Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Zander Aloi, Emily Chen-Newton, Zack Harold, Clara Haizlett Published

Encore: The Climbing Climate And Paddle Making, Inside Appalachia

A woman in a blue shirt climbs a rock face.
Hanna Zook hangs from one arm and a carefully placed foot. Gripping the yellow colored sandstone, she balances herself by dangling her right leg.
Katie Jo Myers/Adaptive Climbers Festival, 2023

This week, rock climbers with disabilities have found a home in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, which offers some pumpy crags.

Climbers have also been working to make West Virginia’s New River Gorge more inclusive.

And a master craftsman, who makes one of a kind whitewater paddles remembers some advice.

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

Adaptive And Inclusive Climbing

The mountains of Appalachia are home to some killer rock climbing, but they’re also accessible for some groups who’ve felt excluded in the past. 

Adaptive Sports Reporter Emily Chen-Newton covers athletes with disabilities. She brings us this story, exploring why climbing festivals are making a home in Appalachia.

Removing Racist Language From Rock Climbing

In West Virginia, one of the most popular climbing destinations is the New River Gorge. Advanced rock climbers continue to pioneer new climbing routes there. The first people to climb these new routes are called “first ascensionists.” And they get the privilege of naming the routes. But what happens when dozens of those route names are plainly and clearly offensive?

In 2020 and 2021, Zack Harold followed the story of a climber at the New River Gorge who wanted to make the sport he loved more inclusive for his son. 

Crafting A Classic Paddle

A man stands on the edge of a river holding a paddle boat and paddle.
Jon Rugh with his wooden paddle at the New River near Blacksburg, VA.

Photo Credit: Clara Haizlett/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Appalachia has several huge rivers — the New River, the Youghigheny, the Pigeon — so, it’s no surprise whitewater paddling is popular across the region, but it wasn’t all that long ago that modern paddlers first started exploring these rivers, designing their own gear and even building their own paddles. Some of those DIY paddle makers became master crafters.

Folkways Reporter Clara Haizlett followed one. 


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Sturgeon Creek, Anthony Vega, Oakfield, the Delorian, Biba Dupont, Marissa Anderson, Tyler Childers, Jerry Douglas and John Blissard.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Zander Aloi is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting