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Introduction to Outdoor Sports in the Mountains pt. 1 by Will Moyer

Hi, my name is Will Moyer, and I am a student at Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina. When ever I get a break or a free weekend, I like to take advantage of the sports that are available to us in these mountians. My favorite sport is rock-climbing, followed by whitewater rafting and kayaking, snowboarding and caving. These sports are all very different, but our ability to do these things are one of the things that make Appalachia great. Very few people in the world are constantly surrounded by such beauty and the opportunity to comune with nature while doing exilarating things that could very well kill us. To share my experiences with you, I am going to divide these sports up with one sport per post and talk about them individually with emphasis on locations, safety and an introduction to the sport for beginners and how to get into the sport. This first post will emphasize my experiences rock-climbing in the Appalachian Mountains.

Rock Climbing.
Rock climbing doesn’t have the most original title in the world, but it is my favorite thing to do, and possibly the most exilarating sport in the world, depending on your preferences. Personally, I like to be high up, and rock climbing has allowed me to be hundreds of feet above the ground, while perfectly safe, constantly filled with adrenaline.

All right, to start off, let me explain the safety aspects of this sport before I scare you off. The main equipment used for this sport are a harness, a helmet, and a rope. Those are the three essentials. Without those things you can very well die doing this sport. If you have those things and use them properly, your risk of injury or death is very low, lower than most other sports. The other equipment you will be using includes a pair of shoes, which have rubber on the bottom. These shoes are specifically made to stick to rock, and they allow you to climb some rocks you would never have imagined climbing. Another important piece of gear is a belay device, which is how you keep the person you are climbing with safe. If the climber falls, the belayer uses the belay device to catch them by creating a mechanical advantage through the belay device. I don’t want to get too far into this because it isn’t all that important. What you need to know is that very rarely does the equipment a climber uses fail. When people die rock-climbing, it is almost always caused by a human error, for example, incorrectly tieing a knot, or placing the rope somewhere where it will be rubbed against sharp rocks and be cut through. If you go with a competent, experienced rock climbing guide, I assure you that you will be very safe while climbing.

There are different ways to climb. The easiest and cheapest is bouldering, which requires shoes, chalk and a crash pad, or more likely, a friend who has a crash pad. I don’t really consider this climbing, they never get above fifteen feet high. Bouldering focuses on doing difficult moves in unusual ways. It is more problem focused. Here is my analogy for climbing vs. bouldering. A climber is like someone who ascends an enormous staircase going hundreds of feet in the air with thousands of steps and great views and is a challenge the whole way. Bouldering is a lot of people with a staircase that only has five steps, and the people take turns doing backflips of the top stair.

With rope climbing, the most common way to climb is called top roping. This is where there is an anchor above you and the rope is tight on you at all times in case you fall. When you fall you are immediately caught by your belayer. If done right, this way is incredibly safe and fun. Top roping is a great way to get into this sport. My prefered way of climbing is called lead climbing, when one person climbs up with the rope attached to them, but going down to the belayer who is below them. The leader attaches pieces of equipment to the rock and clips the rope to these pieces. This way, if the leader falls, the gear he places will stop his fall. He will fall twice as far as he was from the last piece of gear. This usually amounts to a very significant fall, so the rule is that the leader doesn’t fall. I have been lead climbing for about a year and a half. It definitely isn’t the safest way to climb, but it is way more fun in my opinion and allows you to climb much higher rocks, which might need multiple pitches, or times the leader has to stop and belay his belayer, before continueing up.

Enough of the technical stuff. I want to describe to you some of the great places to go climbing in Appalachia, and my experiences there. Lets start off with Ship Rock, which is my favorite place to climb.
Ship Rock is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about a ten minute walk from the Rough Ridge parking lot. It is considered to be one of the classic places to climb in North Carolina, and the best and most convenient rocks for students at Appalachian. I have climbed here many times and my primary experience lead climbing has been on two classic climbs here: Edge of a Dream and Lost at Sea. Here are some pictures of me at this rock.

Seneca Rocks: My second favorite place to climb is located in West Virginia in the town of Seneca Rocks, which is named after the enormous rock people come from all over to climb. This rock is the foundation of the tiny town’s economy, which includes a store, a motel, a visitors center, a climbing store, and a guide climbing service. This rock is a few hundred feet high and sticks up out of no where. It is great lead climbing, but the ratings are all screwed up, so if you go there, only climb routes rated to three grades below what you usually do. I have had 5.5 climbs destroy me at this rock. I don’t have any pictures of me here, but here are pictures of the rock and my group, which is the climbing staff of ASU Outdoor Programs.

My third favorite place to climb is Table Rock, in North Carolina, only about 45 minutes from Boone. This rock is great because it has great lead climbs, and every possible rating is represented. There are leadable 5.4 climbs there, so it is a great place to get started leading. It is a very tall rock, so there are some climbs that are five pitches long, which gives great views from the top. You can really scare yourself looking out in the middle of a climb, you are suspended more than three hundred feet in the air. Here are some pictures of Table Rock, I don’t have any of me.

These are only a couple of the great climbing areas that the Appalachian Mountains have to offer. I hope this blog has given you a good introduction to the awesome sport of rock-climbing. I encourage you to get into this sport, if you aren’t afraid of heights and want a thrill, but it is important to remember if you do get started, please go with a certified guide service, or a very experienced climber if you can find one to take you. Doing this sport with improper gear or insufficient experience is extremely dangerous.

Have a good time climbing

Will Moyer




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