Escaping the City: Weekend Warriors

© Matthew Parent

Are you keen to get away this weekend for a two-day hit at a far-away crag, arriving home with just enough sleep for a 9am start on Monday? UKC user Gaz Leah offers a proud tribute to all of the Weekend Warriors out there.

First coined by military reserve members, the phrase “Weekend Warrior” is used to describe those who spend their weekends chasing after their personal passion and sharpening their skills once the work week is over. In climbing, its definition is attributed to those who travel great distances, often forfeiting sleep and guzzling copious amounts of coffee in order to get their fix of rock fondling.

Weekend Warriors on the road...  © Matthew Parent
Weekend Warriors on the road...
© Matthew Parent

Born from these adventures are stories of daring and difficult ascents, close calls and camp fire debauchery, later re-told and immortalised during the mid-week plastic session. Delivered with a healthy dose of exaggeration, you can often overhear of how someones two-foot “Take!” transformed into a terrifying whipper once back at the gym.

Living in New York, I’ve heard countless tales from climbers who would drive from the city on a Friday night, making the 8 hour pilgrimage to the New River Gorge in West Virginia and returning in the early hours of Monday morning. To non-climbers, this marathon of driving seems borderline insane, but to the seasoned warrior, this is all part of the progression process.

Gaz Leah climbing in Majalca  © Matthew Parent
Gaz Leah climbing in Majalca
© Matthew Parent

I remember one such trip when I ventured to the sprawling Adirondack range, some 8 hours away with a guy called Bob Haggarty who I had met on an ice climbing forum. He was an experienced ice climber in his 60's with a great sense of humor and an addiction to adventure. Together, we wanted to climb Pharoah Mountain, an infamous 4 pitch, W3 route in the back country of New York but we had just one day off work.

Gaz Leah climbing in Nuevo Majalca  © Matthew Parent
Gaz Leah climbing in Nuevo Majalca
© Matthew Parent

We left the city in the early hours of Sunday morning, consuming copious amounts of coffee to help pry open our tired eyes. We arrived at the trailhead around 9am where we geared up and travelled a further 2 hours off the beaten track into the back country. Arriving at the face, we found the formation was steeper than usual, making it a grade harder than we had expected. As neither of us are easily intimidated, we put on our crampons and continued up the route anyway.

The route was everything we had hoped and more. Perfect ice, incredible views and an escape from the world. Reaching the top at around 2pm, we looked out over the valley and watched as a massive storm approached and visibility became severely limited. As the sun began to set over the short winter day, we rigged our abseil off a tree and began our descent down. During the second rappel, the rope became stuck and I had to re-climb the pitch to recover the rope. Changing the anchor, we continued down and reached the ground in the dark to find our trail back had been back filled in by the blizzard that was all around us.

The walk out was difficult to navigate and the expected 2 hour descent back to the car became a 4 hour slog which left us completely exhausted with a further 8 hour drive back. We arrived back home in the early hours of the morning, after an adventure that lasted roughly 29 hours in total. After unloading my gear, I got a mere 3 hours sleep before I had to wake again for work and although the next day I was completely drained, I would not have traded the experience for anything in this world.

New routing in Chihuahua  © Matthew Parent
New routing in Chihuahua
© Matthew Parent

Hearing these tales it often begs the question, why do we do it? Why travel so far, suffer sleep depravation, sometimes putting our lives at risk and all for a handful of hours in the outdoors?

It’s a testament to our growing community. That we are a hardy bunch that strive for progression in both ourselves and our sport, passionate to the point of eccentricity and with no understanding of how far is too far.

Gaz Leah climbing in Potrero Chico  © Tiffany Hensley
Gaz Leah climbing in Potrero Chico
© Tiffany Hensley

So this is my tribute to all the climbers out there who dedicate their time and efforts to making our community what it is. A bustling mix of lateral thinkers and visionaries whose uncompromising desire to climb rock and ice has created a movement that is changing the world in its own small way.

Thank you for being a climber!

About the Author: Gaz Leah is currently living in Mexico where he is working with at an risk youth group Escalando Fronteras (, writing a guidebook to Huasteca ( and bolting / re-bolting routes throughout the canyon. He is sponsored by Mad Rock, Hanchor and MAXIM Ropes.

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13 Mar, 2015
Need more campfire debauchery and a teleport device.
13 Mar, 2015
I often moan about living in London because of the distance to decent climbing but when you speak to a lot of Americans it really puts it into perspective. I was speaking to some Americans in Spain the other day who said they would sometimes drive 8 hours to Red River Gorge for the weekend. I can get to anywhere in England that quick and a lot of crags in Spain! By American standards nowhere in the UK is that far! Having said that I am not looking forward to the 4+ hour drive to Malham early tomorrow AM.
13 Mar, 2015
Yep, I used to live just south of London and we'd often go to the Peak or Wales for the day. Or font for the weekend. Finished work at three in the afternoon once and went to birchen for the evening but in hindsight that was probably a bit much, even for the super keen. :)
13 Mar, 2015
That's just brilliant! What time did you get home? I fail even to make it to Harrisons of a summer evening, put off by the prospect of the M25. Clearly not made of The Right Stuff.
13 Mar, 2015
I can't remember what time we got home but it was in the height of summer so if we managed to climb until ten then we would have been home about 12.30. I honestly don't remember the long drives ever being an issue, unless there was some serious delays, and London to the Peak really isn't that far, we lived in Sutton and it'd rarely take more than 2.5 hours to the Peak. I live in Sheffield now and am going to Tremadoc tomorrow, it'll defo take longer than the drives we used to do from London. And as for not going on Southern Sandstone in the evening, you should be ashamed ;)
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