New River Rendezvous: 10 Years Strong
Though sometimes a bit rainy, mid-may is a beautiful time to visit the gorge. The brilliant green of fresh leaves is accented by flowering rhododendrons.
This past weekend, the New River Alliance of Climbers, in cooperation with the National Park Service, hosted the 10th New River Rendezvous at the New River Gorge, West Virginia. What once started as a grassroots gathering of core climbers has grown over the past decade into one of the most well-executed climber fundraising events in the country. The money raised from the event goes directly back into the Park in the form of new fixed hardware and infrastructure such as trails, improved parking, and access. This year, over 20,000 dollars was raised thanks to attendees and sponsors.
Making this year particularly special was the grand opening of the new American Alpine Club campground, located on the rim of the gorge above the Bridge Buttress and Junkyard crags and within walking distance of the venue at the Burnwood Ranger Station. With phase one of construction complete, the campground now consists of a 1/2 mile loop road through the woods with individual sites that have wooden tent platforms and picnic tables. The AAC campground is a welcome addition to the accommodations for climbers at the New and couldn’t be in a better spot with bouldering on site and within walking distance of the crags. Read more about it here and then come check it out!
As always, the event was made possible by all the wonderful sponsors, many that have pledged support from the beginning. Each sponsor went out of their way to bring their own element of fun like Mountain Khakis’ Karaoke, Salewa’s unique table bouldering competition, yoga by prAna, Sumo pad wrestling, La Sportiva’s “Run Like Hell” race and more.
Participants kicked off Friday with with some Mattie’s Mountain Mud coffee and Prana yoga before checking in to the Scarpa-sponsored clinics. Some superstar climbers came out to host clinics like: “How to send your project” with Dan Hague, “Oh Shit, now what?” climbing first aid with Bryan Simon, “Climbing tips for the vertically challenged” with the 5 foot tall, 5.14 climber Whitney Boland, “Technique Critique” with Lynn Hill (maybe you’ve heard of her?), “Women’s Technique” with Lisa Rands, “Develop your burl factor” with thugs Stephen Meinhold and Nick Duttle, “Pushing your limits on gear” with Matt Wilder and Pat Goodman, “Intro to falling” with Arno Ilgner and more. Climbers got to rub shoulders with the best before returning for dinner, beer, and the always amazing Dessertapalooza.
Those able to sit still during their sugar buzz were rewarded with some great slideshows by Brittany Griffith and Jonathan Thesenga who presented on their trip to Yemen and Sam Elias who presented “A Day in the Life.” Following them, local bouldering activist Nic Spruill showed a short bouldering film that showcased the newly developed bouldering found downstream of the Hawk’s Nest Dam known as ‘the Dries.’ The Dries represents one of the Southeast’s finest boulder fields and Nic discussed the challenges local climbers have faced with gaining legitimate access. Nic, and others from the New River Alliance of Climbers, are working closely with Brookfield Energy, the owners of the land used to access the boulderfield. Brookfield has welcomed climbers and is receptive to the idea of creating legitimate parking and a trail system. At the same time, big decisions are being made about the future of ‘The Dries.’ Much of the area is accessible because of the low level of river water due to Brookfield Energy’s redirection of the flow into their hydroelectric facility. Other stakeholders are pushing for a higher minimum flow which would submerge some of the boulders as well as access to the other side of the river. Climbers were able to voice their opinions on the issue in a questionaire provided by HDR engineering, a firm working with Brookfield Energy during their relicensing process. The information provided in the questionaires will be taken into consideration as a recreation management plan is created for the Dries. It’s a complex issue with many parties involved that was described well in the video which we’ll post up later this week when it becomes available online.
Saturday kicked off with more coffee, yoga, and breakfast provided by the American Alpine Club before climbers hustled in to town to register for the outdoor climbing competitions. The unique, outdoor comp has categories for everyone including kids, beginners, pros, and star chasers out to climb the best routes whether they’re sport, trad, or bouldering. Matt Wilder took home the grand prize in the trad comp after a day including the 2nd ascent of the Thundering Herd (5.13b). Nick Duttle won the sport comp with a repeat ascent of Trebuchet (5.14b) and Tim Rose won the bouldering comp. For the ladies, it was Julia Statler with a trad win, and Bri Garriss as the top bouldering crusher.
Saturday night was time to throw down and La Sportiva kicked it off with their “Run Like Hell” trail race. The one-of-a-kind race required elite athletic ability in both running and drinking! It was about 3/4th’s of a mile from the starting line to the AAC campground where they had to chug a beer before running back.
Throughout the evening, Kris “Odub” Hampton was emceeing and never forgot to give shout outs to the sponsors that make this event possible: Five Ten, La Sportiva, Mountain Hardware, Petzl, Patagonia, Scarpa, Salewa, Black Diamond, Mammut, Sterling Rope, Evolv, Trango, Metolius, Outdoor Research, Osprey, and Prana. Local support came from Gumbo’s, Cathedral Cafe, Pies and Pints, Bridge Brew Works, Diogis, and Matties Mountain Mud.
Dancing to the beats of DJ Mon Voyage Neon long into the night was the reward for all the hard work and support that climbers bring to the New River Gorge. This was the fifth successful year of the No-Waste initiative. Nearly 1000 people attended the event and not a single trash can was in sight. When the show was over, nothing was left. Over 20,000 dollars was raised for the New River Alliance of Climbers for the continued preservation and improvement of our cherished climbing areas. The American Alpine Club and the Access Fund were also in attendance and have become great friends and partners with NRAC and the local community. The New River Rendezvous, as always, brought together everyone that appreciates the climbing resource at the New River Gorge; the sponsors, the National Park Service, the Access Fund and Alpine Club, the particpants, climbers, volunteers….everyone together is what makes up the New River Alliance of Climbers.
Read event organizer Kenny Parker’s wrap up.
~ Jeff Leads, prAna Team Manager
Photos by DPM