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


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Congratulations, Tyler Hall and Josh Light!

Yesterday, while walking around looking for hard climbers on steep lines and enjoying just showing yet another person around wonderland, we bumped into a couple of climbers who were wandering around, looking for the crags.

They climbed out of their cars with huge grins, and the first words I heard were "Are you Mike Gray?"


We spent the next hour and a half wandering around the Entrance Walls and Reed's Creek, talking about a lot of things and planning on hooking up this morning.

Today, celebrating my wife Cindy's birthday with a few hours of climbing, we were fortunate enough to witness something precious and rare: a first recorded ascent, a trad line done ground up on-sight by two young climbers on their first visit to a "secret" crag. 

The young lions were already up and cranking when we arrived.

The crack that climbs out of the cave at the end of Reed's Creek was climbed early this morning in a single push by our new friends Tyler Hall, who crushed the onsight and Josh Light, who powered through and cleaned the line; two up-and-coming hard men currently paying their dues to careers and dealing with the NoVA groove, who broke away for the weekend to discover some of our new rock. Whether done in the past or not (and evidence said "not"), the line was done in classic fashion today.

Pointed at an unknown, they jumped on it and sent in fine style, running out the final two hidden headwalls of 5.8 climbing with no gear in about 45 feet. The combination of rock color and a refreshing dip of peach snuff at the top produced the name "Bring me Something Peachy".  

Proud effort by a couple of genuinely nice guys.

Josh (L) and Tyler (R), fresh down from a first known ascent and a series of exploratory climbs, ready to just clip some bolts and relax for the afternoon, while Gracie searches for another great napping spot.

Watch for more from these two in the future... 

Call it a hunch.

Friday, August 29, 2014

In The Beginning

March 2nd, 2007: The Punishers begin construction of the current high-speed trail to replace the eroded otter slide everyone was using to reach the cliffs of Franklin. 

At that point, the crag had existed for just over 17 years, about as long as another popular idea, the Access Fund, which, despite the grassroots, working-class image sold to the public, was actually a spin-off of the American Alpine Club, an international organization with a vast web of contacts and resources.

After years of reading press releases and watching as work seemed to go on at every other crag in the nation, two local climbers who were not members of the club had finally had enough.  Tools were gathered, food stores and supplies laid in, and two guys who actually are working class folks took time off from their carpentry jobs, stocked up on PowRBars and gels, tuna and pasta, then gave up a month of weekends to build trail for a climbing community comprised, for the most part, of Access Fund members who apparently hadn't noticed or cared to acknowledge the need for action.

Working from Friday nights through Monday mornings for most of the month of March, we laid in rails, stacked stone, and did what two people could to shore up a game trail and address the impact of hundreds of feet. 

We often climbed at night, by headlamp, so we could work during the day, although Fisher could crank off a hard line or three and then build trail all day, coffee by his side, before grabbing a snack and a nap and sending again in the twilight.

Mike Fisher takes a break from building trail to enjoy a rare moment of daylight climbing on Potential Energy.

The Master, in his element.

B.P.- Before the arrival of the Punishers, this is what the trail to "Raised by Sasquatch" looked like.

The base of Castaways, possibly the most popular and obviously the most impacted climb at Franklin.  Despite three different groups covering the adjacent area with mulch, side rails, plants, even marking tape, climbers have reduced the belay area and trail to this state once again...

Although we built in steps and rails, mulched and planted, there is almost no sign of our efforts today.

We did what we could: built the trails, made friends with the landowners, supported the little store at the end of the road, put up quality routes and replaced substandard gear.

Now, the torch passes to the next generation.

But this is how it was, in the beginning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adios, Brian McCray... and Thank You

From the dark recesses of the Cave on Seneca's South End, to the Via Ferrata in Nelson Gap, to the resoling and phenomenal routing he did in New River Gorge, on to the rock and adventures of the West, "Flyin'" Brian McCray left his mark on climbing and climbers across the nation and the globe.

This past weekend, for reasons that were his own, Brian chose to end his life.

I did not know Brian well- we were not close buddies and did not climb together (mainly because I am no superhero, and thus am incapable of hanging upside down on crimpers and heel-hooking for an entire day) or hang out.

But Brian touched everyone around him, in conversations at the foot of the crags, on the front porch, or encountered at random in the New.  We had, on more than one occasion, passed the time chatting about everything from dogs at the crags to the best rope bag to all the places we'd ever stolen a shower while on the road.

He was a climbing ambassador, a genuinely great person, and a bright soul to his friends and acquaintances.

Our lives and days will be a bit darker, without his quirky humor and laughter.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Public and Private property on North Fork Mountain, in Germany Valley and in Smoke Hole Canyon

Courtesy of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy  and the hard-working researchers, trail builders and route setters here at the headquarters of PHAR/UP, the Potomac Highland Anchor Replacement/Upgrade Program:

North Fork/Smoke Hole/Germany Valley property boundary maps, absolutely free!

And, from MyTopo.com, more of the same.

Climb, hike, and camp like a responsible outdoor enthusiast, respect private property and always practice Leave No Trace; even if the latter is actually impossible here in the real world, the first two are fairly simple, even for rock climbers.

Thanks for helping us preserve access in the Highlands!

PHAR/UP is a not-for-profit idea, created out of 30+ years of experience at crags across America and a deep involvement with climbing development in the West Virginia Highlands region. No membership fees, no big corporate sponsors, just local climbers working hard every day to bring you better climbs, trails, and beta.