Part of the formation of a natural diamond is the compression of carbon with pressure somewhere around 725,000 pounds per square inch. This snippet of Googled information, paired with the diamond-esque shape of the block, helped in naming my latest First Ascent in Southwest Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains: “Diamonds Are Forever”(V8).
This rig is killer! I really enjoy this location, being nearby to a convenient parking lot and amongst several other exciting sandstone blocks. Near the block are several steep faces, sheer roofs, highballs, and views for miles. I have loved this place since I drove out a few summers ago, and the saga for new boulders has continued to play out to the present. And it just keeps getting better and better!
I first explored the climbing potential of Flag Rock Park in Norton a few years ago, climbing several new lines, but shying away from the actual Flag Rock section as it had several signs warning against climbing at the actual, iconic “Flag Rock” formation. But, just a week ago, and with the help of local crusher Brad Mathisen and the recently formed Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition (SVCC), the Town of Norton passed an MOU allowing climbing in Flag Rock and may make portions of the area a designated town climbing park! While there will no doubt still be specific restrictions applying to FR formation proper, and possibly the overlook rock, the Town Council and Board of Tourism are openly welcoming climbers to the park as soon as the needed infrastructure is in place. I am excited to be helping the Town negotiate this process, and to be climbing, documenting, and helping with trail layout for the Flag Rock and surrounding climbing zones. With this all in motion I have dedicated a lot of time to exploration and climbing at Flag Rock.
One of the most exciting locations within this area that I have climbed so far is the Flag Roof area, with a 20ft horizontal roof housing several lines full of ample jugs and rails, and the tunnel-like corridor which leads to the suspended and stunning Forever Block where Diamonds Are Forever can be found.
Brad lead me to this block on my last session here, and after a long day of working and sending multiple new (and spectacular) power-endurance Flag Roof lines, I simply didn’t have enough strength left or light in the day remaining to link the moves for Diamonds Are Forever. The line remained in my thoughts until a few days ago when I returned.
The Forever Block is a wedged boulder between two huge rock formations. The narrow, rounded, bottom tip of the boulder is suspended just a few inches off of the ground. The one, singular line starting steeply at its base is “Diamonds Are Forever” (V8). Starting at the steep base of the block on a jug and a large pinch you commence the compression sequence. Squeezing five or six steep edges/pinches and their accompanying long right angle corner together, you work to the lip of the block at wide, confident corner pinches. At the wide corner pinches, you can either throw with a big dyno or work a technical, tension toe-hook move to a distant rail high on the face. I chose the latter. After this, a few balanced and fun moves lead to a high, flat jug at the top for the mantle.
I returned to send this project a few days ago. Driving up the mountain I knew the gate to the park would be closed, so I was prepared to hike in with several pads in tow. I huffed my way along the paved park road for about a mile. In the saddles of the ridgeline that the road traversed there was still plenty of snow. Walking down the fire road, and upon reaching the bouldering zone,I was happy to find the exposed and lofty sandstone blocks had collected and shared the winter sun’s radiant warmth. No snow and totally dry blocks.
The chilly air promised perfect conditions, and the send was quick! Sending a project in quiet solitude is one of my favorite parts of exploring, discovery, and climbing uncharted boulders. No doubt this problem is an area classic, and it will surly remain on my top favorites list for compression climbs. I sent several other new, easier lines and opened many projects for my next trip to Flag Rock. Most exciting were all of the highball lines which will require some brushes and way more pads. Appalachia at its best!