New River Gorge is kind of my happy place. It’s only eight and a half hours away from the city and worth the drive every time. The New boasts some of the best single-pitch lines, both bolted and on gear.

And did I mention the lake?


Two summers ago, I watched Andrew Erwin project B52 (5.13a) in the Meadows. For some reason, he thought I was strong enough to keep up with him and invited me on his trip. I gratefully tagged along. I have a lot to thank Andrew for because watching him project hard climbs was hugely inspiring to me. That was the moment I realized I wanted to climb like him, I wanted to try hard. Climbing with Andrew made me feel like maybe I could try hard, too.

I think of our summer in the New often. I don’t think Andrew realized how much that trip changed me, but he taught me to get after it and made me realize that the only thing stopping me from trying was myself.

Since then, I’ve been inspired to try my first 5.13. Something in my bones told me that one day, I could get to the top of Apollo Reed, a classic jug haul in the Coliseum at Summersville Lake. Maybe it’s because I’d heard that it’s everybody’s first 5.13, or maybe it’s because I happened to be with Mike Farnsworth that day–and you feel like you can pretty much climb anything when Farnsworth is around. Farnsworth, an absolute crusher, is the most ridiculously humble guy you will ever meet and will lay waste to all of your projects.

Playing on Apollo Reed (5.13a) for the first time. Photograph by Abe Carte

My new, try-hard attitude also brought me to try Genocide (5.12a), the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted on gear to date. I whipped and took all over that route like it was my full-time job. Finger cracks aren’t necessarily my “thing”, but I guess that the point of challenging yourself is that you need to try something that you might fail at.

The first half of Genocide climbs like a powerful sport climb, except that you have to place all of your own gear (minus one bolt in an alcove). The second half is a finger and thin hands crack. As hard as I tried, I got too pumped and couldn’t clip my quickdraw in time. I missed the move twice, and twice I took twenty-foot falls.

The result of two twenty-foot falls

While there is this one part of me that doesn’t think I’ll ever send climbs at this level of difficulty, there is the other side of me that is determined to keep attempting them. I’ve never seen a fall as a failure, and I hope I never will. To this day, I find myself inspired by Andrew’s words, telling me that brick walls exist to teach us not to turn around and give up. You have to want it and you have to do the work. Each time I tie in, I take that first deep breath and I tell myself that every single accomplishment starts with a simple decision to try.

Cover photograph courtesy of Mikaela Wegerhoff.

4 thoughts

  1. That last sentence- oh my god! Loving it SO hard!!!

    And I believe I can help you with the girl porn…. 😉 (oh my god, did that just sound uber creepy ‘cuz I didn’t mean it like that!)

    And Jas can probably fix your cam!

  2. Nice! I saw you take a whip on Genocide and we introduced ourselves as you were hang dogging. Small world, nice blog btw! See you around the crag!

  3. You SOOOOO inspire me Kathy! ME, the one who’s been climbing forever, yet still stays in his ‘no fall downclimb instead’ traditional(!) TRAD state of mind, and hangs in the 5.10 world because of it and because I just can’t break from my “happy life” enough to train… yet following YOU, into places I would NEVER go, I now have wider eyes, that open my mind to new possibilities, e.g. those kelidoscopic overhanging walls of Fat City and Yellow Wall, … and I’m now crazily wanting to go back! Do I yell “Oh Save Me!” or do I yell “Oh Kathy Lead Me!” !!! Either way… it feels right to YELL as that’s when I feel most ALIVE! Love U!

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