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Above The Mines, Beneath The Climbs

Kaymoor Climber
Climbers get a close look into the past as they navigate the narrow, overgrown trails that lead to some of Kaymoor’s best climbs. Pieces of the old structures, such as the old cable haul system, can be found all along the mountainside. (Summit Blog Staff Photo)

The remnants of a mining town lie silent in the New River Gorge, even though the campground above is bustling with activity. It hosts Kaymoor’s new residents, the climbers.

They park near the ruins of a hoist house once used to power an incline, and they hike under twisted, rust-covered cables. They climb above mineshaft entrances and navigate the narrow trails that miners once walked.

Roger’s Rocky Top Retreat, commonly called just Roger’s, sits above the massive sandstone walls and the remnants of Kaymoor One, a mine that produced 16,904,321 tons of coal from 1900 to 1962.

Roger’s field is filled with tents and the pavilion with camp stoves and sits above more than 100 documented climbing routes.  If they are not rock climbing, climbers from around the world are cooking and hanging out on the front porch of the shack where Roger makes free coffee in the morning.

The amenities may be simple, but the friendly location above so much climbing makes it hard to leave.

“Gosh, man, it’s a home,” said climber Craig Reger, 25. “I lived there last season. Some have lived there for years.  It’s become a home for a lot of us. All that climbing is right in our backyard.”

The Town Below And The Mine Beneath

Though Kaymoor is now known for Roger’s and its proximity to great climbing, it was a completely different place in the early 1900s. More than 800 workers mined for cash and scrip, a type of payment only redeemable at the company store.

[pullquote]“It’s become a home for a lot of us. All that climbing is right in our backyard.” — Craig Reger, climber[/pullquote]

“Every day when you’re going down to climb, you pass hints of the coal,” explains Reger, who sees plenty of mining artifacts whether he is hiking, mountain biking or climbing.

Working long hours, crawling in tight spaces and breathing in coal dust, miners were subject to extremely dangerous working conditions. In 1907 alone, 3,242 deaths occurred in U.S. coal mines. As with many mines, roof falls, fires and electrocutions were the chief causes of deaths in the Kaymoor Mine.

“You have a new found respect for the coal miners because of what they had to endure,” said Reger.

The Kaymoor Mine was closed in the early 1960s and is now under National Park Service control as part of the New River Gorge National River.

Bonus! Share this post to unlock video of the 821 stairs that connect the top and riverside bottom of the old Kaymoor mine.

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