The steep and bulging wall of Michelin Man.

Why write a guidebook and build a website for Bubba City? Because a lot has changed at Bubba City since the Thompson and Cater guides were published in the late 1990s (and since I published the original topo guide to the area in 1991). Bubba City is the only area in the gorge to see a significant number of new routes in recent years and it is the first area to see a widespread upgrade of fixed anchors to stainless steel. Clearly, there is a great need for updated information.

Bubba City is just one of the many crags that contribute to the New River Gorge's world-class reputation. The cliffs at Bubba are not the highest in the gorge, but for the combination of easy access and high quality climbing in a pleasant setting, it is tough to beat Bubba City. The routes here range from 40- to 100-feet in length and are nearly vertical, although there are some steep sections and a few big roofs. The climbing is typically thin, technical, and will test your problem-solving abilities, but many of the routes are also sustained and pumpy. There are numerous high-quality traditional lines such as Tasty Flake (5.8), Basic Bubba Carck (5.9), Fred Sandstone Flake (5.9+), Take Me To the River (10a), The Raging Tiger (10d), Little Creatures (10d), Face It Bubba (11a), Cumberland Blues (11b), Whamarête (11d R), Regatta de Blanc (12a), and Burning Down The House (12a/b). However, it's the over 175 sport routes, from 5.5 to 5.13, that makes Bubba City really shine.

Consider that Bubba City now possesses more clip-ups than Summersville Lake, the only sport climbs in the Gorge at the modest grades of 5.5 to 5.8, over thirty 5.10 clip-ups, forty-five sport 5.11s, and more bolted 5.12s (48) than Kaymoor! Furthermore, classic sport climbs are found at all levels, not just at the "5.hard" grades. Just a few of the must-do, four-star sports routes are Daisy Cutter (5.7), Mrs. Field's Folly (5.8), Hubba Bubba (5.9+), Badass Tattoo (10a), St. Pauli Girl (10b/c), Lieback and Enjoy It (10d), Tongulation (11a), Skinhead Grin (11b), Michelin Man Direct (11d), Reaches From Hell (11d), Likmé (12a), and the 20-foot roof L'Amour des Toits (12b). For the real hard man and woman, there are plenty more good lines up to 5.13b.

Opened for climbing in 1987, Bubba City was the first climbing boomtown of the late 1980s new-route gold rush in the New River Gorge. It was here where bolting and power drills were first used extensively at the New, though, bolts were initially applied only to bridge blank spans between natural protection. Consequently, many of the original routes went in as mixed lines requiring a handful of quick draws and a small rack of TCUs and chocks.

As the 1990s dawned, power drills and rap bolting exploded throughout the New River Gorge and many areas (like Kaymoor and Summersville) were being developed as "sport areas." Mixed-protection routes quickly fell out of vogue as most of the harder routes were developed as clip-ups. Hence, the once popular Bubba City, and its many excellent mixed routes, lost favor with some climbers.

Today, most of Bubba City's classics have been retro bolted (by the first ascensionists) and many other routes have been upgraded to stainless steel bolts and rap anchors. Furthermore, over 105 new sport climbs have been established in recent years, now making Bubba City one of the most densely developed sport climbing areas on the East coast. Many climbers are now rediscovering the charm of the area referred to by locals as simply "Bubba." The car-to-crag approach is one of the shortest in the Gorge at just 10 minutes to Central Bubba and Bubba Buttress. And, thanks to a new trail established in 2001, it now takes only 15 minutes to reach the many overlooked classics at Ames Wall and Headwall, and less than 20 minutes to find some solitude at the farthest downstream crags like Kingfish, Sandstonia, and Rubble Rock. --Eric J. Hörst

Copyright © 2004 Eric J. Hörst. Designed by Eric McCallister (