I Sent My First 5.12: A Weekend at the New River Gorge

It isn’t often you meet up with old friends, make new friends, and accomplish a multi-year goal in the span of three short days. It is my great fortune that all of this happened Memorial Day Weekend of 2019. Despite the humidity, the time crunch, the sopping wet crags, and the holiday weekend crowds, in my three Days at the New I was able to finally take down my first 5.12 – and have a a great time doing it.

In a later post, I’m going to get into the nuts and bolts that went into my successful send that weekend, but for now I want to take you on a little journey through the New River Gorge. If you haven’t visited, I would highly recommend it.

CAMPING

In natural dirtbag fashion, my friends and I opted for the subtle joys of waking up to the crow of the rooster at 5:30 every morning, and going to sleep only went the campfire burns out. We really enjoyed our stay at Cantrell’s Ultimate Rafting. And let me tell you, I wish the shower head at my house was as nice as theirs. Overall, the accommodations were the level of glamping that I prefer during a weekend of climbing. Fire ring and picnic tables are a major plus. And at $10/person per night, it’s not a bad deal, either.

friends bonfire
A snapshot my dear friend Kyle caught of all of us being ourselves on Friday Night.
Mike Cantrells Camping
Setting up camp on Friday.

THE PROJECT

About a month before our trip, I went ahead and picked out this route in the New. Between the rave reviews on Mountain Project and promises of a short-person friendly crux – I was ready to give this route my best.

Starrry New River Gorge 12a
A shot from the bottom of Starry, a 4-star 12a in the New River Gorge. This route is in The Third Buttress.

DAY 1: Beta Pirates

On our way into the crag we coincidentally met the only two other people that were at the parking lot at that time. We started talking to them and sure enough we were all piling in to work on the same route. These fine chaps from PA had already sussed a lot of beta the day prior and we were all pretty stoked to get to work together on the route. Unfortunately, Mike got a little more out of them than I did, since the two guys were a bit taller than me, but boy was it good fun.

Day one was totally dedicated to learning the beta – I didn’t try to redpoint on Day 1. All I wanted to do was get the moves dialed and wired into my brain (and scribbled in my notebook).

New River Gorge Beta
Mike scribbling down the beta after a good burn on Starry – advised by our two new friends whose feet you can see in the background.

PSYCHED TO HIKE

The approach to the buttresses were SOAKED. So there was a lot of splashing and puddle avoidance going on. However, once you were out of the soggy woods, there was a lovely view of this bridge that you could take in before hiking up a moderately awful hill. The views and the climbs were well worth it.

New River Gorge - meadow bridge
After Day one, we hiked out to catch a lovely sunset before marching up a very sucky hill to get back to the car.
Mike and Lauren new River Gorge
Michael and I being very sweaty, happy, and hungry.
New River Gorge Hiking
More lovely scenery as you hike around in the New River Gorge

DAY 2: Critical Rest Day

On Saturday I woke up totally sore and completely worked from the day prior. My body felt like garbage. I knew that if I wanted to send Starry, I was going to need to be fresh. The only climbing I did on Saturday consisted of me saving a girl’s gear from a surprisingly stout 5.10. The New definitely has a reason for it reputation for run-out bolts and height-dependent moves.

hammock new river gorge
My portable relaxation setup.

DAY 3: Riding the Send Train

Sunday was our final day and my last change to do this thing. I woke up nauseous. It was time to do my first 5.12 – at long last. I felt the way you might get the morning of opening night for your high school’s musical. Tingling, excited, tenuous nausea. I was so amped up that the morning is a bit of a blur. By the time I was at the wall, I was ready to go.

After I took my warm-up burn and hung the draws on Starry it was go time. Mike got into the zone and absolutely smashed it. Then it was my turn. Before I went up I literally said “I’m so happy you sent, it doesn’t even matter if I do.” The pressure was on, but I knew I’d be happy with how the weekend went even if I went home empty handed. Fortunately, unlike all of my other 5.12 projects, this one came together smoothly and swiftly. On try #4, I did the damn thing! And I’ll be honest I was sobbing happy tears when I clipped the anchors. When I got down I’d attracted some onlookers and they were pretty psyched for me too! And then this other guy that had been working on it, went ahead and sent right after me! The send train was in full force and the stoke was palpable.

Sorry for the low quality audio and picture – doing our best with our smart phones out here!

Climbing is great but good friends are better

I am extremely happy for the send that weekend, but send or no send, a weekend messing around with your friends in the mud is worth the drive.

Hiking New River Gorge
My buddy Sam completely bit it and fell into the mud on the hike out. Here is the aftermath
New River Gorge Hiking
This is my cool friend Jenny from the Block.
new river gorge
Hiking out with the gang after a great day at the crag.

Overall, it was a solid weekend out and I couldn’t be more grateful for my supportive friends, the good times, and I am so unbelievably stoked to have gotten to send my first 5.12.

What was your first 5.12 like? Did it take a while or did you do it quickly? What route did you do? If you aren’t there yet – what routes are you eyeing up this season? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. I would love to support you in sending your goal routes!