Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gypsy Rain; Another FKA

We now return you to The Gyspy Channel:
"Adventure Mrs. Gray?"
"Adventure, Mr. Gray."



Cindy eyes a potential line, hidden under thick lichen and moss, downslope from the incredible Rainmaker roof crack.


A thick bed of moss and lichen provides added challenges on the opening moves. 
Minimal cleaning revealed enough nubbins to gain the face.

Roof and face left of the Rainmaker

After half an hour of scrubbing on lead, a rest stance above the crux mantle, with over half the climb to go and clouds moving in from the east.

"Hon, did you ever look over there?"
"Nope."

Lake George, from the rappel.

Add caption

Eye to eye with the Rainmaker, above the roof.

Miss Pink Pants, on her way back to the base; first trad line, first ascent, and rappel since her surgery in March of this year.





Gypsy Rain, 5.8+, 23m, wired stoppers #3-12, Camalots .25 to #4, Lowe Tricams #1-4, fifteen slings eight to eighteen inches, one 10' loop of 1" webbing for the anchor. First known ascent Mike and Cindy Gray, September 6.2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Reed's Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Reed’s Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Petite determination: Andrea gets after it, with Leah providing dynamic belay, on the gymnastic opening of Michal Stewart's Rain (5.8). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

 
South of Smoke Hole Canyon and the town of Upper Tract, Reed’s Creek Road intersects with the old Petersburg Turnpike, after winding down from the shoulders of North Fork Mountain, meandering through meadows of clover and wheat grass, past grazing cows and sheep held in by sagging fences strung across the steep ridges that surround proud old family homes and weathered barns, clusters of trailers, chicken houses and the occasional honeysuckle-draped ruin of a log cabin. 

 Trevor Albert cuts loose on Ryan Eubank’s Golden Horseshoe (5.10b/c)

The road is busier than it once was, but there are days, late summer evenings and pristine winter afternoons, when the sound of a tractor is more common than that of an automobile, and there is a sense of timelessness, the smell of honeysuckle, livestock, strains of gospel music and southern rock in the air. Tired climbers wander back towards their cars, with thoughts of cold brews and hot grub whirling among the visions of hard sends and great lines.





This is Reed’s Creek; a series of south-facing arĂȘtes and dihedrals and a high-quality selection of sixty sport and trad lines on featured metamorphic limestone, with a reasonable approach hike, a serviceable trail and ample parking, just off State Route 220 in West Virginia’s historic Pendleton County.
One corner of an old log cabin that still survives, hidden in the National Forest near Reed's.
Photo by Mike Gray


Guides and climbers from Seneca Rocks first put bit to stone on the walls of Reed Creek in 2002 and 2003, creating Welcome to Reed Creek, One Page at a Time, and Catfish Strangler, the original Boneyard Routes.

Unknown climber stretched out on the crux of Catfish Strangler (5.10c)

Although visited once or twice by some local legends, the crag languished for years after that initial burst of development, hidden behind the thick summer canopy, layers of old fence, greenbrier and 'No Trespassing' signs. We looked at it from the road, even drove along Reed's, but there was so much rock nearby in Smoke Hole that new crags weren't really in short supply.

So things continued, until one fine autumn afternoon in 2008 when I took a break from Franklin, where I had been working on 'Davey Jones Locker' with Mike Fisher for several weeks.  I found the three original lines after spotting the NFS boundary marker and hiking up the wash about a hundred yards beyond the existing trail, Wandering along the base back towards the road, I was blown away by the untapped potential of the other walls.

The following week, I made my way to the Cheat Potomac Ranger Station, where records indicated that the land was public, part of the Monongahela National Forest. After a brief dance of joy that riased eyebrows in the NFS offices, I wasted no time getting back to the crag. 

After a day of onsighting the existing lines with The Maestro, Michael Fisher, I began working on extending the trail, cleaning lines and developing routes, starting with the 5.10 Reaching Conclusions, the premier line on the Reach Wall. 

