GNAR Seneca Part I: Origins, Rules and Objectives

Note: Don’t miss Part II of this entry!

At the end of last winter, mine and Alan’s friend came to our house for one of the weekly sessions in the boulder cave located in the basement that have become an annual event. Usually these valiant efforts at maintaining a decent level of climbing fitness during the off season entail something along the lines of squeezing the three of us on the couch, watching a movie, eating and spelling inappropriate things with children’s letter shaped cinnamon flavored cookies. This one in particular was spent watching some guys who live in California make fools of themselves for their own entertainment, something that proved to align perfectly with our senses of humor. These Squaw Valley skiers were playing The Game of Gnar, of which a great video can be seen here. So it began.

An agreement is made

Alan, hosting also a place for skiing close to his heart, jokingly conjectures about recreating this event at Seneca Rocks, WV, his home playing field. Sitting around the screen of Alan’s old computer, connected to a spotty internet connection, Josh and I play along to continue the laughter, none of us wholly serious. During each ‘pause session’ of the video (we must wait periodically for the video to load a bit more due to the speed of the internet connection) the conversation about the theoretical logistics of GNAR Seneca begins slowly to become serious.

This is serious

Over the next few boulder sessions, plans materialize. Dates are set, the exclusive attendance list created, and the most time consuming process, writing the rules and assigning points, begun. I volunteer to engineer semi formal invitations, to head up the editing department, and to make the prize given to first place; Alan to create not only the rules and regulations but also the point system that will be employed to choose a victor; and Josh to be part of a rope team that will haul Alan’s small Mini Weber charcoal grill along with hot dogs, hamburgers and all the basic compliments to the summit where it would then be manned by a heavy handed chef.

We set the date for Labor Day weekend 2012, plan it to be a three day event with two official gatherings of all the participants, one to open and one to close and announce the winning team.

By the end of May we ship out twenty-seven invitations, allowing for one guest per recipient, in handmade, hand addressed envelopes stuffed with the final draft of Alan’s rules and regulations as well as basic event information and an RSVP card with postage already attached. We begin anxiously awaiting the slow trickle of RSVPs as it will be the only way to gauge the general response of all, curators wishing to remain as anonymous as possible for as long as is deemed reasonable.

Invitations, each stack is three deep.

RSVP cards

Unfortunately, a measly three cards are mailed back to us, laying the other twenty-four, at thirty-two cents a piece, to waste. Regardless of our anonymity, we still manage to perceive the small buzz underlying the community invited, thanks to a certain popular social networking website. One participant even plans on flying from three thousand miles away!

As the event, now lovingly deemed GNARfest, creeps close, a few straggling invites are extended to the second string list. For me, the week prior is spent gathering rolls of film, testing a new camera and preparing myself to grill pounds of meat while being tied into an anchor, from an incredible view. For Alan, it is passed working and house sitting (dog sitting) and attempting to gather a few more participants, in light of the poor and rainy grey forecast.

Relaxing on the summit

Alan and his loaner dog

Days before we plan on packing the car with our things and our two dogs (one on loan), Josh informs us that he is no longer available for the event. This throws us off balance significantly as he comprised a crucial part of the two rope teams we were sending to the summit to manage grilling and documenting (lowering a capable human-in-harness off the side, camera in tow). We scramble for a replacement on such short notice, are unsuccessful and move to Plan B, only created moments after this intelligence. Plan B means I bake four dozen chocolate chip cookies to pass out on the summit during the event to compensate for our new found inability to haul a ridiculous grilling element to the summit in the spirit of the game.

With appropriate preparations made, car packed and dogs situated, Alan and I depart sometime around 10pm.

The rest of this story can be viewed here, the rules and cover letter below:

Cover Letter

Dear and partner,

Your presence is hereby requested at the first annual GNAR Games held at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia at 9:00 AM on Friday, August 31 through 6:00 PM on Sunday, September 2nd.

Congratulations! You are invited to be a part of the first annual game of GNAR. We feel the spirit of this experience will be strengthened by your presence. You have been carefully selected by a board of knowledgeable experts. We hope you accept this opportunity to join us and hope you will enjoy and contribute positively to the game of GNAR.

Enclosed, you will find the rules and scoring sheet for the game of GNAR. Please review them prior to the initial meeting in order to be prepared with any questions, and so that you may have a general grasp on the concept of the game.

The game of GNAR is a competition amongst friends which has been designed to challenge you physically while ensuring that a light hearted mood prevails throughout the course of the game. This competition is meant to accomplish a few things. First, that you have fun, climbing is supposed to be fun! Hopefully this adds to the enjoyment normally derived from your climbing experience at Seneca. Secondly, that you challenge yourself. While this is not meant as a serious affair, we do hope the game of GNAR can serve as motivation to push yourself beyond your typical comfort zone. Use this as your reason to get up at the crack of dawn to lengthen your day; this as the reason to get back on your project. Go challenge yourself! It is a nice feeling, especially with the support of so many others! Third, this competition should showcase to others on the mountain how much fun can be had. While some of these bonus points might have you acting slightly foolish, everything has been carefully reviewed; deemed fairly safe and relatively comical to all non participating climbers. Let’s show them how to have a good time! Fourth and finally, to win, maybe even to crush.

