School of Hard Rocks

first_imgA rookie rock climber gets schooled at Seneca Rocks.There’s a green ammunition can tucked into a crevice at the top of a mountain in West Virginia. Open it and you’ll find a log book, where climbers write things like “AMAZING” in all-caps. There’s also a warm bottle of beer, some sunscreen, a condom, a matchbox car. If you want to write a note in the log book or leave something cool, like an action figure, you have to climb the South Peak of Seneca Rocks, a fin of rock that rises 900 feet from a ridge inside the Monongahela National Forest. It’s not an impossible task—there are much harder climbs in the South, but nothing with the same sense of character. The South Peak is the only mountain east of the Mississippi that you can only summit via a technical rock climb. The only way up is sheer, vertical rock that hangs over the North Fork River valley. The exposure from South Peak can induce vertigo instantly, and yet, thanks to the diversity of mild routes and professionalism at Seneca Rocks Climbing School, there is no better place for a would-be climber to learn multi-pitch traditional skills in the South. You just have to work up the nerve to climb.Seneca Rocks is intimidating even from the valley floor. The crag has a Western look to it, with two big walls of gray sandstone reaching into the thin, misty clouds most mornings. A trail leads to the top of the North Peak of Seneca, but a deep notch separates the North Peak from the South Peak. The cliff is so unlike anything else you’ll see in the Southern Appalachians, it looks cartoonish—like the kind of mountain peaks Dr. Seuss might have drawn. Distinct knobs and arêtes give the cliff a jagged, fin-like appearance.“What that is, is the exposed back of a monster. When the real end of the world comes, that monster is going to rise up so big, it’ll make a Cracken look like an ant.”This is Bob, a recently retired UPS driver who’s been climbing Seneca for more than 30 years. I’ve just met Bob, but in less than four minutes, he’s convinced me that climbing Seneca is one of the few things a man can truly be proud of. He’s also convinced me I’m completely out of my league.We’re sitting at opposing tables on the front porch of the only restaurant in unincorporated Seneca Rocks, an outpost with half a dozen buildings at a crossroads inside the Monongahela National Forest.Bob is three beers into the night and keeps telling me things like, “Seneca is so steep, it doesn’t even get wet when it rains,” and “there are 5.2s on Seneca that make me nervous.”There’s some truth to this last statement. Most climbers agree that the majority of routes at Seneca have sandbagged grades, so a 5.4 at Seneca might be rated a 5.7 somewhere else. Seneca is so old, a majority of the easier routes on this cliff were established in the early ‘40s, when 5.10 was the hardest conceivable route. The 5.2 grade given to Old Man’s route, a four-pitch route that traverses the west face of South Peak to the summit, had more weight.“I climb 5.12 in the gym, but I get sketched out on some 5.4’s at Seneca,” says Jimmy, Bob’s climbing partner.Awesome.But this is why Seneca Rocks Climbing School exists: to translate the myth of Seneca and churn out legitimate rock climbers. Like thousands before me, I’ve signed up for the school’s “Gym to Crag” course, a two-day intensive camp designed to take climbers with decent movement skills and turn them into competent, thoughtful trad climbers.Seneca Rocks Climbing SchoolClimbers gather on the porch of the Seneca Rocks Climbing School after a day on the rock.J.LO’S NOSESeneca Rocks Climbing School is located in a small, one-story building attached to the back of the Gendarme, Seneca’s oldest climbing shop. The two businesses are owned by the same family and run by the same handful of young guides. The school has set the standard for climbing instruction on the East Coast for more than 35 years. During the ‘70s, the shop and school were operated out of the back of a Volkswagen bus, so the humble retail and teaching space seem downright spacious considering.Massey Teel is the head instructor and guide. He’s barely 30 and has the wiry build of a runner. He’s been with Seneca for six seasons, but grew up on a 300-acre family farm near Charlottesville, Va. and still goes home to tinker with projects like growing hops. During the fall, he guides trips in Red Rocks, Nevada. In the Winter, he runs the adaptive skiing program at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort. He is a rarity in the South: a professional guide.“If I could guide until I’m 50, I’d be happy,” he tells me during our approach to the crag on the first day of the course. He’s using the term “guide” loosely. He’s more of an instructor than a guide.“If someone just wants us to guide them up the summit, we’ll do it,” Teel says. “But I’d rather spend my time teaching that person how to really climb.”There’s plenty of action in the Gym to Crag course, but the two days are also loaded with materials lessons, mock multi-pitch scenarios, anchor-building pop quizzes, and knot-tying homework.We hump our way up the Stair Master, a series of boulder steps that rise from Seneca Creek to base of the South Peak. Teel carries 35 pounds of trad gear in his oversized pack and lets me get away with just a few carabiners and the rope.We drop our gear on the Luncheon Ledge, a six-foot-wide belay station at the base of some easy top-rope climbs. This is the school’s choice location for “Ground School.” Two other guides are there, working students through the same Gym to Crag curriculum. A father and two teenage sons are busy learning the