The Mid-Ohio Valley is undoubtedly a region marked by adventure. Trailblazers are taken back by the stunning views on the paths of the Rail Trails in West Virginia or the Buckeye Trails of Ohio, adrenaline seekers meet their match on the rapids of the New River Gorge, and mountain bikers are put to the test through countless trails everywhere in between. New opportunities to challenge the grandeur of nature as well as soak in its beauty are showing up in increasing numbers here in the area. One of the more recent additions to the Ohio Valley adventure scene has been the North Bend Climbing Guides, an extension to the beautiful North Bend State Park.
Tucked away in scenic Cairo, West Virginia, The North Bend Climbing Guide offers an unforgettable experience that is equally challenging as it is rewarding. For me, this occurred in November of 2016, when my roommate and I met up with the founder and guide leader of the climbing service John Starkweather for a morning session of climbing and rappelling. John represented his service well, as he conducted our tour with professionalism and a friendly attitude as he led us to the main attraction and (rock) face of the North Bend Guides, The Big Easy. This massive stretch of rock lives up to at least half of it name as its large stature provides its climbers with an almost endless possibility of routes, which in some cases do not claim to be all that “easy”. In fact, in the two-hour session that we took that crisp fall morning, we only encountered three of the climbing routes that Big Easy had to offer out of the multitude of options each ranging in difficulty and challenge.
Once the group had their bearing on the rules of climbing and repelling, we began to gear up! We were each fitted with an assortment of ropes, helmets, harnesses, belay systems and even climbing shoes to help keep your traction on the rock. John was especially proud to note that all the gear used in his climbing tours, he purchased locally through the Marietta Adventure Company. From the top of your helmet to the bottom of your shoes, you felt that you were in the best and ultimately safest gear.
Soon it came time for the climb. The cool of the bare rock on your hands, the adrenaline-increasing heat as you climb higher and higher up a natural wall, the physical boxing match of inching yourself closer and closer to the top mixed with the mental chess game of finding each new open foothold and hand placement is a feeling best experienced in person. Better still, the moment when you hoist yourself to the cliff’s ledge and stand to meet the tops of trees and the expanse of the North Bend State Park only to have the rush of repelling down the wall in bounding leaps as if you are in an action movie makes the perfect reward for a difficult climb.
Whether you are an experienced climber or even if it is your first time, the North Bend Climbing Guides make an effort to provide the best service for whatever ability you may have. Programs that the Guides currently have include specials for families, students, and groups of all climbing skills. Make sure to check out their website for other deals, programs, and useful tips on how to plan your trip.
Although the climbing season truly starts in the spring, the Guides are open all year long for those that want to get out of the house (weather permitting of course) and immerse themselves in an activity that is not only enjoyable physically but promotes an almost effortless interaction with the thrills that nature gladly provides.