The New River Gorge
Writing in chalk
Please stop putting the dreaded "X", "Bees" or "Snake" on the rock faces. Please be smart and conscious of others.
Stop putting tick marks on the rock unless you are going to brush them off when you are done on the route. This goes against the ethic of the area and in the eyes of the locals is the same as graffiti. Rock climbing is an outdoor sport and guess what lives outdoors? That's right, bees, wasps, snakes, and even bears! We all know they exist, no reason to write it on the walls.
The greater New River Gorge region is one of the East's largest, most diverse, and highest quality climbing areas. Between the three major river gorges- the New, the Gauley/Summersville, and the Meadow- there are over 3,000 established routes on 60+ miles of cliffline, as well as hundreds of established boulder problems. While the moderates at some crags (Bubba City, Summersville) can be extremely crowded on weekends, it is still possible to find solitude and even first ascents, whether you wish to climb sport, trad, or boulder.
The rock is Nuttall Sandstone; some of the oldest and most bullet-hard sedimentary rock in the nation. It is similar to that of the Obed or Chattanooga region in TN, and much harder and less featured than that of the Red River Gorge. Cliffs range from 40 to 150 feet in height. Tiered roofs, technical faces, arêtes, and dihedrals are common, and there are excellent splitter cracks and technical slabs as well. The cliffs are very long with few breakdowns, and for this reason many crags (Endless Wall, Summersville, Bubba City) are accessed via ladder, which can be a concern for dog owners. Many routes have a 15 min approach, but almost all routes can be reached inside of 45 minutes.
The New River Gorge is not a beginner's climbing mecca. Particularly in relation to the more popular Red River Gorge, the New's bolts tend to be farther apart, the holds smaller and more sparse, and the routes more technical and devious. Especially at Endless Wall, some sport routes may require a few pieces of gear to be led safely. The few crags with close bolting and concentrated 5.9s and 5.10s like Sandstonia, Butcher's Branch and Orange Oswald can unsurprisingly get very crowded on weekends. To get the best experience at the quality crags, one should be solid on at least 5.11 sport and 5.10 trad at most areas.
Although locals climb at the New year round, spring and fall are the best seasons, and even during these times it is not uncommon to get hosed with week long rain storms. Summers can be very hot and humid, but the crags of Summersville Lake can remain breezy, shady, and with swimming only minutes away. Winter climbing is feasible on south facing crags on sunny days, but for the most part it is not a good idea to plan a long trip here after Thanksgiving or before Spring Break.
If you happen to leave anything at the crag then please contact WaterStone Outdoors at (304) 574-2425.
Located in and around Fayetteville, WV.
There have been several guidebooks to this area over the past few decades, such as Eric Hörst's Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland
, Rick Thompson's New River Rock
, and Steve Cater's New River Gorge, Meadow River, and Summersville Lake Rock Climber's Guidebook
The most recent and most comprehensive guidebook is Mike Williams' New River Rock (2nd ed.)
. Volume 1 covers the New River Gorge, while volume 2 covers the Gauley and Meadow river gorges.
We've got a great bouldering guidebook too, thanks to Micah Klinger and Stella Mascari: New River Gorge Bouldering Guide
Also, as the New River Gorge is a National River check out the NPS rock climbing site
Places to Stay
There are quite a few campgrounds with full facilities (wifi, showers, water) in the Fayetteville area, although most cater to rafters more than climbers. The American Alpine Club's recently constructed campground has become the new center for the local climbing community. Here is a brief list of campgrounds/sites in the area:Airbnb
These homes can sometimes be cheaper than hotels/cabins.Arrowhead Bike Farm
The newest addition to Fayetteville's campgrounds is just a few minutes from Kaymoor, rents bikes, has a small cafe with microbrews on tap, and has campsites ranging from $8 to $35 electrical RV hookups.Opossum Creek Retreat
Cabins in the heart of the NRG!American Alpine Club Campground:
The climber campground in the area. Covered cooking area, dishwashing stations, dyno wall, dry-ish tent platforms, and coin operated showers. It is open usually from late March to Thanksgiving, with honor-system primitive camping available year-round. County Rt. 60/96 directly across from Junkyard access on your left - you can't miss it. Walking distance to Junkyard. Reservations recommended.Rifrafters Campground:
286 Rifrafters Campground Drive
Fayetteville, WV 25840
This is convenient for access to south side crags Kaymoor, Sunshine, Cottontop, etc.Cantrell's Ultimate Rafting:
49 Cantrell Drive Fayetteville, WV 25840
En route to Kaymoor and South Nuttal crags.Chestnut Creek Campground:
Lansing Edmond Rd (Across from Ames Heights Rd directly across Hwy 19, it's on the left just before the small roadside store). Very convenient access to all Fern/Endless/Beauty Mtn and JY and Bridge areas. One of the most popular picks for the area.Ray's Campground:
1199 Sunday Rd Hico, WV 25854
Located near the Meadow River crags, and also a bit closer to Summersville.Mountain State/Mill Creek campsites:
Ames Heights Road ~ PO Box 78
Lansing, West Virginia 25862
Very close to Junkyard cragSummersville Dam:
Free camping at the base of the dam, near the Summersville crags. Minimal facilities, and you may be hanging out with rednecks and families.
