Our newly minted JEDI Committee (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) has now met twice, and will continue to meet on Sundays for the foreseeable future.
This past Sunday, members of the committee worked to define its scope and will present that to the NRAC board of directors. Once that scope is approved, it’s full steam ahead.
Just as importantly, we began to work on a process by which offensive route names can be changed. This process places a large amount of emphasis on talking to first ascentionists. Our first step is to gain some more data, but with the next edition of the Volume-2 NRG guidebook headed to press in October, there’s a real sense of urgency to move forward.
Possibly the most contentious potential name change of all that of the Endless-Wall route formerly known as The Racist. That climb is not in Volume 2, so it's a little less urgent. Nevertheless, NRAC president, Gene Kistler, reached out to FA, Doug Reed, who enthusiastically endorsed a change. Doug certainly has a bit of a legendary status in the NRG. Active throughout the 1990s, he established so many difficult FAs, they’re hard to count. He’s working now to come up with a new name—we’ll let you know when that happens.
Guidebook publisher, Wolverine Press, expressed an interest in being part of solutions, and graciously offered us an opportunity to address JEDI in the opening pages of the guidebook. They also offered us an ad—free of charge—to use for a JEDI statement. In addition, Wolverine expressed a desire to include more photos of BIPOC climbers in upcoming editions. We are hopeful we can schedule a photo shoot or two to make this happen!
This is only the beginning. Please bear with us, as NRG climbing moves steadily into the future. The path is long and difficult, but we’re climbers after all, so that’s nothing new. We’re determined and honored to walk it.
We are all stewards of land once held by Yuchi, Tutelo and Moneton people—and likely many other indigenous groups, as well.
Close to 20 people joined the full board of directors (some attending via Zoom, around 30 people altogether) to discuss issues of inclusivity at the New and some of the more physical anchor/access issues around the area. Here’s what got done:
1. We welcomed new member, Elena Fouch-Watson to the Board of Directors.
2. We voted to form a new committee specifically to work on issues of inclusivity. Elena will chair the new committee. Board members Sam and Jay are also on it. The committee’s first task is to define itself, its size, its scope, etc. Its first meeting is scheduled for this coming Sunday.
3. We approved funds to pay for the return of a large barge that was used to transport materials across Summersville Lake for the ongoing Orange Oswald seawall project. This money is coming from the Dylan Hague Fund, raised to honor the memory and family of our dear friend by supporting projects at the Lake.
4. We approved funds to renew our contract with Flipcause, a suite of web tools for non-profits that we’ve been using for a couple years now.
5. We heard the official announcement that we received a large grant from the WV Department of Highways to further harden Bridge Buttress.
6. The Summersville stairs project continues. If you’ve been there a last few weeks, you may have seen the work that has already been done. We’re working closely with the Army Corps to install stairs.
7. Anchor Committee Chair, Kenny Parker, recognized Bayer Watson for his recent hard work replacing bolts.
The discussion surrounding inclusivity will continue. It is not always easy, but it is always necessary. It is our hope that the new committee, once it hits a stride, will help us move forward into a future that is fair and equitable for everybody.
Inclusivity Update, 8/3/2020: Video of Our 7/28 Zoom Meeting with Climbers of Color and LGBTQ+ Climbers
On July 28, we met via Zoom with climbers. We all decided to keep the meeting a little small in terms of participants to limit Zoom chaos, but climbers of color and LGBTQ+ climbers had voices there. It was an opportunity for us to hear their concerns, to learn from their experiences, and to ask questions about how they think NRAC should evolve. It was not all smiles and unicorns, but we believe it was ultimately productive, instructive and helpful for us to hear. The meeting was recorded, and you can view that recording here.
We have an NRAC board of directors meeting scheduled for tonight, 8/3/2020, and most of the items we'll discuss will be matters of inclusivity. Route names and more are on the docket, as we decide what direction we will go in as an organization. So please stay tuned for an update to this blog on that meeting as well!