terminology and gear associated with traditional climbing.Most beginners start in a gym, then dabble with top-roping with climber friends. It’s a fine pastime, but if you want to climb well in the Southern Appalachians, you have to learn the art of traditional climbing, where the lead climber sets temporary protection in cracks along the route, and the second climber cleans the protection from the rock. The climbing team moves up the wall, pitch after pitch, taking turns belaying and climbing. It is a symbiotic relationship unlike any other in the sport. Every decision the lead makes directly affects the second, and vice versa.Teel explains the subtleties in the necklace of nuts, caribiners, and spring-loaded cams that he organizes meticulously on his harness. The lesson? Presentation is everything. How you organize your gear, how you coil a rope–it shows other climbers that you know what you’re doing and can be trusted.I fumble with the little things, like taking carabiners off the gear loops of my harness. Tying the standard figure eight knot is like a puzzle I can’t solve.There are half-a-dozen climbers on the South Peak, spread out between 150 routes. On a busy weekend, you might wait in line to knock out some of the more popular climbs, but Seneca doesn’t see the mass of climbers it saw during its heyday.In the early ‘90s, Seneca Rocks was one of the hottest climbing destinations in the East. Superstars put up hard routes until there wasn’t room for further development. So they moved to the New River Gorge in the late 90s. When a bolting ban constricted route setting in the New, they moved to the Red River Gorge, in Kentucky. Seneca is still well respected, but no longer enjoys the “it crag” status.If you look at Seneca on paper, it can’t compare with crags like the New River Gorge. Seneca has 350 routes. The New has 2,000 and counting. But the New is dominated by single pitch routes, whereas Seneca is fraught with long, multi-pitch climbs that rise hundreds of feet. There are taller cliffs, like the 1,200-foot granite face of Laurel Knob in North Carolina, but the granite in North Carolina tends to slope, so you can only see one pitch below you. Not so, in Seneca.“As far as exposure, Seneca kills it in the East. There’s nothing with this sort of explore,” Teel tells me as we scramble around the edge of the South Peak to the east face of the wall. “It has these incredible arêtes with a lot of air below.”Lizards scatter as we move across the rocks, scrambling to the east face of the South Peak. You can hear cicadas tearing up the valley below us, sending loud, repetitive screeches through the mountains and gaps.We climb the three pitch Up and Coming (5.4), which has a couple of sketchy stem moves for the crux on the first pitch. I like having to clean the gear as I move up the rock. It gives me something to think about other than the fact that I’m 600 feet above the ground.The third pitch leads us up Humphrey’s Head, a singular arête along the lower ridge of the South Peak. Climbers call the last pitch “picking the nose,” because if you’re watching from the valley, it looks like the climber is ascending into Humphrey’s nose.Teel says the profile of the rock we’re climbing looks like J Lo from the valley floor.Standing on top of Humphrey’s Head, we look down on turkey vultures circling near the cliffs below us.Day one ends with homework: I fall asleep in my tent working on my knots with a piece of practice rope.THE SOUTH PEAK CAMPAIGN“The higher we go, the more loose rock we’ll encounter,” Teel tells me as we climb the Stair Master on the morning of day two. He’s describing the four-pitch climb we’ll take up the west face to the summit. “Always remember this is a cliff. And big things fall off of cliffs.”We start on Prune (5.5), with a tough laid back move up a wide crack. It’s physically demanding, but low enough to the ground that it’s not psychologically troubling. After Prune, we traverse a short ledge to Front C (5.6), the toughest pitch of the day. The heart of the route follows a crack in the corner of the wall for 30 feet. At the crux, you have to set your feet wide, spanning the width of the corner, while you jam your hands into the ever-widening crack for purchase. At one point, I have to stick my whole left forearm into the crack and squeeze, pulling my body up to the next foothold.The final pitch, Le Gourmet (5.4), is up a chimney that gets thinner until it delivers you onto an arête that you follow into thin air just short of the summit. The moves are simple, but the exposure is mind-numbing. From the top of Le Gourmet, Teel wraps the rope around his own waist to create a simple body belay as I down-climb a cliff to the narrow South Ridge, then we scramble along bright white quartzite to the true summit, where the ammo can waits.From the top, you can see the razor-thin fin of rock running to the north and south. The valley rolls away below us before rising into dark green mountains in all directions. In 1939, it took the first group of climbers two full days of climbing to stand on top of Seneca Rocks. It was a legitimate summit campaign. It still is.“Seneca is a mini-alpine environment where you can learn all these great summit-specific skills–down climbing, scrambling, body belaying–that you can apply in bigger environments,” Teel says. And you don’t have to be a superstar to enjoy it. “You can come up here, climb a 5.2, and have a true alpine adventure.”web extra!Learn how to open a beer with a carabiner from Seneca Rocks Climbing School.Ever wonder which Colleges are the most outdoorsy along the East Coast? We did too so we made a guide!last_img read more