Places For Food
Adventures on the Gorge
This large adventure resort just up the road from the AAC campground is a great place for climbers to get a dose of nightlife without having to drive back over the bridge. Lots of dining and entertainment options, including breakfast, pizza, pub fare, steak, and rafter mayhem at the Rendezvous Lodge. No matter how badass climbers think they are, trust me, you can NOT out-party river guides.Arrowhead Bike Farm
If you're looking for no-frills brats, microbrews, and great breakfast near Kaymoor, this is the place to be.Big Dam Pizza
Upstairs from the infamous Charlie's Pub, this new addition to Fayetteville's food scene does, well, HUGE pizzas (like, 28").Bob Evans
The cleanest bathrooms, always empty, decent food, you can pick up the wifi from neighboring fast food places. In the Wal-Mart parking lot.Cathedral Café
(For sale if you are interested)
Tends to be full of climbers since it's the only place for food in the AM. Local, climber and paddler hangout. Free wifi.Country Thai
Great Thai food that is within walking distance to the AAC campground. ~$12 a plate.Fat Eddies
Awesome milk shakes and fast food. Closer to Summersville than Fayetteville but definitely worth the trip.Kool Beanz
Coffeeshop next to Pies and Pints.OK Buffet
Okay Chinese food buffet that's all you can eat for $9.Pies and Pints
Awesome pizza, very interesting different types of pizza and a large variety of beer. $20 - $25 for a large pizza.Rio Grande
In the parking lot before Kroger. Decent mexican food, decent margaritas, usually not crowded. Cheap.The Stache
Come here if you need post-send victory ice cream, or not-send consolation ice cream. Either way, ICE CREAM!The Station
This is the latest spot to be for food in Fayetteville! Great cocktails along with great farm-to-table fare and a smile. Go see what all the craze is about. Free wifi. $10-$30 per plate. Try the wings!Secret Sandwich Society
The best sandwich/burger and lunch spot in town. During the seasons this place is usually packed with climbers. Free wifi. $9-$13 a plate. Closed Tuesdays.Tudor's Biscuit World
A West Virginia institution, located right on the main corner of Fayetteville and Highway 19. This chain does awesome southern comfort food that is better than you would expect from a "fast food" style place, but it may wreck your sendage with all the grease!
Current Weather Forecast
Rest Day Activities
There are all kinds of things to do for rest days in the NRG. Some of them rely on having warmer weather, some do not.White Water Rafting
Depending on how thick your skin is you can always take a commercial trip down the New or during September and October you can try your hand at the Gauley. There are a lot of outfits around town. The closest one to the AAC campground is Class VI
There are so many hiking trails here. Long Point is the active rest day classic. Go take in the views from a different perspective! Check out Bryan Simon's awesome hiking guide book here
You can always go rent a road or mountain bike and take a long ride. The Arrowhead Bike Farm
has rentals near the Kaymoor area.
Rainy Day/Snow Melt Activities
A 20% chance of rain vs a 90% chance are often the same here in Wild, Wonderful, Wet Virginia. You may never see a rain cloud, or it may rain the entire day. The good news is that there are several crags that stay dry during rainstorms here. Check below, or in Mikey's guidebook for the details on chasing dry rock in this temperate rain forest.Climbing
Most of the stuff to climb when it's raining out is harder. But if you can use common sense and not act like an idiot everyone can have fun. Listed below are the areas that more or less stay dry in the rain.Bridge Buttress
The only routes that start dry are the ones to the far right starting with Labor Day. The cracks do seep a good bit, so if it's been raining a while then skip this place.The Cirque
My personal favorite. Stays completely dry in a downpour, unless it's blowing rain then there is no hope, even for the mutants.First Buttress
This place stays pretty dry and has a 5.10, (may be wet), and a 5.11! The very top of Boomerang and some of the other longer routes get wet at the top. I've seen sends of these routes during the rain so it's possible!The Hole
Ready to get pumped beyond belief? Easy approach and hard climbing await, although this place tends to seep and condense worse than other overhung areas.Rico Suave
Uber classic 5.10a and a handful of 5.11s stay dry.Coliseum
Huge cave that stays dry and houses 5.12 - 5.14d.White Wall
The three classic 5.12s here stay dry for the most part, and are super good!Diamond Point
This area does not stay dry in the rain, but it dries the quickest! Also, check out the route Exoduster at Fern Point for a nearly-always dry bolted 5.10.Bouldering
There are a handful of bouldering caves spread across the NRG that have a lot to offer. Junkyard, Beauty Mountain, and Cotton Top crags all have great caves. For more info swing by WaterStone Outdoors to get the full beta or pick up the new bouldering guidebook HERE!
You can even rent a bouldering pad at WaterStone Outdoors!
