You’re 80 feet above the ground and 800 feet above one of the oldest rivers on the planet. You place your toe on an improbable edge and inch your hand up to an impeccable jug. Now secure, you look around at the verdant gorge exploding with excitement. You reach the anchor, shout “take” to your belayer, and return to terra firma. Welcome to the New River Gorge.
It’s no secret that the New is home to some of the finest single-pitch rock climbing in the world. The bullet-hard Nuttall sandstone comes in a kalaidescope of brilliant hues and features creating sensational splitter cracks, technical face climbs and a burgeoning cache of tough boulder problems. The adrenaline-fueled town of Fayetteville is certainly on the map—but how do you make the most of your time in the gorge? Read on for climber-tested, local-approved trip beta.
This sandstone mecca boasts well over 3,000 routes between the three major rivers—the New, Meadow, and Gauley (Summersville Lake). Littered at the cliff bases and rocky shores of these deep, rugged gorges are countless boulders with bold lines awaiting repeats and first ascents. One aspect that makes the New such an accessible climbing paradise is the length of approaches—some crags are as little as five minutes from the car, with the longest hikes taking around 45 minutes.
If you’re climbing in the gorge proper, odds are you’re going to be recreating on National Park Service (NPS) land. To maintain the strong symbiotic relationship between climbers and the NPS, please be sure to read and follow all rules and regulations. Summersville Lake is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and its set of rules and regs differs from the NPS. For some crags in the Meadow River Gorge, access has been touch and go—if you come across private property or closures, do the right thing and don’t trespass. Wherever you climb, practice low-impact climbing ethics, thin your herds and respect the land we all love. If you follow those basic tenets, you’re guaranteed to have an enjoyable experience.
The frenetic activity of the local community means that fixed gear standard are high. The New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC), NPS and other local advocates consistently check and replace bolts and anchors. With that said, it is absolutely imperative that you inspect fixed gear and anchors, and also consider bringing a few spare carabiners to replace worn gear on fixed draws.
As most routes are between 40 and 150 feet, a 60 meter rope will serve you well. A 70 meter cord is required for longer pitches—check the guidebook for route descriptions or ask fellow climbers for route beta. The first bolts of many sport routes can be quite high, so a stick clip is recommended to prevent injury—intermittent breaks in cliff lines can mean difficult and lengthy rescues. Oh, and we almost forgot—protect your noggin with a helmet!
If you blow out your shoes or find that perfect crack needs a few additional pieces, look no further than Waterstone Outdoors for all your gear needs. Waterstone has been facilitating vertical adventures at the New for over 20 years, and its staff lives, eats and breathes climbing.
Check them out on 101 East Wiseman Avenue in the heart of downtown Fayetteville.
From 5.6 to 5.14, the New attracts climbers from all over the globe to test their grit on its stout routes. And with some of the most beautiful scenery in the Mountain State, you can’t go wrong. So gear up, tie in (check your knots) and go find out why some of the best climbers in the states call Fayetteville home.