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Red River Gorge

November 10, 2009

Red River Gorge

Halloween, World Series, and a steady Rain were going down last weekend. Russ, Roller and I loaded up the Volvo and hit the road around 9:30 Saturday morning.  10 hours later we were rolling into Mt. Sterling Kentucky.  The drive was pretty smooth despite the rain and it was dark quickly.  We decided to stop in Applebee’s in town and see if the world series was on.  We quickly learned nobody in Kentucky watches baseball, especially when College football is on. Applebee’s surely sucks but it’s clearly the gay bar of Mt. Sterling playing music from The Village People, Prince, Queen, and David Bowie on a Saturday night.the nada tunnel

We pulled in to Miguel’s around 8:00. The parking lot was full and there was pull off parking only.  There was a Halloween party going on, Matt Segal was doing a slide show and there was loud music cranking past midnight.  Russ, Roller and I tried taking refuge in the car but some kid decided to jerk off in front of us.  Seriously. I hit him with the high beams and watched him run.  This episode was laughed at for the next 9 days (and counting).  I retired to my tent early and listened to the kids party way too late.  We pitched our tents in a crowded, muddy area just by the goats.

Sunday Nov. 1st. Day Light Savings.  I decided we should head to the crag Funk Rock City. It took us some time to assure ourselves we were on the right trail. I should have read the access more closely, I didn’t realize there would be a water crossing. Fortunately we were able to safely slide our asses along a slippery wet log.  FRC was definitely worth checking out. We got on Joe Camel (5.8+) a short trad corner with a crack.  The anchor is a slung bulge, a bit crap in my opinion.  We moved right a few feet and tackled Infidel (5.11d). Russ hung the draws and took a whipper at the top before getting the redpoint. I flashed the line with Russ’s beta: Don’t Stop, go for the top.  We headed over to my tick for the day, Headstone Sufer (5.10a). Headstone Surfer follows a right facing dihedral up two ledges before kicking back to a lower angle. However, 1/2 the dihedral hangs over the low angle side creating a feeling of an overhanging route. Bomber placements, good stemming and occasional face holds keep the climb at 5.10a.  We took up a suggestion to climb an aesthetic route called Prime Directive (5.11b). With day light waning we didn’t have time to suss out the beta at the crux. Right above the roof we couldn’t decide how to get above the bolt. Out left seemed steep and hard, out right looked like impossible slab on slimy feet and low profile holds. I left a bail biner and we got out of FRC before the sun set.  We ate dinner at Subway and hung around the basement of Miguel’s until bed time.

Monday Nov 2nd. First Week Day. With the weekend rush we picked one of the more popular crags, Roadside. Roadside features lots of sun, a short hike, proximity to Miguel’s and no water crossing to get to the cliff.  We got there a bit early and my fingers froze up on Pulling Pockets (5.10d).  A fun route but the rock was bitingly cold. I waited an hour, and redpointed it.  We moved to the left as the crag filled up. Russ quickly sent Crazyfingers (5.10c) and I yanked a draw through the first move, cleaned the route.  We went to Ro Shampo (5.12a) and had Roller hang the first few draws. Russ onsighted the route and I took some hangs.  It was turning into a low energy day so we stuck Russ on Another Roadside Attraction (5.7), a 5 star trad route. He struggled up to the first ledge and Roller took the lead to the top of the cliff. It is definitely not worth going to the top above the bolted rappel station, more than a few piece from #2-4 camolots would be recommended.  We left the crowds and headed out early.  With a bit of day light on our side we tried the new showers.  I didn’t have soap or shampoo but it was nice to get wet…even though I dropped my thermal in the mud. ASS. We split one of Miguel’s famous pizzas and hung around the basement watching it’s Always Sunny and youtube clips.  The nights were getting colder.

