If you didn’t know where Jessa Goebel is from when you meet her, you might find yourself wondering within a few minutes. Her accent might catch your ear—but it’s subtle, more like a semi-accent. Most certainly, she’ll be talking about climbing. And you might find yourself trying to guess: Not quite a Georgia or Alabama drawl. Definitely not Texan. But before you know it, you’ll figure it out—not because she loves talking about herself—she’s way too modest. But because she loves climbing. Specifically, climbing at the New River Gorge outside Fayetteville, West Virginia. In fact, she started climbing there before most of us were even working summer jobs or applying for college—and now she lives within walking distance of the gorge. So we chatted her up to get the best beta about one of the East’s biggest, baddest climbing areas.
How would you describe the climbing personality of the New River Gorge to someone who’s never been there before?
“The climbing here is pretty hard, and pretty prejudiced. It helps to be tall and have a lot of hand strength. You have to be able to take your licks and be OK with getting shut down by 5.11s. It draws people whoe are a little more laid back and who are out for routes, not numbers. You don’t get many people talking about grades. Everybody’s super chill; climbing in the summer, you’ll throw a couple of beers in your pack. It’s a big contrast between people who climb at the Red.”
What kind of assumptions do you think people bring to the New?
“This place has a mystique about it. You have to be patient and have your head on right. You definitely see people who expect certain things, and you don’t see them back very often.”
Why would you recommend a trip to the New River Gorge?
“There are lots of really good moderate trad routes and moderate sport routes. So it’s really awesome for people learning to place gear. It really teaches you how to think on your feet—there are lots of horizontal placements and pockets. So it’s a really fun learning situation on moderate or hard terrain. The rock here is so good. And the sport routes are really beautiful, aesthetic lines. With the steep sandstone walls overlooking the river, everything is unique.”
What are three routes you think everybody should try when they come?
“Two Bag Face is a 5.9 trad route with a really cool techy, facey arête that overlooks the gorge and the bridge. And then New Yosemite is a really nice little 5.8 crack climb. For a sport climb, Legacy is a great 5.11a on Endless Wall. It’s big and technical, and requires crack climbing skills. Legacy is one of the longer pitches in the gorge, and it’s on you the whole way up.”
Where should visitors stay? And where will they find the best grub and beer?
“The American Alpine Club just opened a campground. So you can hang out there and walk over to the Junkyard Wall and climb without even having to drive anywhere. Secret Sandwich Society is right next to my house—and their soups are always awesome, and they have good beer and good desserts. Pies and Pints in town has great pizzas, salads and beer.”
What’s your go-to OR gear for climbing in the New?
“The Voodoo Pants are perfect because they’re super light, so you can wear them in summer or winter here. And you’ll definitely want an Ubertube for when it’s sweaty in the summer. Then I’d go with the Flyway Tank and Ferrosi Hoody in the spring. And the Cathode Jacket is pretty nice to have, too.”