New River Update: Pat Goodman Claims the First Ascent of Gun Control (5.13c)

posted by dpm on 03/21/2013


DPM headquarters is a stone's throw from the New River Gorge, West Virginia. Sometimes, after a day of writing about 5.15 and V15 ascents, I forget that the people I'm out climbing with are doing some damn impressive climbs and it leaves me no other option than reporting from a first person perspective. We'll always be partial to reporting news from the New!

This season, the new route activity focused on Beauty Mountain's Thunder Buttress. The Thunder Buttress is a popular area that marks the last major chunk of rock at the South end of the gorge. Some of the earliest and most classics ascents at the New were done in this area like the trad routes Supercrack (5.9) in 1980 and Right Son of Thunder (5.11c) in 1985. Sport routes popped up in the late 80's and early 90's like Stabat Mater (5.13b) in 1988 and Brooke Sandahl's Gun Club (5.12c), a notoriously insecure and difficult 100-foot face that was later free-soloed by the legendary Dan Osman.

Goodman topping out his new route Gun Control (5.13c) at the New River Gorge. Photo: Mike Williams/DPM

Due to the long history and popularity of the sector, it was somewhat surprising when we started poking around and seeing potential for new routes. Earlier in the season three trad routes went up. Pat Goodman sent a new 100+ foot 5.13b called The Thundering Herd which you can read about here and I put up a nice 5.12d on the tiger-striped face left of Transcendence called That's What She Said. Goodman and Harrison Shull also established The Art of Almost, a 5.12b variation that breaks far to the left off of Gun Club and climbs an airy 150-foot face and arête, finishing on the route Air.

Goodman stick the big lunge on The Thundering Herd (5.13b). Photo: Mike Williams/DPM

A few years ago, local Kirk Bjorling spotted a trad route up the face paralleling Gun Club that he planned to traverse into after the crux of Gun Club. Bjorling moved to Smith Rock, Oregon to work at Metolius for Brooke Sandahl, the author of Gun Club, so Goodman started working the project, traversing into new terrain lower than Bjorling's version. Pat's version clips the first two bolts of Gun Club before moving left to an arête and roof that produces a V8ish boulder problem over a pair of small cams. Pat added one bolt after the crux to protect the next section of 5.12 climbing. The remainder of the 5.12, 100-foot face is protected by finicky cams in horizontals.

Click the image for video of Pat on a working burn earlier this year with guest belayer Porter Jarrard. Photo and Video: Mike Williams/DPM

Pat began working the project a few months ago but had to take a one month hiatus to travel to Venezuela where he -with Jeremy Collins, James Q. Martin, and Jose Miranda- established an 11-pitch big wall on the Acopan tepui in the Gran Sabana jungle. Their route, In Gold Blood, checks in at 5.13a (5.12c R A0).

Not a bad place to take a vacation from the home project. Goodman and company at the base of the Acopan Tepui in Venezuela. Photo: Pat Goodman

When he returned, he set back to work on the project and clipped the chains two days ago. Goodman has been leading the trad climbing charge at the New for the last decade. The establishment of Gun Control is just an addition to the list of the New's hardest trad routes, almost all established by him. A list of contenders put up by Pat would include: Scavenger (5.13c), Acharya (5.13c), Fisheye (5.13b), Fitzcarraldo (5.13b), and The Thundering Herd (5.13b), but the current hardest goes to visiting trad-master Matt Wilder who established The Golden Bullet (5.13d) during a 2010 trip.

Wilder was so impressed with the potential at the New that he trained up for a 6-week return trip. He, and his wife and son, showed up last week and set straight to work on a project that Matt eyeballed last time. His project, Rapunzel, might be the hardest trad route in the country if he pulls it off. Check out the video below for a teaser of Matt working the route last time he was here.

Matt Wilder working the Rapunzel project at Fern Buttress, New River Gorge. Click the image for video.

Goodman has had quite a year with hard FA's at the New as well as international big wall trips to Pakistan, Canada's Vampire Spires, and the tepuis of Venezuela. He's currently down in Chattanooga and will be touring the Southeast presenting American Alpine Club slideshows of his recent adventures. The next showing will be tonight, March 21st, in Huntsville, Alabama followed by another at the Crashpad in Chattanooga, Tennessee on the 23rd. More info can be found here.

Goodman fiddling in a purple TCU way over the last bolt on Gun Control. Photo: Mike Williams/DPM

Way up on the wall of Gun Control. Photo: Mike Williams/DPM

Goodman gunning for the big hueco that marks the end of the difficulties. Photo: Mike Williams/DPM

Finally, returning to the New River Gorge's Thunder Buttress, I was able to put up an incredible 100-foot line to the left of Stabat Mater. The new route, Coal Train (5.14a), climbs immaculate stone and might be the best 5.14 route at the New.

The 2nd of three 5.13 cruxes on Coal Train. Perfect stone. Photo: Pat Goodman

Hey, shouldn't that guy be moderating comments or updating the news? Slacking off near the top of Coal Train. Photo: Pat Goodman

The New River Rendezvous is fast approaching and the area will be inundated with some of the country's top climbers ready to repeat some of these lines and establish their own. The Rendezvous is, at its core, a fundraising event for the New River Alliance of Climbers. Money raised goes toward rebolting efforts, trail projects, and possibly  land acquisition and improved access. Those that have attended in the past consider the 'Vous to be one of the country's best climbing events with tons of climbing, a mellow party with friends, clinics and more. Attending the May 16-19th event is by registration only and registration will be open shortly. Follow along for updates on the NRAC Facebook page. We'll post more 'Vous event info in the near future. 

-Mike Williams