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Special Interest Articles -- October 1999
My First Climb at Coopers Rock
Story by Julie Bertsch with photos by Marty Lamp

Coopers Rock
Could this dog's name be Shadow by any chance?
The weather was perfect, and I was convinced that October 1st should be the day that I try rock climbing for the first time. I'd talked about it enough, and it was time to put my limbs to the test. There was a whole crew of us, and I was the only "new-be" in the group of climbers who all had been climbing for 2 years or more.

Our destination was Coopers Rock State Forest, which is located just outside of Morgantown, in Bruceton Mills, WV. A beautiful State Park that is a playground for hikers, mountain bikers, campers, and of course, climbers.

Getting started on the 30 ft. climb
The crew and I hiked down the trail to check out some big boulders. We staked our claim and a few scurried up the other side of the rock to get set up. As I proceeded to put Megan's harness on backwards, I realized just how much I didn't know about the sport and the art, of climbing.

Lisa came to my rescue and showed me how to tie a "figure 8" and a safety knot, and I was on my way up the "gritstone" rock. She belayed me, and I didn't feel too afraid of falling, but I had never felt gravity quite like that.

Julie falls fast!
"Belay me! Belay me!"
Standing on the ground I remember thinking, "I can climb that. That looks easy." As soon as I got about half way up, the climbing shoes were slipping, and dirt was in my eyes. It's hard to remember to keep your legs spread out when you're 15 ft. off of the ground, but I got pretty serious hanging off the ledge with everyone watching. Nothing can humble a person quite like Mother Nature can.

Climbing takes a lot of control, and it helps to know the lines, (or route). When you're on the rock everything looks different, and I soon realized that I was on a slight overhang that made my next move a bit tricky for me. I grit my teeth, and grunted my way up only to find my forearms shaking and my fingers slipping. I shouted, "Belay me! Belay me!", (which means I'm gonna fall), and let go. It wasn't too discouraging, swinging around was kind of fun actually. I finally did make it up another climb our crew called "the crack".

The feeling of making it to the top is really gratifying. There are no trophies involved, no medals, just you and the rock. It's no wonder everyday climbers are always climbing higher and higher.

Greg is cruisin!
Greg just makes it look easy!
Everyone took turns climbing and belaying, and of course the climb that I couldn't do, they make look easy. Just like in any sport, especially outdoor sports, experience is the key.

It was a very exciting experience and one I would recommend to anyone who's interested. There are plenty of places to go in West Virginia, and if you don't have friends who climb, you could go to a climbing school in the area or check your local outfitter stores. Be careful, you may get addicted quickly! That rock has my name on it for next time.

Special thanks to all of the crew that day who showed me the way...up.

Greg McWitz

Lisa Legs

Megan Mack

Smarty Marty

Other Climbing Pictures: [ Set 1] [ Set 2]
West Virginia Rock Climbing:
Seneca Online Climbing Guide
Seneca Rocks Climbing School
Seneca Climbing Center
New River Rock
Climbing at the New
Tim's Climbing Page

Cool Climbing Sites:
Big Wall Climbing Yosemite
Climbing Magazine
Rock & Ice