No climbing this weekend. Apart from that tree. My fingers are beginning to feel better though. We hiked in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area (in West Virginia), and had campfires (with no marshmallows or damper). Long drive in on a dusty pot-holed road. Heavy dew overnight. Camping on an island (calling it an island is probably a bit of an over-dramatisation, you’d be expecting something exciting that could be raided by pirates, and has coves, and buried treasure; this was more a bit of land that happened to have a stream flowing either side of it, a stream that was so full of rocks that you could walk over it quite easily; it was also full of fish that would nibble on your legs if you stood in it).
The weekend was spent playing in the water at Summersville Lake (deep water soloing if you will). We had a pontoon on Saturday, until a thunderstorm came along, and some people started to get dubious about how well lightning and metal boats go together. So the boat was returned, we were pelted with rain for 3 minutes, then the weather was perfectly fine again. Of course!
Plans to go bouldering at full moon were ruined by the weather, which kept getting overcast and thunderstorming on us. Come Sunday morning, everything was soaking wet, and most of the crew were keen to get back to civilisation – except for the hardy group who fought their way down to Pirates Cove and swam around in the sun, enjoying the views and gorgeous sunny weather for a few more hours. I don’t know how we managed to do it, really I don’t.
Val in Pirates Cove on Sunday morning
Now I just have to work out the easiest way to cut this up and turn it into an animated gif…
(The photo was taken at Cooper’s Rocks, West Virginia)
“Gah! They’re pointing a machine gun at us!”
“How rude, pretend we haven’t seen them.”
You realise what a fragile grip you have on your climbing lead head, when you start up the third pitch of a climb, stick your head out around a corner, and are confronted with a large shiny, sticky pool of congealing blood. It’s bright red still, with flies crawling around it. It’s also exactly where you need to go. You’re 40 metres up the climb already – you knew there was blood somewhere up here, and you knew the guy was fine – he just nicked his ankle apparently, you’d heard him yelling down to his belayer about it. You just weren’t expecting quite so much of the stuff.
He and his partner kept climbing – oh, they certainly did, as there is blood sprayed all over the rest of the pitch. Gingerly following a trail of blood, and trying not to get too queasy as you look down at the rope below you, and the swathes of blood zoom into focus, multiplying. Suddenly everything seems a lot harder. It seems like you’re looking into the future every time you look down, and the pool of blood lying there is yours, waiting for you to fall and create it. Dizziness overtakes you as the queasiness from all the blood goes to your head. You clasp the rock in front of you – it’s still cool from the morning. Your helmet rests against the rock, as you try and calm down, and return to the task at hand.
The climb is supposed to be a 5.5 … well that’s about a 10 in Australia. Even taking into account the Seneca sandbagging, the moves you are looking at doing seem a lot harder… more like 16? Your hands are sweating, and you have no chalk. You look down and across to work out where the traverse is supposed to go, there should be an easier way – oh, there’s the blood again. Getting it together for a minute, letting your belayer know to watch you, you haul yourself through a few more moves, get some more pro in, backed up with one of the ubiquitous dodgy pitons. The traverse here doesn’t look any better. And look, more blood. The sun has moved over, and you lie there, hugging the rock, and wondering what the hell you’re doing there.
A few hours later you’re standing in the river at the bottom of the crag. You got off the climb ok. Everyone is fine. It wasn’t one of the days you climb for, but right now the river is cool, and you can stand here watching the ripples in the water, and nothing else matters.
The world’s most mediocre climbers have discovered a dangerous new way to defy gravity — free soloing above a lake, which sometimes has swell from passing motorboats, which makes it really extreme, and totally hardcore.
I’ve just seen the future of climbing. It’s not on Everest, or a wind-lashed Patagonian spire, nor is it on some gargantuan wall in Yosemite Valley. It’s in West Virginia, on some sandstone cliffs above Summersville Lake.
I insinuated myself into a clan of cragrats, practitioners of a new mode of climbing called “deepwater soloing.” I was bobbing in the swell from passing speedboats at the mouth of a gaping cavern, watching the 31-year-old American phenomenon Terence ‘Vegas’ Kudo perform on an as yet unclimbed route he was calling ‘Vegas in a Blender’.
…. back to what you were doing people, there’s nothing to see here.
Oh, and we did things on dry land too. I’m not sure why. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun … to play in a suntrap.
Today’s title brought to your courtesy of a random quote from johnnyb. Today’s images brought to you courtesy of the EOFSO – Equal Opportunities for Stalkers Organisation, as well as Vegas (first image, and squad of ninjas), Boer (second image, sound effects and staff twirling skills).