Chase-ing jugs on the final section of Reaching Conclusions (5.10a/b). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

The following spring, Lyndon State College sensei Jamie Struck brought an eager crew from Vermont to create the lower trails around the Gypsies Wall and top-rope the line that would become Shaved Scamper.  

Mister Fisher and NoVA’s Ryan Eubank soon joined the development push with routes like Second Rule, Shaolin Mantis, Little Purple Flowers, Hunter’s Moon and Grapevine Massacre.  Cindy Bender was there from the start, with hot coffee and snacks, spending long hours on belay and building trail, dancing up some of the first ascents of lines like A Horse With No Name, Second Rule, Winterharvest and Fire On the Mountain.


Cindy reaches for welcome jugs on the roof crux of 'Welcome to Reed Creek', 5.7

Pennsylvania climbers Michael Stewart and Randy La Force added excellent moderates like Dr. Taco and Superman, as word of the crag began to spread among locals and visiting climbers from across the region. 

Following the proactive precedent of Franklin Gorge, The First Spring Send-a-thon and Trail Daze event was organized and attended by Ryan Eubank, Mke Fisher, Cindy Bender and my unworthy self, supported by a coalition of strong climbers from Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as “locals” from Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. 

Once the day of major improvements was finished, the cranking began, culminating in the first ascent of a new line, Disorientation 101, one of the best and most challenging 5.11s at Reed's.



 
Whitney Moss, reaching for hope on the crux of Disorientation 101 (5.11)


Trails around and leading to the Boneyard were improved and expanded, and trash was collected along Reed Creek Road.  The National Forest resurveyed and marked the boundaries along the private property line, making it easier for hunters and climbers to avoid trespassing.

Today, Reed’s has over 40 routes, in a wide variety of grades and styles, from Mike Fisher’s  5.7 funfest dihedral Second Rule and my own trad 5.7 SuperNatural to technical challenges like Fisher’s 5.11+ Shaolin Mantis, Eubank’s burly 5.11 Grapevine Massacre, and Michael Farnsworth’s 5.12+ cave line Harlem. The project Cold Day in Hell, originally bolted by Eubank, has yet to see an ascent, despite repeated tries by strong 5.12 climbers who say the grade may be as high as 5.13. Newcomers Chris Beauchamp and Tyrel Johnson have been adding bold trad, mixed and sport lines like Invasive Species and Mare Imbrium.




Now beta for this wonderful crag is available in a brand-new, stand-alone phone app from rakkup.com, with all the info on new routes, sweet navigation features, and plenty of eye candy action shots:

http://rakkup.com/guidebooks/smoke-hole-canyon-reeds-creek-rock-climbing/ 

Check it out, pick up your copy, and start planning your next climbing trip to include a visit to one of West Virginia's newest crags, today!

Sunny winter days and shady summer mornings, easy access, great lines and an incredible setting, just off the beaten path; Reed’s Creek has something for every climber.

(Author's note: Tyrel has been instrumental in continuing the tradition of trail work and stewardship, and tireless the editing process; hiking trails, correcting errors, and tweaking all the details of the app. He also does a mean Spider Man impression.)

Reed's Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Reed’s Creek: Summer Fun and Winter Sun

Petite determination: Andrea gets after it, with Leah providing dynamic belay, on the gymnastic opening of Michal Stewart's Rain (5.8). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

 
South of Smoke Hole Canyon and the town of Upper Tract, Reed’s Creek Road intersects with the old Petersburg Turnpike, after winding down from the shoulders of North Fork Mountain, meandering through meadows of clover and wheat grass, past grazing cows and sheep held in by sagging fences strung across the steep ridges that surround proud old family homes and weathered barns, clusters of trailers, chicken houses and the occasional honeysuckle-draped ruin of a log cabin. 

 Trevor Albert cuts loose on Ryan Eubank’s Golden Horseshoe (5.10b/c)

The road is busier than it once was, but there are days, late summer evenings and pristine winter afternoons, when the sound of a tractor is more common than that of an automobile, and there is a sense of timelessness, the smell of honeysuckle, livestock, strains of gospel music and southern rock in the air. Tired climbers wander back towards their cars, with thoughts of cold brews and hot grub whirling among the visions of hard sends and great lines.