Florida State guard Miller uses 13-year-old friend with Treacher Collins Syndrome as motivation

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Florida State senior guard Ian Miller gets great joy out of participating in physical education classes at United Faith Christian Academy.When Miller visits his old school, he hangs out with a 13-year-old named Casey Roffler.Roffler suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, a condition that stunts the growth of the face, jaw and chin and can potentially cause life-threatening respiratory problems. He’s inspired Miller to overcome his own adversity, as Miller missed chunks of his first three seasons at Florida State due to academic and injury issues.“He’s like my little brother,” Miller said. “He’s a soldier.”In his freshman and sophomore years, academic ineligibility forced Miller to miss 22 total games. In his junior year, Miller was hampered by injuries, as he missed six games and only averaged 5.3 points.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThis year, he’s only missed two games and is averaging 13.6 points and 3.0 assists, good for second and first on the team, respectively.“He’s had some challenges,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “As a result of those challenges, I think he’s matured, grown up and that’s one of the reasons why he’s playing so well now.”Miller’s struggles aren’t quite as severe as Roffler’s, but the lesson is the same.Roffler underwent 15 surgeries in the first 12 years of his life. Despite the time he’s spent in Levine Children’s Hospital, Roffler still performs at a high standard both in the classroom and on the athletic fields.“He showed me how to fight each and every day,” Miller said. “If he can get up and do it, why can’t I?”That attitude, one that Miller has adapted in part because of his relationship with Roffler, has made him a more mature player and person as he leads the Seminoles into the home stretch of their season.“I could’ve quit, dropped out of college, a lot of things a lot of people do,” Miller said “But I decided to stick to it, fight and really become a man.”Miller’s roommate and fellow senior Okaro White has known Miller since well before college. The two attended camps and played together throughout their high school AAU days.White has been right there with Miller along his roller-coaster ride and has seen promising changes from someone he calls his “lifelong brother.”“I think he’s learned over his four years,” White said. “He’s matured and learned how to overcome adversity. I think that’s the biggest thing with him.”Miller noted that his attitude toward life changed after meeting Roffler. After seeing his points per game average drop five total points from his sophomore to junior year, Miller had no reason to be happy.But it was the outlook of the 13-year-old that kept Miller’s head up.“He didn’t look like the rest of the kids in his class,” Miller said. “But if you’ve seen him playing around, you couldn’t tell.“To see someone free like that and in their own world, living carefree but so loving, it helps you develop a humble attitude.”Hamilton recognized the efforts Miller has made to turn the struggles he has had into positive opportunities.As a player who played at 222 pounds last year, Miller has cut that to 198 pounds for his senior season.Miller’s improved physical condition has helped him become a more versatile player. Not only that, but he’s also demonstrated the leadership qualities expected of a senior guard.“He’s running the team when we have him at the one,” Hamilton said. “When we put him at the two, he’s a lot more aggressive.“He’s found a way to mix in being offensively productive and also running the team, so he’s at a good place for him.”But Miller may not be at that “good place” without the help of someone nine years younger.Roffler has been Miller’s inspiration, and as Florida State makes one last push at an NCAA Tournament berth, its senior leader will always keep his hero in mind.Said Miller: “He’s the definition of a Seminole.” Comments Published on March 6, 2014 at 12:28 am Contact Matt: mcschnei@syr.edu | @matt_schneidmanlast_img read more

