* FIRED UP: One of the striking things about going to a mountain sports festival is running into, over and over, the intensity of purpose shared by top-level competitors from sports that at first glance don't seem to have much in common. Such was the case at the Teva Mountain Games held earlier this month in and around Vail, Colo. Bikers, trail runners, adventure racers, kayakers, climbers and others trekked in from afar (New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Kensington, etc.) to compete, at frustratingly high altitudes, for cash prizes and bragging rights. The money was nice, of course, but you quickly got the sense it wasn't the sole motivation for those who took part.

Whether lining up for a whitewater kayak sprint against South Africa's Steve Fisher, who came to fame on the huge water of the White Nile and the Zambezi rivers and recently was anointed by Sports Illustrated magazine as being "widely acknowledged as the world's top all-around kayaker," or watching a group of climbers take turns leaping and spinning 360 degrees -- then spectacularly grabbing at hand-holds way up on a bouldering wall temporarily built on a parking lot -- you came away with the sense, no matter how much partying was done the night before or how deeply hung over the athletes may have been, that the moment an event started all that vanished and everyone played for keeps.

Being there was intense and fun, which also describes what it feels like to try your hardest when moving up and along the stone holds and cracks veining the walls at Carderock, for decades a popular stomping ground for the Washington area climbing community. Located just outside the Beltway on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, Carderock remains a good place to rope up with other enthusiasts and to sharpen your skills. A good time to do so is at the after-work climbing sessions normally held on Wednesdays starting at 4 p.m. and hosted by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

You don't have to be a member to attend but you do have to sign a liability waiver, so it is a good idea to give advance notice that you're going. Be sure to bring your climbing gear. For directions and to learn more about the sessions and the club, check out www.patc.net/chapters/mtn_sect/. . . .

The Blue Ridge Section of the American Alpine Club will gather for its monthly meeting tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the Rhodeside Grill at 1836 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington. The featured speaker will be noted climber and American Alpine Club President Mark Richey. Nonmembers are welcome. For more information and directions, visit brs.alpineclub.org/.

* FLOAT YOUR BOAT: The West Virginia Rivers Coalition will hold its seventh annual Potomac River Reception on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Old Ebbitt Grill in the District. For tickets to the fundraiser, call 304-637-7201. For more about the group's conservation efforts, which includes protecting "the Potomac River from polluters, untreated sewage and the alarming problem of Intersex in fish," visit www.wvrivers.org/. . . . The fourth annual Potomac Sojourn, a "week-long canoeing and kayaking expedition that features riverside camping, history, restoration projects" and much else, begins on July 9. For more, visit www.acb-online.org/project.cfm?vid=241.

-- John Mullen