This is Reed’s Creek; a series of south-facing arĂȘtes and dihedrals and a high-quality selection of sixty sport and trad lines on featured metamorphic limestone, with a reasonable approach hike, a serviceable trail and ample parking, just off State Route 220 in West Virginia’s historic Pendleton County.
One corner of an old log cabin that still survives, hidden in the National Forest near Reed's.
Photo by Mike Gray


Guides and climbers from Seneca Rocks first put bit to stone on the walls of Reed Creek in 2002 and 2003, creating Welcome to Reed Creek, One Page at a Time, and Catfish Strangler, the original Boneyard Routes.

Unknown climber stretched out on the crux of Catfish Strangler (5.10c)

Although visited once or twice by some local legends, the crag languished for years after that initial burst of development, hidden behind the thick summer canopy, layers of old fence, greenbrier and 'No Trespassing' signs. We looked at it from the road, even drove along Reed's, but there was so much rock nearby in Smoke Hole that new crags weren't really in short supply.

So things continued, until one fine autumn afternoon in 2008 when I took a break from Franklin, where I had been working on 'Davey Jones Locker' with Mike Fisher for several weeks.  I found the three original lines after spotting the NFS boundary marker and hiking up the wash about a hundred yards beyond the existing trail, Wandering along the base back towards the road, I was blown away by the untapped potential of the other walls.

The following week, I made my way to the Cheat Potomac Ranger Station, where records indicated that the land was public, part of the Monongahela National Forest. After a brief dance of joy that riased eyebrows in the NFS offices, I wasted no time getting back to the crag. 

After a day of onsighting the existing lines with The Maestro, Michael Fisher, I began working on extending the trail, cleaning lines and developing routes, starting with the 5.10 Reaching Conclusions, the premier line on the Reach Wall. 

Chase-ing jugs on the final section of Reaching Conclusions (5.10a/b). Photo by Tyrel Johnson

The following spring, Lyndon State College sensei Jamie Struck brought an eager crew from Vermont to create the lower trails around the Gypsies Wall and top-rope the line that would become Shaved Scamper.  

Mister Fisher and NoVA’s Ryan Eubank soon joined the development push with routes like Second Rule, Shaolin Mantis, Little Purple Flowers, Hunter’s Moon and Grapevine Massacre.  Cindy Bender was there from the start, with hot coffee and snacks, spending long hours on belay and building trail, dancing up some of the first ascents of lines like A Horse With No Name, Second Rule, Winterharvest and Fire On the Mountain.


Cindy reaches for welcome jugs on the roof crux of 'Welcome to Reed Creek', 5.7

Pennsylvania climbers Michael Stewart and Randy La Force added excellent moderates like Dr. Taco and Superman, as word of the crag began to spread among locals and visiting climbers from across the region. 

Following the proactive precedent of Franklin Gorge, The First Spring Send-a-thon and Trail Daze event was organized and attended by Ryan Eubank, Mke Fisher, Cindy Bender and my unworthy self, supported by a coalition of strong climbers from Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as “locals” from Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. 

Once the day of major improvements was finished, the cranking began, culminating in the first ascent of a new line, Disorientation 101, one of the best and most challenging 5.11s at Reed's.



 
Whitney Moss, reaching for hope on the crux of Disorientation 101 (5.11)


Trails around and leading to the Boneyard were improved and expanded, and trash was collected along Reed Creek Road.  The National Forest resurveyed and marked the boundaries along the private property line, making it easier for hunters and climbers to avoid trespassing.

Today, Reed’s has over 40 routes, in a wide variety of grades and styles, from Mike Fisher’s  5.7 funfest dihedral Second Rule and my own trad 5.7 SuperNatural to technical challenges like Fisher’s 5.11+ Shaolin Mantis, Eubank’s burly 5.11 Grapevine Massacre, and Michael Farnsworth’s 5.12+ cave line Harlem. The project Cold Day in Hell, originally bolted by Eubank, has yet to see an ascent, despite repeated tries by strong 5.12 climbers who say the grade may be as high as 5.13. Newcomers Chris Beauchamp and Tyrel Johnson have been adding bold trad, mixed and sport lines like Invasive Species and Mare Imbrium.