Yesterday (7/28), Gene, Paul and Jay, all from the NRAC board of directors, met with a group of climbers to discuss the re-naming of routes with offensive names, and to try to gain some perspective that is not our own on that and other issues of inclusivity. In attendance were climbers of color and LGBTQ+ climbers. Joel Brady of SWPAC generously donated his time to moderate the discussion. We also discussed the evolution of our organization and where we can go to get continuing advice on inclusivity and social justice in the New River Gorge.
We'll soon post the recording of that meeting for all to see, and we'll update our Instagram and Facebook feeds when it's live. (IG: @nrac.official, FB: @newriverclimbing).
Brittany Leavitt suggested we reach out to Taimur Ahmad, Diversity Fellow at the Access Fund. Taimur and Jay hope speak tonight by phone—the second of aforementioned meetings.
The third is tentatively scheduled for Monday evening, an in-person board meeting, with several items potentially on the agenda. Those items include route re-naming, the addition of new members to the board, and hopefully, the formation of an inclusivity committee, which would ideally have its own budget and be empowered to make it's own decisions to a large extent, so it wouldn't have to bring every initiative to a board vote before taking action.
Personal note: I think some of the attendees of the meeting felt like we were pushing back on some issues. We're a little weary of messing this up, and if we seemed reluctant, it's only because we're trying hard to understand what to do next. We are not the kings of the New River Gorge. We simply don't have the power to pass out decrees, no matter how right and justified those might be. But we need to do a better job of advocating for people who have never been advocated for here in the past. We are present. We are engaged. We are trying hard, and we are determined to move forward into a future where everybody feels safe and welcome at the NRG.
We'll continue to update this blog regularly, with notices on IG and FB when we do.
Outreach Committee Chair
Everybody buys things. Maybe you're buying household-item things or food things. Maybe you're buying book things or movie things. Do you need a new electronic thing? What about a climbing thing or a gift thing? Is there a holiday or birthday in your near future?
Then you need things!
Since you're already buying things and wishing for things, here are 5 ways to do so and also support the New River Alliance of Climbers—with the minimal amount of effort and cash possible.
1. Join (or renew your membership to) the Access Fund. You're a climber, so we assume you've already done this. If not, shame on you. Consider this your guilt trip. When you join, choose, "I would like to become a Joint Member," and then choose New River Alliance of Climbers from the drop down list.
2. We love mom-and-pop gear shops. Indeed, Water Stone Outdoors is virtually synonymous with the New River Alliance of Climbers, as over the years, they've donated countless dollars and hours to the cause. But if you can't get to a mom-and-pop, consider buying your gear/presents from Climbstuff.com, which will donate 5% of your purchase to the local climbing organization of your choosing. (And in this case, you'll choose NRAC, please and thank you.) They call it 5% for the Crag, and it's a helluva good idea.
3. Amazon Smile. If you're not already buying your Amazon stuff through its Smile portal, please refer to the video above. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate .5% of your purchase to the charity of your choice, as long as it's listed on the site—and we are. Just log in to your Amazon account at Smile.Amazon.com, mouse over "Accounts & Lists," and then choose "My Amazon Smile."
4. Become a sustaining NRAC donor. See that little blue "Support Us" tab, bottom of this page? Click that and choose as little as a $5 per month or $25 per year donation. And then tell all your friends to do the same!
5. Join our enews list. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Share what we post!
It was a wild idea from the get go—one just feasible enough that we thought it could be done, but crazy enough that we wondered if it really could be. Would it attract enough competitors? Could we find enough unclimbed projects to make it work?
The concept was simple enough. Get sponsors to post cash bounties on unclimbed boulder projects. Whoever bags the FA any time in the month of November wins. We called it the New River Boulder Bounty from the beginning. The name seemed perfect.