Men’s basketball tops Robert Morris in season opener

first_imgRedshirt junior guard Derryck Thornton dribbles down court at Galen Center. Thornton tallied 8 points in the win over Robert Morris. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)Shaqquan Aaron planted and took flight, tomahawking the ball with his right hand and flushing it with authority. Before running back on defense, he flexed at his team’s bench and unleashed a mighty roar.It would be understandable if this was a scream of pent-up frustration. The story for much of USC’s season opener — in front of a crowd of 2,502, the smallest for a season opener since 2006 — was a dysfunctional offense. But Aaron’s dunk, one of two throwdowns for the redshirt senior guard during a solo 9-0 scoring run in the second half, gave the Trojans the spark they needed to pull away from Robert Morris in the Trojans’ 83-62 victory. “I just felt like it was time to give my team a boost,” said Aaron, who led the team with 20 points. “It wasn’t just me. We all bought in together and locked down on defense, which led to offense.”Aaron’s mini-explosion was part of a 21-5 run the Trojans used to take control in the second half. After being unable to receive good looks for much of the first half, USC found its way to the rim over and over again as the second frame progressed. Once they had some easy looks at the rim, the ball seemed to move much quicker and their outside shots began to fall; the Trojans had 11 assists in the second half and shot 60.7 percent from the field, including six makes on nine attempts from long range.But it was striking that they needed a run at all. USC was down 53-49 with just over 12 minutes left, due mostly to a stagnant offense. The team had almost as many turnovers (11) as field goals made (13) in the first half and struggled to make shots at the rim despite their size and talent advantage.USC’s perimeter players seemed rusty, possibly feeling the effects of many preseason injuries that kept the team from practicing much as a whole. The Trojans fumbled the ball around off the dribble and on passes, allowing Robert Morris to score 9 first-half points off turnovers.“First game, some of those guys were a little nervous and wanted to prove some things,” head coach Andy Enfield said of the team’s disjointed first half. “They just needed to settle down.”The Trojan defense wasn’t particularly inspiring, either. Although USC maintained a small lead for most of the half, Robert Morris temporarily took control with a 16-4 run in the middle of the frame. The Colonials targeted USC junior forward Nick Rakocevic during this stretch, using USC’s switch-happy defensive scheme to put him into actions that gave his quicker matchup space to shoot or attack off the dribble. Their ball movement also sliced up the press and zone the Trojans occasionally went to.Rakocevic made his presence known in the second half, however; he began to dominate the interior, grabbing defensive rebounds en route to 16 total boards on the night. His 18 points only trailed Aaron for highest on the team.“I’ll do that every game if I have to,” Rakocevic said of his work on the glass. “Offensive rebounding has kind of been my thing since freshman year, so I wanted to stick to that.”The whole team might have needed some time to find its groove. The careless ball-handling, poor shot selection and slow-footed defense of the first half was replaced by energetic ball movement and stifling athleticism in the second.“We made some adjustments defensively, how we guarded ball screens,” Enfield said. “We finally rebounded the ball, and then we went down and shared the basketball. It’s a fun style to play when you can run, spread the floor and make the extra pass.”Freshman guard Kevin Porter was also impressive in his debut, totaling 15 points, five rebounds and a number of highlight plays. His alley-oop slam gave the crowd a taste of his game-changing athleticism, and he showcased his shot-making ability with a tough stepback three in the second half, although he picked up a technical for taunting afterward.“He just needs to [be] more controlled, act like you’ve been there, done that before,” Enfield said.This USC team clearly has talent. Multiple players stepped up when needed, and senior forward Bennie Boatwright, heralded freshmen guard Elijah Weaver and forward J’Raan Brooks did not play due to injury. But last year’s team was talented, and they disappointed as a top-15 team in the preseason. The Trojans need to avoid stagnancy and apathy and play like they did in the second half more consistently, or they will fall below expectations for the second straight year.last_img read more

Jeff McNeil injury update: Mets utility player (hamstring) goes on 10-day IL, expected to miss minimum time

first_imgWhen Jeff McNeil pulled up lame trying to beat out an infield grounder in the ninth inning Tuesday, it didn’t look good at first glance.But the news Wednesday is, if not good, at least not as bad as feared. The Mets have placed McNeil on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. However, the strain is reportedly mild and the Mets’ super utility player is expected to miss the minimum amount of time before returning, according to multiple news outlets. McNeil said after the game he didn’t think it was serious.“It didn’t feel great,” McNeil said. “I don’t think it’s terrible.” Related News Jeff McNeil came up limping after trying to beat out this grounder: pic.twitter.com/3sZeJoBtFg— SNY (@SNYtv) August 14, 2019Still, the resurgent Mets will be without one of their big bats for the next couple of weeks. The 27-year-old All-Star is hitting .332 with 15 home runs and a .929 OPS. He also gives manager Mickey Callaway tremendous lineup flexibility as he can play both corner outfield spots as well as second and third base.The Mets recalled infielder Rubén Tejada from Triple-A Syracuse to fill McNeil’s spot.Before dropping their last two games, the Mets (61-58) had been on a tear in recent weeks. They entered Wednesday two games out of the second NL wild-card spot. Gerrit Cole injury update: Astros starter (hamstring) doesn’t believe he’s seriously hurtlast_img read more