Now beta for this wonderful crag is available in a brand-new, stand-alone phone app from rakkup.com, with all the info on new routes, sweet navigation features, and plenty of eye candy action shots:

http://rakkup.com/guidebooks/smoke-hole-canyon-reeds-creek-rock-climbing/ 

Check it out, pick up your copy, and start planning your next climbing trip to include a visit to one of West Virginia's newest crags, today!

Sunny winter days and shady summer mornings, easy access, great lines and an incredible setting, just off the beaten path; Reed’s Creek has something for every climber.

(Author's note: Tyrel has been instrumental in continuing the tradition of trail work and stewardship, and tireless the editing process; hiking trails, correcting errors, and tweaking all the details of the app. He also does a mean Spider Man impression.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pain; Master or Challenge, the choice is YOURS

Whew... tough morning, primarily because I often come online early and read posts from people I love and try very hard to respect.

There are a lot of people in pain in the world; suffering from disease, or depression, or both.
It is amazing how many of them seem to revel in focusing on things that make them angry or which they find offensive, spending hours a day watching videos and reading what passes for 'news' in this world.

There is nothing wrong with being informed, however, if your 'news' sources are pages border by booty shots and celebrity stories, with pop-up ads for Viagra or partisan politics appearing over every article, or if they refer to themselves as an entertainment channel, guess what?

That ain't information, that's inflammation.

The Internet has become filled with something known as 'clickbait'; a site that uses lurid, inaccurate headlines to get knee-jerk reactions with incomplete coverage of 'the issues' which actually affect very few if any Americans on a regular basis.

Because emotion sells more product than reason.

If you've made your choice for President, stay away from bait that lures you into arguments and attack threads about other candidates; you will not change anyone's mind there, any more than they will change yours by calling you or your candidates names and/or making fun of either of your stances, past, or online profile.

If there are issues that you can affect, spread the word with complete and impartial information, and then get out and do something! No one ever saved anything by posting it on Facebook, participating in a poll, raging in a comments thread, sending a check or ending their participation at sending one more cloned letter in a mass email to their Congressional or state representative.

Take part in your world, or it will take you apart, one bite at a time.

Studies have shown time and time again that positive mental attitude and imagery helps reduce or even banish pain, one of the leading causes of depression, especially among men.

http://www.webpsychologist.net/pain-and-positive-thinking/

http://www.healingchronicpain.org/introduction/conv_mndbdy

My own experiences have shown me that if I stay active, I have less time and tendency to focus on the pain and succumb to the darkness,

Put very simply, if you feel bad, maybe you should do something about it, instead of feeding the pain. Otherwise, you are reveling in the pain, and celebrating being a victim, instead of trying to manage the pain, and celebrating Life.

I say this in love, and offer the supporting evidence of the woman I love, Cindy Gray.

Cindy is a Multiple Sclerosis patient who refuses to be a victim, who has gone through more pain in her life than most people, including me, will ever know and who continues to do so on a daily basis, without complaint and/or the constant support of narcotics or any other medicines of any kind, including herbal.

I say this as someone who struggles with depression, and often loses my perspective to this same tendency.

But I also say this as someone who is trying to change; to send out more love, more light, and share more laughter than tears.

It's your choice, our choice, each of us, each and every day; live your life, or endure it as a slave to your pain and darkness, infecting the joy of those around you and draining the color and light from their worlds as well as your own.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Another Step in the Journey

Well, the day’s journeys are over, and we are back in the burg.

The details of Cindy’s surgery have been explained, tweaked and finalized.

In a week, we begin prep as Cindy starts taking Plavix and aspirin to thin her blood, in preparation for the procedure, known as a pipeline embolization. An incision is made in the femoral artery, a sleeve is installed and a catheter is inserted into this. A stent is then moved up through the artery to eventually reach the carotid artery inside her skull, where the stent or sleeve will reduce blood pressure and flow from the inside, reducing pressure on the base of her brain and returning blood flow through the brain to normal.