From hour one, the psyche was ridiculous. Taylor Mcneill, Daniel Woods, Roman Yalowitz, Kensie Whitfeild and more were here for the shootout of the decade. Jimmy Webb (pictured above on an unbountied project) rode into town and nailed the Philly Rock Gyms/Pies and Pints Problem in the first half day, and over the course of the next week and a half, he reeled in five bounties for a sack of loot that, in the end, totaled $5k. The projects he sent included:
Jimmy rode off into the sunset leaving only three projects unclimbed—the hardest and/or most dangerous:
Nathaniel Coleman came to town. Taylor McNeill came back. But as the month stretched toward Thanksgiving, it began to seem as though none of the remaining rogues would be brought to justice.
Then, he sauntered into the saloon—an unlikely hero, a trad climber from tea-sipping, queen-loving England, with huevos grande enough to tackle the highball, the Organic Climbing/ASCEND Pittsburgh Project, which once sent, he named....
As the New River Boulder Bounty closed, two rogues remained unsent, their bounties unclaimed. Maybe they'll be back next year.
Sometimes the greatest ideas come from the least likely places. In this case the wildest climbing competition in America happened in the back woods of West Virginia... which also happens to have one of the best deep water soloing resources on Earth.
The New River Alliance of Climbers is proud to present Tara Kerzhner's award-winning documentary about PsicoRoc 2016, America's first DWS climbing comp on real stone, including a touching tribute to Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins, who came out of nowhere to win the women's division.
Little in this Universe is more gratifying than to watch your labors blossom into fruits, and then marvel as others turn them into something even better. That’s what happened when we in NRAC gazed on in wonder as volunteers, athletes, sponsors, spectators, representatives of the US Army Corps of Engineers at Summersville Lake, rescue divers, medical personnel, and a whole film production team converged on the lake Tuesday, August 23, 2016 for PsicoRoc, the first deep-water-solo climbing competition ever to be held on real stone in America. Did you miss it? No problem.
AKA:Try your luck for just five clams.
We didn’t think it would be that cool. We crossed our fingers and put in the hard work to make it happen, but none of us really thought it could be THAT cool.
Coming away from ten New River Rendezvous’ was tough on the mojo. After a decade of near flawless execution of the East Coast’s finest climber gathering, we listed about at sea for a bit wondering what to do next. It gave us a chance to refocus on who we are and what our goals are—to “preserve, promote, and conserve” our world-class climbing resource. So we set out tocreate some smaller events that would focus on service and community.
Someone hatched the scheme for a Yosemite Facelift-inspired Work Week, but one that would be so fun it wouldn’t feel like work at all. (Not) Work Week was born and a dedicated crew slayed the trail to Sandstonia last year. But we still needed to raise some loot for climbing hardware so Jay Young came up with the idea for a film festival. Of course, the film festival would come right at the end of the (Not) Work Week and we saw our little events start to morph into something much bigger. We just can’t help ourselves.
In late October, 2013, large boulders blocking the road appeared on Propp’s Ridge Rd. and the old railroad grade that parallels the Meadow River on its south/west side. These boulders have effectively blocked vehicular access to the Meadow’s Southside Crags including Area 51, The Other Place, Orange Wall, Mud Hueco, Brilliant Pebble, Rehab Crag and the crags along Glade Creek, which parallels Propp’s Ridge Rd.
For NRAC, and locals, this came as no surprise. Land ownership along the Meadow and Glade Creek has been in a state of flux since long before climbers began to explore the Meadow River cliff line, which they did on foot, hiking in from Highway 19 along the railroad tracks which were still in place. It wasn’t until 1999 that the tracks were pulled up and climbers began to drive in and park along the Meadow River to access the climbing areas. For those around at the time, the easy access had a too-good-to-be-true feel to it, and losing it wasn’t an issue of if, but when.
Immediately after the roads were blocked, representatives from NRAC began discussions with land owners, the National Park Service, the County Commission, and others to explore options that would allow for continued access to the climbing resources along the Meadow River’s Southside crags.