Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

A small world indeed…

It might take me a day or so to get back up to speed about what’s happening in West Virginia. I’ve spent the past four days in Utah at the midwinter Board of Directors meeting of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

My job there was to participate in a 4-hour Executive Committee meeting and to record the minutes for the 9-hour Board meeting. One of the trip’s perks was an opportunity to attend Outdoor Retailers Association’s winter trade show at the Salt Palace. Wow! From winter camping to ice climbing to skiing, the show was a giant toy box for outdoor lovers. Another nice perk was a gourmet dinner at the Snowbird ski resort just outside Salt Lake City. There I met Guillermo “Willie” Benegas, a mountain climber and mountaineering guide from Argentina who has reached the summit of Mt. Everest seven times. He said the most disappointing thing about climbing the world’s highest peak is that the exertion, the altitude and the weather keep most climbers from spending more than a few minutes at the top.

“After 10 or 15 minutes, you have to head down. If you don’t, you’re putting yourself in danger,” he explained.

On one magic day, however, Willie’s duties as a guide required him to make his ascent early in the morning and come down with the members of his expedition who reached the peak last.

“I got to spend 3 ½ hours up there,” he said with a grin. “It was fantastic!”

How does this relate to hunting and fishing? It doesn’t, really. But it does have a West Virginia connection.

Turns out that Willie spent nearly three months here climbing on Pendleton County’s Seneca Rocks and on the Endless Wall of Fayette County’s New River Gorge.

“I was dating a New River rafting guide at the time,” he said in his lilting Spanish accent. “She’d spend her days on the river, and I’d spend my days on the cliffs. I have good memories of West Virginia.”