Climbing and Kratom Tea: Passion Hidden in the Hills

Monroe County, Ohio and Wetzel County, West Virginia sit across each other on either side of the Ohio River. Both counties are sparsely populated, filled mainly with the rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Kiedaisch Point Park is one of the many incredible recreation destinations scattered throughout the area. Locals love it for its moderate hiking trail to a picnic area and its overlook of the Ohio River at the top of the point.

Sandstone: the Cornerstone of an Appalachian Community

The Ohio River has flowed for 2.5 – 3 million years through the sedimentary rock deposited during the Pennsylvanian and Permian geologic periods, around 300 million years ago. In the summertime, dense vegetation covers the steep hills along the riverside. If you don’t look closely, the trees and vines can completely obscure the forty-foot walls of sandstone that erosion has carved out over the ages.

Fog fills the valley on most mornings on Kiedaisch, as cool air passes over the warm water in the Ohio River.

There are a few people, however, who have taken notice of the rock, and flocked to it. Those people are climbers.

If you’re asking yourself, what in the world does climbing have to do with kratom tea? Well, for us at Top Tree, the answer is everything.

Just off the path of the trail that winds its way up Kiedaisch, there are a few spots of rock wall that the small community of climbers in Monroe County and Wetzel County frequent. There are hundreds of people that visit Kiedaisch for hiking and trail running each week. Far fewer is the number of people that veer off the trail and towards the rock face that stretches along the hillside.

Climbing at Kiedaisch

One of those people is Joe Haught. Joe is a cheerful man in his 50s, born and raised in West Virginia, well loved by his small-town community. He began climbing over twenty years ago as a way to exercise and meet new people in the area. He has a passion not just for climbing, but also white-water rafting, camping, and numerous other adventurous activities.

Joe has learned a lot over his decades of climbing. Not just about crimps and holds and routes up Kiedaisch (which he is certainly an expert at), but also about mental fortitude and building community. The latter is especially meaningful in an area that has lost much of its population and vibrancy through decades of rural depopulation. Joe has introduced numerous Ohio Valley locals and newcomers into the Kiedaisch climbing community. Even if you’ve never worn a harness before, Joe ensures you feel right at home.

While Joe has gained a significant amount of climbing knowledge through the years, he’s admittedly lost a bit of his agility to age and pain in his hands. His recovery time from a hard climb has lengthened, and he almost stopped climbing entirely a few years ago.

What kept Joe from retiring from the wall? It was kratom tea.

Kratom in Appalachia

Joe, like many other people in the area, had known about kratom for many years but had never tried it.

Many people have the perception that kratom is only sold in head shops. They also assume it’s consumed primarily by people driven to it by chronic conditions. In the Ohio Valley, it’s common to see kratom sold at every smoke shop and gas station. All of these shops sell kratom in bags of powder or capsules. Stores in most other regions of the United States sell kratom in these forms as well.

When Joe was introduced to kratom tea, his perception of kratom shifted. Unlike kratom powder, kratom tea harkens back to the traditional method for consuming kratom. This history of use is not American. Rather, it originates in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, where kratom trees are indigenous. In Thailand in particular, people have used the leaves of kratom trees for centuries. They chew leaves and drink tea to recover from long days of hard labor and socialize with their communities.

Kratom is stigmatized in the US as a gross powder that’s chugged out of necessity. Nevertheless, its traditional use demonstrates that it actually has many benefits when drunk as a casual tea.

For Joe, kratom provides the extra boost of energy needed to ascend the Kiedaisch wall on the weekends. It helps him shorten his recovery period and just generally feel good while spending time with the Kiedaisch climbing crew.

Why climbing means so much to Top Tree

Top Tree is working incredibly hard to change the stigma surrounding kratom. We are fighting against prohibitionism, not just for kratom, but for all natural compounds.

We do not in any way advocate for everyone to consume kratom. Kratom isn’t for everyone. For some people, kratom can be habit-forming (like coffee or sugar), and consumption can induce unwanted side effects. For others, kratom is life-changing; it allows them be active in their communities in ways that weren’t previously possible. And for many people, kratom is just a normal, functional tea that they enjoy drinking.

Joe’s experience with kratom tea means a lot to us here at Top Tree because it emphasizes the need for a reconceptualization of kratom in American society. Our society’s limited understanding of what kratom is and how people use it leads to severe stigmatization. The fact that it’s often sold as a greenish-brown powder made to be swallowed by the spoonful and chased down with orange juice – or worse yet, labeled “not for human consumption” – doesn’t seem to help this case.

Top Tree x Kiedaisch Climbing: The Documentary

That’s why Top Tree spent a great deal of time in October of 2022 filming a documentary at Kiedaisch. The short film is about the small role that kratom tea plays in the Kiedaisch climbing community. On each day of filming, we met at the wall and brewed up a batch of piping-hot kratom tea. We filled up our thermoses, then traversed the wall to attempt to climb its many routes. Over the weekend we were joined by long-time climbers and their families. We also welcomed many locals from Wetzel County and Monroe County who had never been to the wall before.

Top Tree will release the documentary in mid-2023. (Watch it here!) We are enormously excited to share it with the kratom tea community and beyond.

The following is an article written by Kreg Robinson, journalist and manager of the Monroe County Beacon. Kreg ventured over the the wall to join us on our final day of filming. He originally published the article in the Beacon on October 27, 2022.

