, is and has always been West Virginia, that is no secret.  

Here, despite an annual flood of tourists and fair weather extremists, there are still far more places to be alone than to join in with a crowd, and adventures a-plenty for anyone who doesn't need a guidebook or a nanny to protect them from their own folly; someone who can accept run-out climbing, varying rock quality, bugs and rain and sparse gear as part of the game of discovery and exploration; talents that used to define the required price of admission to the discipline we call 'climbing' in this part of the world.

Some things change, some never do.

You learn to live with it.

When you can introduce old friends and new to some of the best lines you've ever created, in a setting that combines magnitude with tiny details and dramatic light, it is an opportunity not to be missed, one of the things that makes the in-between hours and days survivable.  

My friend Brian came to our corner of the mountains from Colorado by way of the steep walls of the Red River Gorge, his mission: to check out the Nelson Rocks via ferrata with friends Dan and Lisa, crank at Franklin Gorge on some old favorites and finish his visit with all new lines in another lost corner of this amazing state.

Powered by a dinner of stir-fried chicken and vegetables washed down with copious quantities of beer, awakened by strong coffee and chipotle-sauced breakfast burritos, our heroes were led to their challenge by the curmudgeon and his lovely wife as rain speckled our windshields on Earth Day.

Brian D contemplates the overhanging walls along the North Fork.

Muscles and the Tall Man; Lisa racks up for an on-sight ascent of Rock of Ages, as showers begin to fall.

Spring along the North Fork

Dan, clipping in from hallelujah jugs at the end of Rock of Ages.

The powerful climbers of Colorado danced and yanked their way up the 5.9s and 10s that I pointed them towards, then broke briefly to snack and hydrate before Brian and Lisa took turns thrashing themselves on the huge roof of the Leviathan project.

The Curmudgeon, working on the Leviathan, back in the day.

Alas, the beast proved too much for even these heroes, fatigued as they were by Nelson's via ferrata, an afternoon that was no walk in the park at nearby Franklin Gorge, and the steep ascents of the morning.  Neither Brian's massive ape index or Lisa's equestrian-hardened muscle could reduce the depth of the roof or increase the size of the holds that followed, and eventually a cease-fire was called, the gear retrieved, and our fallen heroes lowered.

My lovely wife Cindy, who spent the morning reducing the number of trout and bass in the nearby river, now climbed up through the boulder field to join us, and we finished on Mike Fisher's fine line "Broken Angels".  I noted that some kind soul had taken it upon themselves to scratch an admonishment into the cliff that this line was run-out.

Yes, it, a touch.

The current in the river is deep and swift and the trail is exceedingly slippery.

There are poisonous snakes in the leaves and armed lunatics in the forest for a large portion of the year.  

The mosquitoes carry disease.

Traffic on the road is dangerous.

You can choke on peanuts.

Not everyone needs their hands held in life, and denying others the right to enjoy a cliff without your self-entitled scratchings and graffito at the base is far more egregious a failing than putting bolts more than a body length apart over thirty feet off the ground.

We shared a laugh or three in this vein, shook our heads at the pervasive nature of the nanny mentality and got back to the climb, which is excellent, as the cloudy skies rolled and cleared by turns, rain fell in brief showers and finally a determined downpour, and good times were had by all.

We parted at the cars after Sierra Nevadas and a "Brost!", with hugs and grins and well-wishes.

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