I’m sorry if you came here expecting something about a Miley Cyrus concert. I refuse to condone anything she does after she stopped wearing pants (and anything she did before she stopped wearing pants). Instead, this climb is meant to refer to my first real rock climb that I did with some friends in New River Gorge, West Virginia.
Everything about the National Park was absolutely stunning. The cliffs overlooking the water; the contrast between the vibrant green leaves and the foliage just beginning to turn a fiery red. The air was that perfect fall mix of river and fresh earth.
The New River is actually one of the oldest rivers on the continent. (It’s called the New River because it’s like those grandmas that insist they’re still 62 when they’re actually 83). I’ve heard rivers get more windy and run slower as they get older, but I still judge a river’s age by how many times it loses its glasses and if it gets huffy when the neighbors are making too much noise at 9:00 PM. While the New River still looks pretty young to me, the aged sandstone cliffs are beautiful wrinkled.
For my very first real rock climb, I did a 5.9. The New River Gorge is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the US, and most climbs are 5.9 and above, with the cliff height ranging from 30 to 100 feet. I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement I was getting from my friends below. I’d been climbing 5.7’s in the gym, but when we got out there to the real thing, I was excited to challenge myself to something even harder. My fingers were exhausted to the point where I could barely use them to grip the rock-face. In fact, quite a few times I involuntarily let go (thank goodness I was being belayed, is all I can say. That would have been an uncomfortable fall). Once you hit that point of utter exhaustion, it can be hard to keep going, but with my friends motivating me, I made it to the top.
The fun thing is that no matter how often you climb an indoor wall before you go climb a real one, you’re never quite prepared. In some ways, you’re pumped that you’re doing it outside of the gym; it’s real and it’s all up to you to decide how to tackle the challenge. And yet, you’re also looking around for the color-coded handles that tell you where to put your feet and feel an overwhelming sense of relief when you find the leftover chalk prints of someone who climbed before you. (Or sometimes that causes frustration when you can’t seem to get your fingers into that same tiny crevice). You have to push your limits and use muscles and determination that you didn’t even know you had. In the end, you shock yourself that you’re able to climb a completely vertical slab of rock that looks like it was made for Spiderman.
Looking out from the top was breathtaking and well worth the effort. (Sorry, no pictures. I didn’t climb with my camera). However, I’ve decided that there is nothing like a beautiful view to make you forget you can’t feel your fingers.