Discover the East Coast’s climbing mecca
The most extensive climbing area east of the Mississippi, the New River Gorge has top rope, sport, trad, and bouldering living side by side in perfect harmony.
Smack dab next to Fayetteville, WV, a thriving small-town community of friendly locals, restaurants, campgrounds and rest-day activities aplenty, the New River Gorge is something unique in America: a gigantic playground for the perfect climbing weekend getaway.
Never climbed before? No problem. The New River Gorge is a hostpot for some of the coast’s top climbing guides, who can help you give it a try. They’ll even get you fitted into all the gear you’ll need.
The New has literally thousands of climbs and boulder problems on bullet-hard Nutall sandstone, and at most crags (there are dozens), they all live side by side in perfect harmony.
If you like your climbing served up easy, the New’s technical aspect takes some getting used to. But if you’re looking for brainy, chess-gamey masterpieces of all grades and styles packed into a relatively teensy geographical area, then you really need to see the New to believe it.
The New has a well-deserved reputation for tricky, technical rock climbing that has foiled many a gym-climbing genius. There’s a wealth of top ropes and sport climbs for beginners, but precious few routes for fledgling trad leaders. Climbs tend to consist of long moves between bomber horizontal cracks, and can easily school the unschooled climber.
Nevertheless, easy-access, short-approach crags are plentiful, with top-rope-friendly Bridge Buttress and Junkyard Wall topping the list.
But the crown jewel of the New is surely Endless Wall, a 3-mile-long unbroken section of cliff ranging from 60 feet high to past 100 that is entirely covered with star-adorned classics at every grade from 5.8 through 5.14.
A few unique climbing spots of the gorge:
Meadow River Gorge
The Meadow is the most remote region in the overall New River Gorge area. The Meadow does, however, have several different access points.
The Meadow’s many crags are filled to overflowing with rock that mostly grades above 5.10. The bulk of the Meadow’s routes, both trad and sport, are in the 5.11-5.12 range. If you don’t mind a bit of an adventure to your day, welcome to Almost Heaven.
If you’re looking for routes below 5.10, there are fewer, but they are here—and they are outstanding. Head to Rehab Crag or The Other Place, both on the South Side. At the Upper Meadow, sport climbers should bee line for a 5.9 called Bullucks (and expect it to be spicy). At the Lower, traddies should not miss a 5.8 called Gimpy.
In its seasonal namesake, Summersville Lake boasts an impressive array of top-notch sport climbs at a wide range of grades. Whether you’re a 5.8 beginner or a 5.14 hardcore climber, there are routes aplenty for you.
And here’s the thing: they’re almost all outstanding in terms of quality of movement and hardness of stone. The bolt placement is sane, if not overprotected, and its climbs are mostly packed into a tight little zone, which means members of climbing parties with diverse skill levels can all lay down pitches at nearly a gym-climbing rate.
Virtually every route at Summersville Lake proper sits mere meters from the edge of one of the cleanest and clearest bodies of freshwater east of the Mississippi, which makes for excellent cool-down swim sessions between sweaty redpoint burns.
This post was last updated on July 17, 2020