Author Archives: NRAC

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The PsicoRoc Highlight Reel

Category : NRAC

Little in this Universe is more gratifying than to watch your labors blossom into fruits, and then marvel as others turn them into something even better. That’s what happened when we in NRAC gazed on in wonder as volunteers, athletes, sponsors, spectators, representatives of the US Army Corps of Engineers at Summersville Lake, rescue divers, medical personnel, and a whole film production team converged on the lake Tuesday, August 23, 2016 for PsicoRoc, the first deep-water-solo climbing competition ever to be held on real stone in America. Did you miss it? No problem.

(Stay tuned. In coming months, we’ll have a longer version that tells the story behind the most unusual competition in American climbing history.)

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, higher psych or a more exciting finish, as Mammut climber, Sean McColl, dead pointed his way to glory, bagging the FA of a new ±13d variation—ropeless, 55 feet above the water, on the last move of the last burn of the last route of the day.

It wasn’t until the sun had long since set, that we began to process what just happened. Here’s PsicoRoc by the numbers.

Kenny Parker

Most of the volunteer hours belong to this guy.

1072: the estimated number of New River Alliance of Climbers volunteer person-hours (mostly belonging to Kenny Parker) required to pull off PsicoRoc.

13: the number of pontoon party boats lashed together to form a floating grandstand/restaurant/bar.

93: the number of athletes, volunteers and sponsor reps officially invited to PsicoRoc.

71: at peak, the number of additional people who found, rented and borrowed all manner of powered and unpowered watercraft—from ski boats to (literally) Thermarests—and got there anyway.

2640: the estimated number of vertical feet PsicoRoc competitors climbed collectively.

1280: the estimated number of vertical feet PsicoRoc competitors plummeted collectively.

1: the number of PsicoRoc Summersville events there will likely ever be. (Hey, at least you can watch the highlight reel over and over.)

PsocoRoc Trophies

This Object Exemplifies the Values of Your Combined Endeavors

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our sponsors: Water Stone Outdoors, Evolv, FiveTen, Philly Rock Gyms, Scarpa, Black Diamond, Mammut, La SportivaPetzl, New River Mountain GuidesAdventures on the Gorge, ACE Adventure ResortOpossum Creek Retreat, Vertical Medicine Resources and Brooks Wentzel at Yoidles Productions, which made our wonderfully weird and artistic trophies. Please go patronize those businesses right now.

Thank you also to PsicoBloc Masters and Mike Call, without whom we wouldn’t even have a name. Thank you to the production crew, especially Tara Kerzhner, Jake Slaney and Kevin Riley, who pulled off Herculean shooting and/or editing efforts. And thank you especially to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, which actually gave us a permit for this crap—especially Kevin Brown and Toby Woods for their patience, unflagging support and sense of humor. At any other time, deep water soloing and cliff jumping are illegal on Summersville Lake.

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One Big Week

AKA:Try your luck for just five clams.

We didn’t think it would be that cool. We crossed our fingers and put in the hard work to make it happen, but none of us really thought it could be THAT cool.

Coming away from ten New River Rendezvous’ was tough on the mojo. After a decade of near flawless execution of the East Coast’s finest climber gathering, we listed about at sea for a bit wondering what to do next. It gave us a chance to refocus on who we are and what our goals are—to “preserve, promote, and conserve” our world-class climbing resource. So we set out to create some smaller events that would focus on service and community.

Someone hatched the scheme for a Yosemite Facelift-inspired Work Week, but one that would be so fun it wouldn’t feel like work at all. (Not) Work Week was born and a dedicated crew slayed the trail to Sandstonia last year. But we still needed to raise some loot for climbing hardware so Jay Young came up with the idea for a film festival. Of course, the film festival would come right at the end of the (Not) Work Week and we saw our little events start to morph into something much bigger. We just can’t help ourselves.

