Red River Gorge, Ky
Novermber 8, 2010
Coming to the Red is
like coming home. The moment my feet leave the ground there's a
relationship forged on the rock. Some climbs leave lingering impressions
and some ascents feel like a coaxed effort, a sort of attentiveness to
the rock qualities of the day that lead to the success or fail on a
climb. The Red embodies this more than any other crag I've experienced
because the style is more forgiving. Couple that with the number of
people I run into here year to year, the familiarity and friendliness of
everyone envelope me with a sense of community that I rarely
experience anywhere else.
I've had ambitions coming out to the Red this year. As in every year
past, I set my sights on something and hope I can arrange climbing
partners and align my time to get out and achieve some of them. The past
few years have been challenging in this regard, but this year, the stars
aligned and some routes I've had my eye on for the last 4 years finally
had the opportunity to go down!
The first ambition was Orange Juice, an amazing, nearly vertical climb
out in Funk Rock. With the recent droughts, the water level was low and
approachable and the prospect of getting out there was high in my mind.
I happened upon a group of inspirational climbers from Cincinnati and
one of them was psyched to head out there with me. With the parking lot
nearly full when we arrived (at 9am), we had little hope of being the
only ones set on the attempt. By the time we finished our warmup, we had
witnessed numerous groups of up to 8 people entering the crag. We had
been the only ones climbing in this section of the wall, but when we
were finishing, there were queues on everything, including what we had
just completed. The idea that Orange Juice would be free was ludicrous,
in my mind. How could it possibly not be seiged at this point?
Packing up to leave the masses, my climbing buddy (Zach) and I
pondered the thought of it being open, despite the number of people at
the crag. I mean, wouldn't that be a cruel joke on me to come all that
way, assume it was hopeless only to find out later that it was open?
Halting in our tracks, we decided we had to at least see for ourselves,
confirm without a doubt, that the climb was untouchable that day.
We walked the cliff line, through the numerous parties
lunching and climbing until we came to the infamous line, Orange Juice.
It was stunning in the full sun, this prominent, near vertical orange
line of a climb. And, it was open. Not a soul lined up to climb it. One
guy was setting his rope bag under it but his buddy wasn't going up it
anytime soon so they graciously offered us to 'cut' in. It was a
miracle! Zach and I looked at one another and smiled ear to ear as
we set about the climb. To this day, I wonder what the chances are of
that happening. Orange Juice climbed as beautifully as it looked. This
photo by Rich Wheater of Senja Polonen is the best I could find that
gives you an idea of the rock. Brillant, brillant climb. Definitely a
The next ambition was Kaleidoscope. This was a climb I had the pleasure
to experience back in 2007, a year after I had met Monique Forestier
where in that year, she had the line put up and successfully completed
the FA. The line was stunning and everyone (that would be Kenny and
Mike) was trying it. Even with Kenny's huge whipper, see
previous blog post) I was psyched to
get on this route. I made a good bolt to bolt effort back then; in fact,
when I look over
the old photos from that year, I am surprised by how different the climb
looks, today. Not only is my beta completely different this year, but
the holds don't map, either. One shocker I noted was that my beta after
the foothold broke (this year) turned out to be the exact same beta I
had back then, but only for two moves, the upper part I climbed way
differently and I wonder if it's because the climb is well traveled now
that the most used holds are ticked or chalked so that's what I
naturally gravitated toward. In my short trip out last year, I
made a valiant effort to get on the route and had climbed all of the
moves without grabbing draws, but lacked climbing partners to actually
give it a burn. This year, with some planning and luck, I managed to
find climbing partners and made good linkage right away so although it
(I refused to skip the last bolt), the climb came together well and
maybe if I'd been a little braver, would have gone down sooner.
The fact that I was able to see this climb through to a send, is a
relief. It is one climb that has been on my mind since that day in 2007.
Life in Lexington is different from living in the Gorge day to
day, but I can work fulltime, have access to city amenities, visit with
friends in town and the gorge isn't that far away. Note to anyone
considering this option, choose the north side of Lexington. It will
shave 30 minutes off of your drive.
I am hearing that the gorge has more cabins
internet equipped and I hope the next time I make the trip that I can
find a sweet setup in the heart of the climbing. As much as I don't mind
the commute, it makes for weekend warrior climbing days since the
commute can cut into work time.
With only one week left, it's time to start wrapping
things up and look forward to my next adventure. Stay tuned!