Friday, March 20, 2009

Franklin Gorge Drama

On an recently warm weekend I headed out with 2 friends to West Virginia for some sport climbing.  I tend to forget that I am a weak, quick-to-pump boulderer.  It also didn't help that I was slightly hungover but mostly sleep deprived.  We got on 4 routes, 3 of which I climbed (1 T.R., and 2 led).  

At this point I don't even remember the names and respective ratings of each.  I'm thinking a couple 5.8's, a 9, and the weirdest 5.11 I've ever been on.  Ben does a better job of describing the outing in his post found here.

Sadly, I didn't bust out my camera until near the day's end or I would have photographed this 5.11 route entitled "7-11".  It refers to a lousy boulderer's wet dream in such that it is 4 bolts of what is essentially 5.7 only to be greeted by a 10 ft roof crux section, which apparently makes the route worthy of its rating.  I'm still on the post on that, but I'll admit that the crux section sent me packing on the first 3 tries.  Ben had a little different beta on his attempt but with no success.  Rather then look like the proverbial duechebag boulderder that was gonna need a bail biner on a 5.11, I mustered up the strength (anger) to sober up a bit and do it.  

After sending on my next try, I can only describe the roofy crux section as a reach around, fingers deep, heel hook, to a mean sloper match before your feet cut and traverse to another sloper and hit the anchors.  That whole section took about 12 seconds to do but a lot of composure and ego was on the line.

That's not the drama part though.  

I've promised myself to stay mum on the whole thing.  You can read for yourself through all the verbal vomit and acid filled hatred in the link above, most of it completely understandable.  But I will say this much:

We were there that day and saw the group in question (our group was runnin 3 deep).  I've been climbing for 12 years, 10 of which have been outdoors and I started as a sport climber only to take up bouldering around the same time I found beer and women in college.  I've been a member of the Access Fund on and off for most of those years and been a part of their crag clean ups in Alaska, Arizona, Utah, and California and have been involved with environmental policy and advocacy issues my whole life and now do it for a paycheck in the swamps of our nation's capital......

.....but in the nature of impartiality I'll say this.  Franklin is not Yosemite, J-Tree, Red Rock,'s Franklin.  If you're from Arizona and you know the "outdoor gym" that is Jacks Canyon, then imagine a West Virginia version of it with more graffiti, broken beer bottles, less front teeth, but over-managed on private land by "stewards".  

Climbers are a passionate bunch and I truly believe they all mean well....but my favorite writers are Ed Abbey, Vonnegut, and H.S. Thompson and some of my favorite places in the world, both urban and rural, are the ones I consider the ugliest on a superficial level.  These places humanize us and reflect exactly who we are as an evolutionary species......

.....for better or for worse we are a reactionary bunch of animals who now climb on plastic and wood to get off.  I guess what I'm trying to say is three things:

1) I miss the Alaskan wilderness and not seeing anyone for days at a time.
2) I miss the smog filled concrete jungle known as Maricopa county.


3) "I hate to travel....I think because my father used to beat me with a globe when I was a kid".

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