NotWork2016_4 copy This year’s (Not) Work Week took on the big project of building the North Bridge Connector Trail. This brand new trail, developed in conjunction with the National Park Service, will connect the Burnwood Loop to the climbing access trail that runs along the base of the Bridge Area crags. In layman’s terms, you’ll be able to wake up at the American Alpine Club Campground, have a casual brekky, walk to the Tugging Shack or Interp boulders to warm up, then hike down manicured switchbacks to the cliff and go climbing. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Our own trail guru Gene Kistler led the charge of volunteers. Dozens of psyched individuals from all over, locals and non-locals alike, showed up each day to swing picks, push dirt, and move rocks. A few folks from the NPS trail crew joined in the fun and brought the expertise and equipment to move some VERY big rocks… rocks big enough to build a Romanesque staircase down a crux section of cliff dubbed “The Hillary Step.”

The team had to be fed, so other volunteers took the reins on cooking. A week flew by and by the end the whole process was running like a well-oiled machine, just the way we like it. If you haven’t seen the new trail, take a hike on it. There’s a bit of work left to be done on the Hillary Step, but what was accomplished in just one week is amazing! Thanks to everyone that came out.

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Saturday night we closed out the (Not) Work Week with the first annual Appalachian Outdoor Film Festival, and it was SO COOL! We rounded up a few films from some talented filmmakers and we could have just thrown them up on a projector screen at the campground, but nay… we always go big. The Historic Fayette Theatre right downtown was ours for the evening. Did someone say historic? “Might as well make it a theme night,” we thought. “What if everyone dresses up like it’s the 1940s?”

Now picture this: There’s a bit of a pre-party at Waterstone Outdoors where climbers, (Not) Work Week volunteers, filmmakers, and festival-goers bump shoulders. Boisterous ladies and gents are dressed in 1940s attire giving the whole atmosphere an end-of-prohibition celebration vibe. Through a light drizzle, a mint-condition 1937 Packard motorcar pulls up to the front of the shop driven by local history buff and biplane pilot Christian Kappler. A young man steps out from the back seat, meticulously dressed in period clothing. With one arm tucked formally behind his back and a straight face that never broke character, he holds the door open. They’re here to pick up the filmmakers.

One by one, the film crews and their guests are shuttled to the Historic Fayette Theatre where they step out onto a red carpet in front of a long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Cameras flash as they walk through the theatre doors and stop for a photo op in front of an American flag complemented by WWII-era surplus boxes painted with the names of the Festival sponsors. On they go through a 2nd set of doors to find a long table of raffle prizes from our sponsors: Merrell Shoes, Osprey Packs, Outdoor Research, ACE Adventure Resort, Adventures on the Gorge, Trango Extraordinary Climbing Gear, Stonewear Designs and Blue Ridge Outdoors. A raffle ticket salesman dressed like Oliver Twist peddles his goods—“Tickets here! Get yer tickets! Try your luck for just five clams!”

Inside the theatre every seat is filled and we start to sell standing-room-only admission. The lights dim and the show begins…

Our films this year ran the gamut, showcasing everything from slacklining the gunsight notch at Seneca rocks and BASE jumping off, to mountain biking near Asheville, WV whitewater, and a tribute film to New River climbing legend Cal Swoager. The judge’s choice award went to the film “El Arroyo,” a moving portrayal of a young man bitten by the fly fishing bug. The audience choice award went to “Effervescence,” a biopic of an old timer WV raft guide and his story of finding  a job that turned his life around.

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From start to finish, last week marks another “best” for our small town here in southern West Virginia. We built a trail, laughed, climbed rocks, and celebrated what makes this area great. What made it successful was every individual’s willingness to take a task and run with it, not just to get the job done, but to do it right and make it special. It was the person that brought a smiling face to a rainy trail day; the guy that woke up early to flip pancakes for the crew; the one with the vision for the film festival; the sponsors that donated prizes; and the person that bought a ticket to have a good time and put a dime in NRAC’s pocket all at once.

We didn’t think it could be that cool, but it was, and we owe that to the New River Alliance of Climbers. And who is NRAC? You are! 

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Meadow River South Side Access

pats boulders

In late October, 2013, large boulders blocking the road appeared on Propp’s Ridge Rd. and the old railroad grade that parallels the Meadow River on its south/west side. These boulders have effectively blocked vehicular access to the Meadow’s Southside Crags including Area 51, The Other Place, Orange Wall, Mud Hueco, Brilliant Pebble, Rehab Crag and the crags along Glade Creek, which parallels Propp’s Ridge Rd. 

