I left Utah for a cross-country road trip this past summer. After two days eastbound on I-70, license plates boasting "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" appeared. Skeptical, I slipped across the West Virginia border bound for the New River Gorge, chasing rumors of world-class climbing.
We arrived at the climbing hotspot, easing into the vertical world at "Bubba City," a popular crag with a variety of moderate grades just outside Fayetteville. Trees draped the wall with speckled shade as we ticked off climbs, covering longer one-pitched climbs and intense, short routes. Sport lines intermingled with trad. Hard, bronzed sandstone differed from Utah's soft, red rock; holds felt solid and sure. Here was a playground any climber would relish.
We climbed until the afternoon darkened, then turned to "Bobby D's Bunny," ending the day on a 70 foot route with a 5.6 rating. Sounded easy enough, but I'm five feet, four inches, and as a newcomer to the New River Gorge, I was unaware of the route's renowned difficulty for climbers my size. I wondered at the relative complexity of such a low-grade climb, but pushed past funky first moves. The route smoothed into flowing maneuvers, then a high crux crushed any continuity. I was tempted to stray off-course, but stayed true until the right combo brought success.
My diligence was rewarded with an expansive view from the top, overlooking the New River framed by Appalachian mountainsides overrun with vegetation. I gawked, for a moment forgetting my climbing partner waiting patiently below. Removing draws from the anchor, I prepared to lower, satisfied that West Virginia was indeed wild and wonderful. —Gina Bégin
If you go: Head to historic Fayetteville. Get the local climbing scoop at Water Stone Outdoors, and satiate post-crag hunger pains with a chicken gouda pizza at Pies & Pints.