The New River Rendezvous at the New River Gorge (May 20-22, 2011) in West Virginia, was nothing short of fantastic. A weekend in arguably one of the most beautiful places in the Southeast US, surrounded by other climbers equals: Win!
The festival, which benefits maintaining sport climbing routes and trails in the New, was organized by the New River Alliance of Climbers. Obviously not their first rodeo, in fact, it was their 9th. The festival ran very smoothly and had a very friendly vibe all around. It was a No-Waste Initiative festival in which festival goers brought all of their own plates, utensils and cups. Attendance was kept to 400 vehicles, approximately 1,000 people. Free food was served by venders such as Patagonia and local business, Pies and Pints. Kegs of free micro-brew beer were tapped from local brewery, Bridge Brew Works.
Strolling down “Shakedown Street” (to borrow a term from Dead shows) was like thumbing through an issue of your favorite climbing magazine, definitely a who’s who in climbing. Vendors like Petzl, Black Diamond, Prana, Evolv, Five Ten, Metolius, Sterling Rope, and Osprey were there with many others, too numerous to list. Vendors gave away swag like stickers, beer cozies, or reusable dishes. Friday night the Access Fund celebrated its 20th birthday with a cake large enough to share. Saturday, Prana offered free massages and Osprey raffled off a backpack. The mood was light and friendly, venders seemed happy to mingle with festival attendees.
I found two guys at the Evolv booth extremely helpful when I asked if they knew when and where Chris Sharma was going to be signing posters. I really wanted to bring one home for my son and when they heard my story they suggested I head over to Prana or Petzl where he was appearing first. I walked over and found him talking to a small group of people he seemed to know.
I semi-stalked Chris Sharma by hanging back and waiting for him to finish talking. He kept looking over his shoulder at me and finally walked over and asked if he knew me – if we had met before. I told him no, but that I would, hands down, be nominated Mom of the Year by my son if I came home with his autograph. I felt a little silly being so star-struck, but he was so sweet and gracious about the whole thing. I’d pretty much do anything for my kids, and I have to admit, this was pretty painless on my end. Because let’s be honest, he is freaking gorgeous, has an easy-going, likable, personality and is an amazing climber! He pleasantly signed the posters I was holding, and afterward, a line formed that was as long as a midsummer’s day. I hope he didn’t mind the trend I started. I definitely have one grateful son!
Another highlight for me was the chance to take a clinic and climb with Arno Ilgner, author of The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons. For those unfamiliar, he writes on the mental aspect of climbing. The clinic was on falling. We spent the day taking falls, being conscious of how we fall and trying to relax while doing it. Ilinger says, “falling is a part of climbing, it is going to happen,” so he teaches that the more prepared you are, the better the outcome will be. He also believes in an individual’s process and not speeding that process up, but meeting the process where it is at.
There were other Rock Stars there like Paul Robinson, Alli Rainey, and Sasha DiGiulian, but I didn’t see them.
I also missed seeing the bouldering competition, however, three of my friends placed in two different categories and all won $150 gift cards from Five Ten, chalk bags, chalk and hats. Not too shabby!
The atmosphere was also family friendly. I didn’t bring my children, but some folks did. I would definitely consider bringing mine in the future, now that I know what the scene is like. There wasn’t a “kid village” but things never got too rowdy and there was an established quiet time for the whole festival.
If you have never attended an organized climbing festival, I definitely suggest The New River Rendezvous. It is for a good cause, it supports what rock climbers love most, our open spaces. It is also great to gather with so many like-minded people. Crags may be more crowed festival weekends, but my friends and I always found places to climb. Be sure to mark your calendars for next year!
Krysia Hepatica is a mother, climber and all-around adventure seeker. She has been dabbling in Existentialism for the last few years and has been quite happy that the results are that she gets to live the life she has always dreamed of. Krysia strives to be laconic in her writing because of her own short attention span, and her favorite tip on how to pronounce her name, as suggested by a fellow climber, is that it sounds like “Chris Sharma” without the “rma”. Read about her adventures at Venturesomekrysia.com.