For NRAC, and locals, this came as no surprise. Land ownership along the Meadow and Glade Creek has been in a state of flux since long before climbers began to explore the Meadow River cliff line, which they did on foot, hiking in from Highway 19 along the railroad tracks which were still in place. It wasn’t until 1999 that the tracks were pulled up and climbers began to drive in and park along the Meadow River to access the climbing areas. For those around at the time, the easy access had a too-good-to-be-true feel to it, and losing it wasn’t an issue of if, but when

Immediately after the roads were blocked, representatives from NRAC began discussions with land owners, the National Park Service, the County Commission, and others to explore options that would allow for continued access to the climbing resources along the Meadow River’s Southside crags. 

What We Know: 

Land ownership along the South side of the Meadow is a complex mish-mash of different stake holders that has been in a constant state of change. Simply determining who placed the boulders and who owned the different parcels of land was a challenge in its own right. After some research, Fayetteville climber and GIS specialist, Levi Rose, compiled a map (below) that offers some insight into the land ownership, as well as the location of the road blocks and the affected cliff line. The road blocks are indicated as red dots. There are three: one at the entrance to the railroad grade near Nallen, one along the railroad grade just downstream of the intersection with Propp’s Ridge Rd, and one that blocks both the trestle and the road over the top of the waterfall along Propp’s Ridge Rd.  

The road blocks were placed by The Forestland Group, a timber investment management organization. They continue to manage the property, but have sold the mineral rights of nearly 11,000 acres, including the Propp’s Ridge access road, to a coal company called Xinergy Corp. Talks with the Forestland Group revealed that restricting vehicular access and recreational use was done at the request of their insurance company due to liability concerns. This closure is not directed specifically at climbers, but at all recreational user groups. Forestland Group has been continuously open and receptive to working with NRAC and has indicated that the potential for future recreational use on their land is a possibility. Currently, hiking, biking, and climbing on their property is considered trespassing and signs are clearly posted.

Later discussion with the County Commission revealed that the railroad grade along the Meadow River is part of a “Rails to Trails” land easement held by Greenbrier and Fayette Counties. This 2012 purchase was made possible with over $435,000 of grants secured for the project by the West Virginia Department of Highways and the National Park Service. More details on the acquisition of the Rails to Trails corridor can be read here

nrac_meadowaccess cliff line added

What It Means For Climbers

Vehicular access to the Southside crags is quite likely gone for good. Hiking in from the road block at the waterfall on Propp’s Ridge Rd cuts directly through Forestland property and would be considered trespassing. The railroad grade that parallels the river, on the other hand, is completely open to hiking and biking along its entire length. However, stepping off the side of the road to hike, fish, or climb, throughout the portion upstream of the intersection with Propp’s Ridge Rd, would be considered trespassing. The land neighboring the railroad grade downstream of the road block near the intersection with Propp’s Ridge Rd. is not on Forestland property.

The cliffs located on Forestland property are: Rehab Crag (not included in any guidebook), High Density Feed Lot and Congo (2nd edition guidebook only), and Mud Hueco. 

The Brilliant Pebble, Area 51, The Other Place, Hedrick’s Creek, and Orange Wall are not located on Forestland Property. 

What To Do

Working with the Forestland Group and other land managers to find a legitimate and user-friendly access alternative will not be a quick and easy process. That said, we have faith that solutions to these challenges can be worked out. In the interim, we know that climbers are a resourceful bunch. If the climbing is good enough, climbers will find a way to get there. For now, the most legitimate way to access the crags along the South side of the river that are not on Forestland property is to park off of Dietz or Underwood Road as you would for the Lower and Upper Meadow. Hike down to the river, take your shoes off and get wet! Once on the other side of the river, Area 51 and the Other Place are about 2.5 miles upstream and Orange Wall is about 2 miles downstream. These areas are still within an easy and flat one hour hike of the car. It should go without saying that the Meadow River can be quite dangerous, or impossible, to cross at high water. Use your judgment! 

Remember that YOU are the New River Alliance of Climbers. Our motto is “Get Involved, Be Informed, Stay Connected.” We’ll do our best to keep you updated on the evolving changes and we encourage everyone to stay informed and share the info with others. Please use your best judgment when accessing these areas and remember that your actions could affect our large community of climbers. Have fun out there! 

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