Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Impromptu Climbing Venture

My Saturday night plans were botched at the last moment this weekend past, so I packed up and bolted down to the New River Gorge/Summersville Lake climbing areas.

I knew Jeremy would be there, but was pleasantly surprised to discover all of my other close climbing friends I hadn't seen since July were also in attendance. I had so much fun catching up with everyone around the fire! Kenai was equally thrilled to be around people - especially his Best-Worst Uncle (best because he gives Kenai whatever Kenai wants; worst because, well, he gives Kenai whatever Kenai wants) who he adores more than most people in this world. Kenai even got to sleep in the tent with his Best-Worst Uncle. =)

Sunday Jeremy, Anna, Garth, and I headed to Summersville Lake, getting a few minute head start on the others who were all still finishing up hearty breakfasts (this crew doesn't screw around with their breakfast, they're quite the camping chefs).  Kenai was loath to leave with us, as he'd been doing his best sad-puppy expressions to score some food. All it was getting him was orange polka-dots on his muzzle from dripping Tobasco sauce though. (Yes, he looked ridiculous.) But with just a little encouragement, I got the rowdy pup into the car and off we went.

The weather forecast was dreary. 70% chance of rain for the day. The skies were pretty grey and we really didn't know how long we'd last. It was good to get an early start so we could squeeze in all we could.

Jeremy took us along a new-to-me approach to avoid the ladder and having to carry Kenai. It afforded some pretty vistas of the now-dry lake.

The Gauley winds along at the bottom of the lake

Route 19 cruising over the dry lake

The Army Corps of Engineers draws down the water yearly to maintain structures at the bottom of Summersville. The releases allow for the Gauley River to run some of the best whitewater in the world through September and October. Every 10 years they are supposed to draw down extra low (pictured above) to do some double-checking and extra maintenance. However, for the past 3 years they've drawn down all the way to the Gauley's former bed and bank because - I can only presume - maintenance hasn't gone as planned. (The lake is full again by May - yay wet and rainy east!)

Anecdote: When dams are placed to create lakes like Summersville Lake, the dam is often named after the town it is in closest proximity to at the time of its creation (sometimes these towns later "die off" due to a myriad of economical reasons, but their names remain). Well, when the dam for Summersville Lake was created, the closet town was the town of Gad - which was inundated by the lake's creation. Those in charge decided we COULDN'T POSSIBLY name this dam after the town of Gad...think about it, say it aloud: Gad Dam. Yep. And thus, Summersville Dam it was named and remains so to this day. 

At any rate, the low waters of winter open up some more climbing at the lake for those who seek it. Jeremy had his eye on one of those climbs - Mutiny, a 5.11d.

Note the quickdraws on his harness and clipped into a bolt on the rock
below him. I referred to these in the Red River Gorge post.
Bring up rope to clip into the next bolt at his head-height
Looks like he's climbing on some remote planet in space

After watching Jeremy take a go at the climb, Anna and I decided to head off to another wall further down to get in some climbing - leaving the boys to be boys on this route that was a bit above our current climbing range.

We said a quick hello to our other friends as we passed them on the way to a 10b we had in mind for warm-up. It was a shorter 30' climb that went well for both of us. We'd both climbed it before. The skies opened with a little drizzle as I cleaned the climb, but so far so good with the weather holding out!

Garth and Jeremy caught up with us as we were headed toward Satisfaction Guaranteed, a 5.11a around the corner.

Each of us had a go at this climb. The three of them each took a turn leading it (and cursing it), and I pursued it on top rope (and cursed it).

The first move of the climb plays right into some of my weaknesses in that its a pretty bold and powerful move. I took 4 goes at it before requesting Garth to be my imaginary right foot that would help me heave-ho up and into better position to actually gain a foothold on the rock. From there it didn't get any easier and I proceeded to hang around staring at the rock, trying to will it to tell me precisely what to do.

Jeremy, high above with my phone (camera) called some beta (i.e., directions), but I still had to stare at the rock awhile to decide on what would work for me. Jeremy's ~5'11" and I'm 5'6". Height differences in climbers greatly alters the way they go about pursuing a climb. The whole guy vs. girl thing alters a lot, too. Girls will climb a lot more from their legs while guys will do more with their upper body. This is why when I don't have decent feet, I tend to suffer a bit; hence why I cursed the beginning of this climb!

With some thought, I did puzzle out the first section of the climb. However, the next section was tricky in a whole other way: piddly crimpy hands on a slabby face. This kind of climbing gets really balancey as you have to rely a lot on your feet. I can manage it, but god does it take a lot of pondering. I spent a lot of time studying and pondering my every move, helped by Jeremy above who was also snapping a lot of photos!

Groping the rock for a better left hand

The slabby section really ended up being a lot of fun, in hindsight. Reaching the end of it though was leading me into the move I was dreading most about this climb - a roof. I SUCK at roofs. I despise them greatly. This, coupled with the fact that I was having difficulty making the move to reach the roof, coupled with the fact that the rope was creating forces to pull me off the wall, coupled with the fact that I just didn't feel like being on this climb any more, led me to the decision to just  bail out and be lowered. There was another climb I was more excited about that I wanted to save energy for.

But, here, for your viewing pleasure, is a very comical video of my dangling frustration before I decided I'd quit. I think this was the third time I'd been pulled off the climb by the tension of the rope on the roof (and yes, I could have asked for more slack and it would have been fine, but I was tired and not feeling it at all).

Concluding thoughts on Satisfaction Guaranteed? I liked that it challenged me. I liked that it taught me something. I like that I'm incredibly sore from efforts involved in that first move. I am pretty well convinced that when I'm in better climbing shape (next summer?), I'd like to try it again. (Yes, Jeremy, you win.)

The final climb for me on Sunday was a climb I've done multiple times before that I remembered being really challenging for me, but one that I really liked because of the challenge.

I don't know what the hell I was thinking. It sucked. It sucked HARD. And I flopped up it with the grace of a fish out of water. I'll confront it - yet again - another time when I'm in a bit better shape and not fresh off a week where I was pretty sick for 3 days (really thinking this had a lot to do with my lack of energy).

After I finished flopping around, Jeremy and I went over to sit with our group of friends and watch as several of them pursued some pretty stout climbs on a huge overhanging wall.

They're insane.

And then, we all hiked out together. And Jeremy carried a very distraught Kenai up the ladder like a good fireman.

And the day was done. And I had a blast. And I finally got some new-ish photos of me actually climbing. Happy Liz.

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