This past week, the local Chamber of Commerce in Dulton Country, West Virginia, approved a radical recreation and water-usage plan. The plan calls for the flooding of 45 acres of the Goetze River Valley for a drinking water reservoir, but also for the creation of a special deep-water soloing zone, also known as psicobloc.
Defined as free soloing over water, psicobloc is all the rage in climbing communities, from Mallorca to Pennsylvania to Northern Mongolia. The plan in Dulton Country will create roughly 120 new psicobloc routes on pristine sandstone at the Never Say Never crag, a mile-long cliff.
Initial opposition to the plan put forth a few valid concerns. There was a Children’s Autism Center along the river that served local communities. There was a homeless shelter, a drug rehabilitation facility, and two local churches that also sat at the bottom of the river valley. But now, these buildings will be fully submerged and forced to shut down.
Local climbers agreed these were some great services, but felt that “the sick gnar potential” of psicobloc routes in their backyard was more important. It helped that climbers overcame the opposition by installing a few dirtbags to the Dulton Chamber of Commerce over the past few years.
The non-climbing members of the Chamber Board eventually came around. A report put forth by the Chamber concluded that the revenue generated at the local hospital from all the spinal and neck injuries, as a result of climbers cartwheeling over 60 feet into the water, would put $1.2 million into the local coffers. As proof of concept, the Chamber said that it was immediately contacted by the Rifle Climbers Association and the state authorities that manage the New River Gorge, both seeking to learn more about the audacious plan and flood their own areas.
“Rifle is choss. We all know that,” said one Rifle local. Rifle locals are well known for thinking their rock is world class and yet being insecure about the lack of elite climbers visiting their area, notably Adam Ondra, who has stuck his nose up at the Western Slope area. “The only way we will get Sharma, and maybe Ondra, back here is if we add water. Why not?”
But not all climbers in West Viginia were happy.
Local climber Bryan “Buster” McHaughty, was upset about the development. “I just put up two amazing routes at that crag last month. One was a super classic 5.11 on this amazing arete feature. I used all natural gear.”
Buster is a trad climber, but according to his sport-climber girlfriend, “the route was absolute shit. Buster always has the developer’s bias. Last year, he was spraying about his 4-star routes on Mountain Project and was devastated when the only comment read, ‘This route is a terd. Our world would be better if it never existed.’ That comment had fifteen thumbs-up.”
Buster said he might try psicobloc, but won’t commit to anything.