Sunday, September 20, 2020

Rock Climbing in Virginia

 Anna and I drove our camper to Great Falls National Park and camped in Reston, Virginia. We hired a guide, Grant Price, from Blue Ridge Mountain Guides. He spent two days teaching us how to set up "natural" anchors using trees and rocks. Our climbs were all exposed, directly above the rushing  Potomac River. The climbing routes are not bolted and they're slab or crack climbs.

On days one and two we worked with Grant and on the third day we practiced by ourselves.

Day 1: SANDBOX area: Box Left, Sand Box Corner, Right Dihedral

Day 2: DIHEDRALS area: Pride, Beginners' Chimney; Juliet Balcony area: Anna rappelled and climbed Left Stuff

Anna rappelling:

Myron climbing:

Anna (series):

Anna again:


Some of our rope work:

Very weird local mushroom:

Our last dinner (leftovers) at Great Falls comprised brisket, lasagne, chicken tenders with lemon and capers, and salad.

Because we expected rain we drove south to Richmond, Virginia so that we could experience indoor climbing at the recently expanded Triangle Rock Club there.

Then we returned to Durham after another great adventure.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Adventure in Hiddenite

Anna and I drove two hours with our T@B camper to Hiddenite, North Carolina to go rock climbing at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area. A former quarry was bolted for top rope and sport climbing. Climbers can park right at the face of the rock wall. We did some recon after setting up camp.

Our campsite was at the edge of a stream.

Anna set up the anchors so we could top rope:

The rock was very different from any we've climbed; there were very few easy places for hands. We had to keep our body up against the wall and rely on toe placement to ascend. Climbing the routes was all slopers and smearing.

Anna did very well while I barely managed to summit a climbing route; but I did clean the anchor.

On our second day, Anna did her first outdoor sport climb! She placed all the quick draws ascending and cleaned the route coming down.

As usual, we ate and drank well. Our first night at the campground was filet mignon and the second night was Indian Dhal.

Before leaving Hiddenite we panned for gems at the Emerald Hollow Mine ( ). We were quite successful (aventurine, common opal, amethyst, quart and jasper) but we didn't strike it rich.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

With Lynne and Jim in Boone, North Carolina

Anna and I went camping with Lynne and Jim. We had our T@B camper and L&J had a new tent. We spent the weekend exploring around Boone. Anna had made us matching pajamas for the occasion.

Yeah, we know, too cute.

Lynne and Jim had never gone white water rafting so we all went on an easy trip (class I - III) down the Watauga River with High Mountain Expeditions.

It was a lovely day and we had lots of fun.

The next day our first stop was Blowing Rock which is a really nice town and is also a well-known tourist attraction.

Lynne and Anna just HAD to climb up on it.

The views up there are spectacular!

The flowers weren't bad either.

We also drove to Linville Springs and hiked to the views of the waterfalls.

This very short Youtube video shows the lower cascade. If you look carefully, on the bottom right you can see people on "the beach". We have no idea how they managed to get down there!

When we returned to the campground we experienced a 45 minute downpour. We were all stayed snug in our camper until the sun came back out. And L&J's new tent passed its first water test with flying colors.

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Quick Climbing Trip to Pilot Mountain

Anna and I drove 110 miles to a popular climbing spot less than two hours away from our house in Durham. The last time we were there was three years ago; our guide was Taylor Smith who took us for our first outdoor climbing experience. At that time we had only been climbing at an indoor climbing wall for three months.

We have climbed outdoors many times since; but this trip was our first time climbing without local helpers or guides. Anna had bought all the gear and a sixty meter rope. And she made a quad and locked us in at the various anchors so we could top rope five different routes: Howdy Dude, Honey Pot, Grandpa's Belay, Pee Break, and Goldilocks.

We stayed at the Greystone campground, a mile from the parking lot at Pilot Mountain.

That's me at the middle; then Anna topping out:

Anna did the toughest climbs:

Anna proves that the rocks are unforgiving:

Myron resting:

We had a good three days of climbing. It was hot and fatiguing but the views were stupendous!


Monday, June 15, 2020

Adventure in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Anna and I towed our teardrop camper for a climbing adventure in West Virginia. We had booked a three day private session at the Seneca Rocks Climbing School.

The Seneca Rocks area is part of the Monongahela National Forest. The rocks there, once seashore sediments, have been upended to 900 feet of vertical quartz arenite. It is said to be the best climbing east of the Rocky Mountains.

Our campsite was beautifully located and the first view of Seneca Rocks was awesome.

Our campsite was along the Seneca Creek; Anna said it was very cold.

The rural village of Seneca Rocks (600 residents) seemed to be owned by two families which had been there for hundreds of years: the Harpers and the Yokums. They owned the RV park, the general stores and the rock climbing companies. The only thing they didn't own was the church.

The day we arrived we set up camp and hiked the 1.5 mile trail to the observation overlook.

On our trek we learned that the army had trained here before  WWII and that 15 climbers had perished climbing the routes since 1971.

The next day we met our instructor, Daniel. He explained that we needed to hike in (and up!) one hour to reach the base of the climbing routes. Also, that there are almost no bolted routes for sport climbing; all our routes would be "trad" (traditional routes which require placing cams in the rock cracks to hold our weight). We told Daniel that neither of us had any experience climbing trad.

Daniel told us that the rocks here are sheer, vertical, and unforgiving (they feel very hard when your body bangs into them!).

Daniel said we would summit the peak by climbing in four stages ("pitches") and then descend by rappelling down in four stages. He carried two 60 meter ropes.

After the hike in, the process was the following. Daniel tied his harness to one red rope. I tied into the second half of the same red rope AND the first half of the green rope. Anna tied her harness to the second half of the green rope.

Next, Anna would belay Daniel as he leads the climb and sets the cams and clips the red rope through the carabiners. When Daniel reached the first ledge he would tether himself to the rock and Anna would take Daniel off belay. Now Daniel belays me from the ledge above and I climb up and as I reach the clips I unclip the red rope and clip in the green rope. When I reach the ledge, I tether myself to the rock. Next, Daniel belays Anna with the green rope from above and she climbs up and "cleans" the route (i.e., she removes the cams and their attached carabiners and "racks" them - puts them on her harness). When she reaches and tethers herself on the first ledge, we're ready to repeat the process for the second pitch.

Me climbing and Anna waiting below:

Anna climbing:

And up the pitches we go!

To get down from the summit we did four rappels. The longest rappel was 195 feet.

A good day for me (with two titanium hips) and Anna with a knee brace. So that night was filet mignon for dinner.

On the last day, Anna went alone with Daniel; four pitches and four rapps.

She said there was a strong wind at the "window".

And the view was awesome!

And Anna's knee brace was scarred and much worse for wear.

The next day we left Seneca Rocks and our first trad climbing adventure.

To break up our journey home, we spent a night at a campsite in Fayetteville, West Virginia we'd stayed in last year, when we climbed and went white water rafting at New River Gorge.