Baby, Its Cold Outside…Where do I Climb?
Okay, so it is bitter cold outside but your climbing psych is running hot. What to do? Go climbing! Burl up, dress right, do your homework, pick your day and GO!
Pick your Day: The temps are only part of the equation—and not the most important part. Sun and wind are more compelling factors. Watch the weather and if you can, grab a sunny, still day and disregard the temps.
Dress Smart: You know the drill: layer it up. Hats, gloves, zip necks and lots of loft—down or synthetic, whatever, but this is the time to get your big puffy out of the closet. Chuck a handwarmer in your chalk bag and a hot beverage in your thermos for attitude maintenance.
Burl Up: Ya gotta want it, so leave the whining at home. Remember that this is great send weather. Low humidity=high friction. Don’t forget to warm up easy. Pick something way below your grade and take time to generate some heat in your fingers. Winter climbing involves endless finger and toe wiggling…
Do your Homework: That is what this post is about. Knowing where to go is critical. Here is the beta:
#1 The Cirque at Endless Wall. Facing dead south, the Cirque is a sheltered solar oven, baking all day long. You will not find a warmer spot on any given winter day. The question is: can you climb hard? You’ll be warming up on 5.11 and heading up from there. If that won’t work for you, head down river to…
#2 Kaymoor Slab at Endless Wall. South facing and way more moderate, this crag features a concentration of routes from 5.8-5.10 that ensure that you can keep moving. Get on Fool Effect for 120’ of classic 5.9. That’ll get the blood flowing. (Remember you will need a 70’ to rap the route. Otherwise top out and rap elsewhere.)
#3 Whippoorwill at Summersville Lake. A short approach takes you to this popular crag. The high number of moderates—including some of the best 5.6s and 5.7’s in the whole area—attract loads of people all season long. Its southerly orientation makes for great winter climbing though it offers no protection from the wind. Wendy’s Jugs, 5.6, is a great way to get rolling.
Sometimes it might just be too cold and no matter what you jump on your fingers numb out half way up the route. You’ll find that the short burst nature of bouldering works better in these super-cold conditions (especially if you have one of those Mr. Heater propane powered mini warmers—see video above.) Currently there is not a bouldering guide (look for that late spring) but we have the beta here at Water Stone.
Seek out exposed, sunny areas like the big open rock platforms found at the New River Dries. Hawk’s Nest is the easiest of these to navigate. Come by the shop for beta on several other spots on the Dries.
If the river is up, head to the Lakebed Boulders at Whippoorwill and Pirate’s Cove. If snow is covering your favorite boulders, the caves are waiting. Junkyard, Ali Bubba and BBQ Babies are all great. Junkyard is the sunniest and has the broadest spread of grades.
Ice Climbing Beta:
It is freaking COLD! Surrender to the season and go Ice Climbing. Most winters the ice here at the NRG comes in at some point, usually not lasting too long. Grab it while you can. Most folks are toproping around here though that is not to say, if you are an ice badass, that you wouldn’t want to lead. Conditions are extremely variable.
Easy Intro route: Walk up the stairs at Bridge Buttress and take a left. The first waterfall you come to will provide a great warm up.
Still Convenient but Harder: Burma Rd. and Junkyard both offer some easily accessible lines that are harder.
Dense Pack at Whippoorwill. Head to Summersville Lake for a large selection of diverse difficulty. The sunny aspect will help keep your blood flowing.
The Big Daddy at Beauty. Just to the right of Let’s Make a Deal you will find this huge 110‘ pillar. It rarely forms up, but when it does you will think you are in New Hampshire.
If conditions are solid, the experienced ice climber can lead all of these routes. If you are unsure of yourself know that it is easy to set up topropes.
Come by the shop for more ice climbing beta.
There you have it. Now put some coffee in that thermos and get going!
The New Dichotomy
On a bitter cold morning long time local climber, Bill Chouinard, hiked out to Summersville Lake with Nic Spruill, local bouldering phenom and ice climbing rookie. Spruill, dressed in jeans and toting a crash pad was looking distinctly out of place. “Dude, I could have lent you some pants.” “No worries, I am going bouldering too.” After he threw his ski pants on over his jeans and busted out his first ice climb, sure enough he tore into a new, sick problem. Chouinard said “He definitely brought the don’t-give-a-fuck-with him. Never seen that before.” Like we said before: Ya gotta want it.