By Matt Wilder
I set out this spring to West Virginia to tackle a project that’s been lurking in my consciousness for several years now. I’ve dubbed this project “Rapunzel” because you have to climb up two gold streaks to get to the crux. It’s 100% protected by gear and has incredible moves out an overhanging face. It also has an extremely hard boulder problem crux in the middle that is just on the edge of possibility. I knew I would need a significant chunk of time if I wanted any chance of sending so I set aside 6 weeks for the trip and headed off in early March hoping to beat the warmer late spring temps that make the south-facing route even more difficult.
The season treated me well and I made a ton of progress on the route over the first month. I got the 13c moves up to the crux dialed in, worked out all the gear on the route, and figured out a sequence that worked for the V12 or V13 crux section. I managed to climb the crux in two overlapping sections and almost completely through. By my last two weeks, I was ready to start giving redpoint burns. Unfortunately, I also came down with a sickness that was holding me back and the outside temps were quickly racing into the high 70s. I ended up giving the route two days of lead attempts, but came up short both times. Each time I linked to the crux but didn’t quite have the stamina I needed for the crux moves. I came really close but had to leave the climb for another season.
[Matt Wilder tickles the crux crimp on a red point attempt of his Rapunzel project in the New River Gorge. PHOTO: Pat Goodman]
Despite failing on my primary objective, I still consider the trip successful. In the last 3 weeks, I set my sights on another project that looked more feasible. When hiking out at the far end of Beauty Mountain, I scoped a beautiful extension to the classic 11b crack there called Welcome to Beauty. The line follows a thin seam for about 12ft. and then cuts diagonally right across a stunning headwall to the top of the cliff 110ft. above the ground. I spent a few days working the route on top rope and then tied in to the sharp end. My first try resulted in an exciting 30ft. fall from the crux.
[Matt Wilder takes the plunge on "Eye of the Beholder." PHOTO: Pat Goodman]
I was done for the day after that attempt with jitters from the fall and a sun that was quickly creeping around the corner. However, I made it out there on my last day in the Gorge and completed an ascent of “Eye of the Beholder” 5.13d. This route was also all gear with only 2 pieces for the final 45ft. — exciting, but safe. (Read more about this route on Rock and Ice’s website here)
[Matt Wilder makes the high step move on "Eye of the Beholder." PHOTO: Pat Goodman]
After a month away from the gorge (climbing and traveling in Turkey which is a whole different story), I stopped back at the New for a few days to partake in the New River Rendezvous event. The weather was too hot to try Rapunzel so instead I focused on trying to repeat a few existing trad lines that looked appealing.
On my final day climbing, as part of the New River Rendezvous trad competition, I completed several classic lines. The highlight of the day was making the second ascent of Hardwear athlete Pat Goodman’s “Thundering Herd” 5.13b and Mike Williams’ “That’s what She Said” 5.12d.
[Matt Wilder makes the moves on "That's What She Said" during the NRG trad competition. PHOTO: Mike Williams]