A Passion Hidden In the Hills

By Kreg Robinson for the Monroe County Beacon

Most folks driving along State Route 7 had no idea what was happening on the hillside just north of Hannibal. They might have seen several vehicles parked along the side of the road, but that wouldn’t tell you what was hidden. There were hints at the bottom of the hill, just off the west edge of the road. Looking up through the trees, you can see and hear sounds of activity.

The sounds get louder as you wind your way up the hill until you reach a long rock face that stretches a mile or more north along a thin trail that spans the very edge of Kiedaisch Park. As you reach the rocks, you find what the happening was – a combination of a picnic, a party, a hobby, a challenge and an escape. Tents, hammocks and ropes greet you, as do climbers dangling from the 30-foot hillside. All this, hidden by the leaves of fall, is Monroe County’s hidden passion – rock climbing.

This past Sunday, a group of around a dozen took to the trails and cliff to tackle climbs with names of “Poison Oak” and Poison Ivy”, “Hannibal Lecter” and “Jonnie Cliffhanger.” Climbers would take turns, with one climbing and another belaying, or holding the ropes to make sure the climber is safe.

Among the group scaling a variety of summits was Joe Haught, the discoverer of the hidden rock face and, with his discovery, the originator of climbing in our small part of the world. Haught, who lives in Reader, West Virginia, recalled the day he first spied the rocks along Route 7.

“I was driving by during the winter and I could see the wall from the road,” he said.

Seeing the long cliff side, Haught started seeing the possibilities.

“I got the bug,” he said, immediately wanting to pull over and see what was up there.

He found a path up the hillside, an old logging trail, one that is still used today by climbers and found a climbing paradise. Some time later, while sitting around Baristas Cafe in New Martinsville, West Virginia, Haught again caught the bug. He decided with some friends to go climb the rock. Since then, Haught, along with his friends and family, and what has become a small tight-knit group of enthusiasts, have cleared the trail, created climbing paths and, essentially, created a small climbing club in Monroe and Wetzel counties.

Among the group Sunday was Monroe County native Casey Bott and Seth Jackson, a newcomer to rock climbing and Monroe Country. After watching one of the more veteran climbers, Mike Carney, attempt to climb “Jonnie Cliffhanger,” a steep, sheer, 30-plus foot edge, Bott and Jackson decided to attack it. Finding the right route proved challenging for Bott, as handholds were few and far between, as were footrests, which were sorely needed for the challenging climb.

Jackson following, using his height and length, and instinct to quickly scale the rock in a matter of minutes. Like other clubs and groups, Bott shared his excitement in seeing a new climber find success. Like Haught, Bott developed an interest in the hobby by climbing in other locations, such as Seneca Rocks, Cooper’s Rock, and New River Gorge, all located in West Virginia.

Finding a climbable location right in their own backyard was a exciting opportunity for both, which they in turn share with others.

Haught has gone farther and farther down the rock face, finding and christening different climbs along the way, and activity he continues to do on a regular basis. In the meantime, the small community grows and follows him up the trail and up the climb. Parents and children were on the hillside. Mike Carney’s eight-year-old daughter Harper spent part of her morning drawing and then scaled one of the smaller climbs with easy-to-spot handholds.

The day also featured a film crew, as New Martinsville, West Virginia native Soren Shade captured scenes for his upcoming documentary about Haught and the passion he’s developed and shared of rock climbing in Monroe County. Originally, Haught wasn’t sure about being the subject of a documentary, but he warmed up to the idea during filming. He sees that it could be a great way to share a wonderful secret in Monroe Country, something that could bring more and more people to the hobby. And a way to share Haught’s hidden gem with all those people along Route 7 wondering what all the cars are parked are up to.

The Best Kratom Tea for Climbing

We’re changing the pace a bit to give you some of our own pro tips on kratom for climbing. If this article has raised your curiosity about climbing with kratom tea, we have some suggestions based on our experiences. These notes also apply to doing any other type of physical exercise with kratom.

To start, we have a trove of articles focused on choosing the best kratom tea for you. We also recommend reading our brewing guide for preparing your first kratom tea correctly. If you’ve never tried kratom tea before, these are great resources to take a look at.

Staying Hydrated with Kratom Tea

It’s important to pack plenty of water when climbing with kratom. Kratom tea, like coffee, is a diuretic and can make you urinate a little more than usual. Interesting in reading more on how kratom tea works for exercise? Head to our post on using kratom tea as a natural pre-workout.

When it comes to climbing, we recommend brewing a green vein tea strain. Our particular favorite kratom strain for climbing is Balance, a green vein kratom tea. This tea is great for a subtle-yet-solid energy boost that doesn’t make you jittery like caffeine. [Another great characteristic of Super Green Malay: while caffeine may make your hands sweat, SGM isn’t likely to, meaning you’ll go lighter on the chalk!] Many people have said that it helps calm their nerves when climbing with a lot of exposure.

Green Kratom Leaf Tea Bags

We hope you have a great time on any adventures you take with your kratom tea, climbing or otherwise. If you have any questions about drinking kratom tea while climbing, post them in the comments sections below!

Kratom Documentary Release Date

We’ll be updating the website soon with information about the documentary. Until then, as always, cheers to better brewing – and better climbing!

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Caro Freinberg
Caro Freinberg is the head of web design at Top Tree. After many years working in wildlife conservation and veterinary medicine, she’s become passionate about writing on environmental biology and inter-species culture. When she's not whipping up never-been-brewed-before kratom tea recipes for the blog, you'll find her hiking or biking or sketching the day away.

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