Gear Shop and the New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC)
If you need gear, beta or advice, stop by the local shop WaterStone Outdoors
. They have everything anyone could need for a visit to the New River Gorge. Also, this is a location where you can donate to NRAC. The New River Alliance of Climbers
is an organization dedicated to the maintenance of fixed hardware on established routes. NRAC is also integral in maintaining a positive relationship between the climbing community, the NPS, and land owners. Access to these areas is not guaranteed, and without NRAC, it's likely that the amount of rock that has been cleared for climbing would not have been. They also do trail construction and improvement. A couple of their latest projects were improving and redirecting the trails going into Sandstonia/Tattoo Wall, and the Fern Buttress trail (and did an awesome job). The most recent project was the trail and steps at the Kaymoor crag/Butcher's Branch. These trails are some of the most heavily traveled trails in the Gorge. So, if you clip and/or fall on bolts, or travel the approach trails (which all of us do), stop by and give them a donation- even if it's only a dollar or two. Every little bit helps, and it goes to a worthy endeavor and hard-working folks. You can also donate online HERE. WaterStone Outdoors.
Lowering down vs rappelling
The ethics for this area as listed in Mikey's book are to always lower when possible. Rappelling is inherently dangerous and was the cause of the only fatality we've ever had at the NRG; lowering can be done without ever coming untied. There is simply no need to introduce the most dangerous part of multi-pitch climbing into single-pitch cragging. We take pretty good care of our hardware here, so that isn't an issue.
Inside of the New River Gorge proper, (where you are above the New River), fixed gear is illegal without a permit. Fixed gear is listed as anything that is on the wall for over 24 hours. That goes for bolting AND project draws AND permadraws. To put up a new route you need to submit a form with money to NPS and wait for them accept/deny your permit. To rebolt you must be on the NPS rebolting permit, that is managed by Kenny Parker at WaterStone Outdoors.
Bail biners and leaver biners will be taken by locals or others. There are very few places in the New River Gorge proper, if any, that require a cleaner biner. Draws on the wall for an extended amount of time will also be taken by locals and a note will be left at WaterStone. If they aren't claimed, then yay for us.
Outside of the New River Gorge proper is a different story. The Army Corps of Engineers manages Summersville Lake and Long Point. They don't care about fixed protection and there are no bolting permits. However please respect the areas that you are in and how they were originally developed. Going off and putting up sub-par routes in areas that are filled with classics is looked down upon here. Those sub-par routes weren't bolted years ago for a reason, some things are better left alone.
If someone takes your draws outside of the New River Gorge Proper then that is stealing. If it's in the Gorge then it's because you were breaking the law...burn.
Crowds and Routes
With the explosion of the popularity of climbing in the last few years, respecting one another, being tolerant, and sharing resources (routes) is becoming more and more important. The Junkyard and Bridge Buttress crags are often guided. When you go to these areas, particularly on weekends with nice weather, keep in mind that you're likely to see guided parties there. This is because of the ease of top access. Rock Guides at the NRG are among the friendliest out there. Please do not cause a conflict with them if they are guiding a party on a route you wish to climb. See if you can work something out, be polite, and if they're on the route first, it's theirs. There are plenty of route options on bolts and gear in the NRG that are available if you're a competent, well-versed climber. This isn't the case with neophytes being guided. The options are limited, both in terms of actual climbing and the routes that have ease of access. Be nice.
If you are in a huge, non-guided group (meaning you have not paid a certified guide for services) then it is poor form to leave ropes on routes and expect that this constitutes a reservation of that route indefinitely. If you have a rope up and no one is climbing on it and hasn't for a while, and someone wants to do that route, then the polite thing to do is let them. Often times you'll find people to be very accommodating and it's customary to offer to hang the previous party's top rope back up when you're done. The NRG isn't an outdoor gym. With that being said, if you show up and there are twenty people in your party, and you have climbers on the route first, and people are actively climbing it, then you got there first- end of story. It would be good manners and polite to let a small party of two cut in and do the route (especially if you're top roping and they just want to lead and clean it quickly), but still, it's first come, first served. Perfectly legit as long as someone is climbing the route and a rope isn't just hanging there in some inanimate reservation mode. Communicate with other parties. Get to know them. Climbers are generally a friendly group and we need to make a conscious effort to get along with one another and share because crowds are likely to just get bigger as time passes.
If you hate crowds, go climb scary or difficult things, or go to obscure areas like South Nuttal, Carnifex Ferry, or Long Point. You're almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself if it has an approach that is longer than 20 minutes.
its not always good climbing weather but often damn beautiful
The bridge. Photo by Carter Shumaker
Get off the trail a little way off the beaten track and you will be surprised as what you can find. There are hidden caves and huge boulders that can be climbed up and thorough.
Endless Wall. New River Gorge, WV
Sunset over the New River Gorge, WV.
Free showers. Photo: Dave Fiorucci
Photo: Dave Fiorucci
Hidden waterfall, with view of the NR bridge.
Rhododendrons at the New River Gorge (late May - early June).
Bridge view from junkyard wall (jumping jack flash)
Another one of the NRG in the clouds.
Best Nachos I've ever had at Pies and Pints. Totally worth it!