Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Red

It isn't often we get a chance to climb outside our native crags. But when we do, it is worth it to be highly selective. Last year a few friends and I tossed together a trip to the great state of Kentucky. And since last year was such a blast, we decided to make a repeat visit.

While KY boasts many exciting locations ranging from the Creation Museum to the Woodford Reserve, we decided to head straight for the Red River Gorge.

We had heard many a tale of the climbing at The Red and for once the gossips were right. Amazing sandstone pockets fill the massive walls. Easy climbs, hard climbs, they are all over the gorge and none are more than 20 minutes from the central food hub of Miguel's. Whether you are fixated by trad climbing or you spend some time clipping bolts as a sport climber, there is something here that will tickle your fancy.

Thoroughly bolted and amazingly mapped, The Red easily houses a lifetime worth of climbing. The gorge is dominated by naturally formed sandstone pockets and long iron deposits. While the iron bands form excellent crimps, I preferred the soft pockets with natural thumb catches. What I really like about sandstone is that it is really soft on the hands and beckons you to climb long after your muscles are telling you it is time to quit.

While, as it seems I can't get over, the whole area is covered with classic climbs. But few resonated with me as much as Fuzzy Undercling. I first climbed it on our trip last year, but felt compelled to get back on it this year. Couple of stiff moves at the bottom allow for beta sprayers to fight over equally fun alternatives; a) core tension on a side pull rail as you static your way up to a right hand jug or b) plant a high(ish) right foot on a sloping rail and spring up to that same right hand jug. Do it both ways for full value! For the rest of the route I spent more energy focusing on keeping the heart rate down than wondering if the next hold was good, it becomes abundantly clear 10 ft off the ground that the "right" holds are well chalked and perfect to grab.

Resting at perfect knee-bar in a hueco about 3/4 of the way up gave me the recovery I needed to clip the anchors. I always have to remind myself to take a look at the view from the anchors, and at The Red, the 180 degree view leaves you wondering just how long ago it was when the mighty river filled this gorge and how amazing it is that it left these perfect walls to climb.

When you go, make sure you stop at Miguel's for some pizza toppings that you may not find around your local haunts. We found ourselves partial to the bacon, jalapeno, roast pork and pineapple combination. A sample size of 5 indicates 100% satisfaction rates. I can only warn you though, the local drink Ale-8-one (pronounced 'A Late One') is quite addictive, and if you can, bring a case home or risk withdrawal.

In short, if you enjoy scenic environments, pulling on rocks, excellent hiking and good eats, the Red River Gorge should be on your shortlist.


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