This should take care of the double vision, headaches, and speech difficulties from which Cindy has suffered since the aneurysm two weeks ago. It will also greatly reduce the likelihood of a rupture and stroke at the sight of the aneurysm.


We’ll check into the Doorways at VCU (kind of like a Ronald McDonald House for patient’s families from out of town) on Wednesday, March 30th, and sometime that evening, the staff will confirm the exact time of Cindy’s procedure on Thursday, the 31st.


We’ll hang around for a day or two after the surgery, until such time as the doctors get sick of her sass and wacky sense of humor and decide Cindy can recover just as well at home. After that two week recovery, if all goes as planned, we’ll be hosting a trail work weekend in WV before casting off for Colorado, where we plan to attend a fantastic June wedding, a Greek festival, and several other events during yet another incredible season as campground hosts in Colorado.


Thanks to my family, to Joyce and Gilbert Gray for meals and wheels, beds and a roof over our heads,; to Mathea, Marty and Diana Breeden for their comfort and prayers, and to all the friends who have sent prayers, positive vibrations, good energies, well-wishes, messages, texts and an outpouring of love our way over the last couple weeks.


Finally, hats off to my girl, Cindy; you are my inspiration and my strength. I stand in constant wonder and awe at your patience, endurance, good humor, love and calm acceptance.


Thanks for making me the luckiest man alive, Miss Pink Pants.

If I had it all to do again, I would, in a heartbeat.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Things Change

Life is funny, ya know?

A week ago, my life was fairly normal; laundry, dishes, cleaning up after cats and kids, reading posts on Facebook and the internet, watching the debacle of the election cycle, trying to finish some anchor replacement at the older crags in WV and making plans to hit the road for Colorado the day after tomorrow, to begin another season as staff in Pike National Forest's 11 Mile Canyon.

An hour later, I was in an ambulance with a wife who I did not know would live to see another day, holding her hand as EMTs worked on her, my heart in my throat and all plans for the future annihilated and scattered to the winds.

Late that night, the doctors at RMH told us their diagnosis; not the worst, but not the best, not by a long shot.

Cindy, a fourteen year stroke survivor and Multiple Sclerosis fighter, had suffered a brain aneurysm; a massive swelling in the carotid artery just inside her skull, like a loaded cannon pointed directly at the base of her brain. She was transferred to Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for more tests and scans, her condition analyzed by some of the leading neurosurgeons in the country.

On Saturday, her pain was minimal, her condition stable, and we came back to the Shenandoah Valley.

Eight years ago, I met a funny, beautiful lady with a heart of gold; taught her to climb, shared her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, supported her fight to stop using the medications that were killing her, and listened as she fought with the darkness that had been poured into her soul by demons in human form at such an early age.

In turn, she accepted me for the bipolar, sardonic, irascible, irreverent fool that I am; reached down into my well of isolation and self-pity and drew out the very best of me. If I have failed to live up to that ideal, the fault is mine; Cindy has always believed in me, no matter how badly or how often I have failed.

We have traveled the country from coast to coast, climbed and hiked, laughed and cried at the folly and loss of friends and family, celebrated victories and struggled to find a silver lining surrounding the storm clouds of our occasional defeats. We've learned more about friendship, hardship, love and life in the last few years than either of us suspected could be known in a lifetime.

Today, Cindy and I have a slightly clearer picture of a much different future, and in the light of that knowledge, we are living each day to the fullest, loving and appreciating each other, so thankful for the family and friends who have put aside their own burdens and reached out to support us in our darkest hours of need.

The Road ahead is uncertain; there are trials and storms on our horizons, without a doubt, as there are for every person living in this consensual illusion of reality that we share. But for now, we are holding each other in this safe haven, cherishing each touch, each kiss, each word, and together, we will get through whatever may come.

No matter what may transpire, each of us knows the other will be waiting, there in that forest meadow at the end of the Road; waiting and calling, "Come home".

You and me, kid; forever.

And, for now, that is more than enough.