As you will notice, there is a vast amount of interpretation left to your discretion regarding some of the rules. Please remember at all times the spirit of the game and keep this in the forefront of your mind throughout the weekend. You and your partner are in charge of keeping track of your own points. You are a team. It is not necessary for both members of the team to do the actions that earn points. What one person does for the team, counts for the team. Again, I urge you to keep in mind the spirit of the game at all times.

Yet again, I cannot stress enough that you keep in mind the spirit of the game.

Looking forward to your appearance,

Your humble host(s)

Rules and Points

Every route is worth the decimal grade of the route x1000 + 200 points for every pitch. (eg. Skyline Traverse (5.3), is worth 3000 points + 600 points (3 pitches)

Extra Credit Points:


  • x3 of total route value. B.N. Bare-ass Naked- Climb the route bare ass naked. (If jailed, no points awarded.)
    • Quadruple climb score if you climb any of the following B.N.
      • Ecstasy
      • Triple S
      • Gunsight to South Peak
  • +1000 R.Y. Raddness Yell- Announcing to another party “Yo! Check me out! I’m about to fire this rig! Whooo!” in a loud, obnoxious manner just before starting the crux pitch or sequence.
  • +1000 E.C. Ego Claim-Announcing to a party that you are “the best climber on the mountain”.
  • +200 points per pitch. C.D. Climbing in Darkness- Climbing pitches after dark (requiring headlamp)
  • +200 points per pitch. C.F. Climbing Flips- Climbing pitches in flip flops
  • x2 of total route value. F.S. First Summit- Be the first team to sign the summit register for the weekend
  • +200 R.P. Rocking Packs- Rocking anyone’s pack (excluding your partner) and having them successfully carry the rock to the bottom of the Stair Master.
  • +1000 P.M. PoachMaster- Snake another competitors route while they are at the base racking up.
  • +400 L.P. Linking Pitches- Successfully link any two pitches. (according to Tony Barnes most recent guidebook.)
  • +200 B.G. Booty Gear- Scoring any amount of stuck/booty gear while climbing.


  • +500 C.B. Cook Breakfast- Cooking breakfast at the first belay on your first route of the day. (+1000 if you cook pancakes)
  • +500 M.C. Matching Costumes- Wear matching or themed costumes with your climbing partner. (Best costumes of the weekend gets extra +500)
  • +300 D.H. Drink Handout- Hand out 3 Redbulls or 5 P.B.R to climbers while at/on the crag.
  • +500 F.M. First on Mountain- Being the first party climbing on Seneca in the morning
  • +500 L.M. Last on Mountain-Being the last party climbing on Seneca in the evening.
  • +200 B.B. Best Bag- Asking a non-bias person to judge who has the coolest chalkbag (in a group of 4 or more), and winning.
  • +200 R.F. Route Finder- Ask any non-participating party the location of the route you are currently climbing on.
  • +200 E.I. Epic Indicator- Be the first to spot someone wearing a headlamp on their helmet during the day.
  • +600 B.R. Bragging Rights- Brag to at least 5 people how rad you got today. Must be done after climbing.
  • +200 H.H. Helmet Hair- Asking a non-bias person to judge who has the coolest helmet hair (in a group of 4 or more), and winning.
  • +200 O.R. Old-Skool Rappel- Use a Munter Hitch/ Carabiner Brake to rappel an entire route.


  • +500 G.C.O. Guide Call-Out- Telling a climbing guide that you “climb way harder” than he/she does in a degrading manner. Note: NO clients can be present.
  • +10000 S.B. Summit Bivy- Spending the night on the summit (excluded from last/first party climbing E.C.P.)
  • +2000 D.T. Dinner Time- Scoring an invite to dinner with Moma D
  • +1500 K.C. Kiwi Coil- Climb with a Kiwi coil and mountaineering axe for an entire day.

Minus Points:

  • -2000 G.G. Goodbye Gear- if you have to leave gear for any reason
  • -100 A.T. Air Time- if you or your partner falls (only subtract points once per route, no matter how many times you fall)
  • -300 H.D. Hang Dog- if you hang dog on lead (only subtract points once per route you dogged)
  • -10000 G.O. Game Over- if you have a day ending injury
  • -5000 D.A. Dumbass- Failing to wear a helmet
  • -500 G.P. Get Poached- if you get your route poached while racking up at the base.
  • -3000 D.G. dropping gear.
  • -100 R.W. Rolling down the Windows- Get caught waving/flailing arms while falling.
  • -500 S.G. Slow Go- Leading a pitch and taking more than one hour. May be canceled by screaming “im crushing it!”
  • -500 M.P. Wearing Manpris

Don’t miss Part II of this entry!

One thought on “GNAR Seneca Part I: Origins, Rules and Objectives

  1. Pingback: GNAR: Part II | Things So Far

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