Tuesday Nov 3rd. Roller leaves. Russ and I head to the other hotspot of the Red: the Military Wall. We warmed up on Moonbeam (5.9), Sunshine (5.9+), In the Light (5.10a) swinging leads and moving quickly. We watched some Pro climbers take on the 5.12s and 5.13s to our left.  Lauren Lee and crew were ripping it up and looking good. Russ and I lead Fuzzy Undercling (5.11b) which has a bouldery start and relaxed but fun climbing on up to the anchors.  We hiked around the corner further to check out the wild looking trad line: Jungle Beat (5.9+); I’ll have to return one day and see what that roof is all about. We both walked up Another Doug Reed Route (5.11b), which was stunning in it’s own right.  We packed up, said good by to Lauren Lee and told her to check out the lines around the corner…as if she’d be interested in a 5.9 roof crack. We crossed the trail and examined the Left Flank. There are some good climbs over here for sure.  We got on Wild, Yet Tasty (5.12a). I only gave it one go but it seems very doable once I figured out the beta at the crux. [BETA: after first bolt traverse left on good hand holds. Move up to the half moon feature and clip from a sidepull/cling stance low on the moon. Make a big move to a jug up and right of the bolt.  Relax here. Drop your left hand to a crimp atop the moon feature, cross right hand into the two finger pocket. Rock out left to another  pocket. Move your weight over your feet, pop a crimp or two and fire out right. Jugs to the top]

Wednesday Nov 4th. Muir. Russ and I headed to the Muir Valley. The first wall we hit was Boneyard, we got on Cinderella (5.9), One-Armed bandit (5.9). and Captain Blondie Sinks the Ship (5.11a) which I fucked up and took a hang, despite large holds and easy climbing. We went to Midnight Surf and I tried the boulder problem start of Inequity (5.12b).  I couldn’t put it together (on top rope) and decided not to climb the intimidating headwall. Russ skipped the start and made it almost to the top falling at a large move near the end.  This is one of the most impressive walls we saw all week.  It is roof after roof, tiered and feared.  We crossed down to the Arsenal and finished on Bathtub Mary (5.11a), both sending it clean.  Bathtub Mary features a large huaco you can sit in count rat bones before finishing the steep portion of the route.  We drove into town to find beer and food. We ate in Mt. Sterling at Kathy’s.  We watched a bit of the baseball game on the small TV until basketball was over. Most of the crowd there considered it “boring.”

Thursday, Nov 5th. Rest Day. Though we thought we’d be taking a rest day to visit the distilleries Russ and I decided not to snub our noses at moderate temperatures and a clear sky.  We went to do two Trad lines I had my eyes on.  Autumn (5.9) and Rock Wars (5.10a). Both lines are located at the Long Wall, ascending opposite sides of the same detached feature.  Autumn was great, easy climbing to a steep handcrack. I jammed most of the route and found it exciting. A #3 is needed above the steepness.  Rock Wars follows a finger crack which you lay back, stem and fingerlock in. At the first bolt/ rap) you get a rest on a ledge.  The top 20-30 feet are a lot pumpier than it looks.  Fortunately it takes solid pro. The traverse to the bolted anchor leaves you on good hands, poor feet and some good swing potential.  Fortunately both climbs went clean. We wrapped up our day onsight/flashing Back Door To Paris (5.10c sport).  I think the back-stepping the large boulder up to the 2nd bolt makes the route a lot safer and easier.  We headed down to the car and watched the sun set and had a beer.  We drove out to Walmart to re-up on some supplies and have Mexican at El Camino Real.  I picked up a pillow and extra blanket so I wouldn’t need to drag one of the goats back in to my tent.

Friday, Nov 6th. More Sport. PMRP. Russ and I took up a suggestion to head to the Gallery at Pendergrass Murray Recreational Preserve.  There are a few well stared routes to check out and a really great area. Unfortunately the area is shared with an oil company which is very busy pumping and drilling.  Another downer for the area is the drive in.  We barely made it back out at the end of the day. The road is steep and not paved.  We weren’t the only 2 wheel drive vehicle getting stuck.  Fortunately, with a bit of luck and Russ getting out to push at one point we got out of the preserve.   The gallery has a lot of interesting routes, including a 5 star 5.8, 27 Years of Climbing.  We ticked off Murano  (5.10b) just to the right.  We left the forming crowds to check out Random Precision  (5.11b), which is a balance face climb near an arête.  We both ticked DaVinci’s Left (5.10b) ear which was similar in style to Random Precision, maybe just slightly easier. We decided to find some sun and crossed the parking lot to North 40. The line Amarillo Sunset (5.11b) was stunning. A series of large well spaced carved out holds up a steep blank face.  Lots of under clinging or dynamic moves are required to get up this challenging route.  This is definitely not soft for the grade and demanding considering there are no good rests and a difficult clip at the chains. Russ onsighted and I took hangs. Probably my favorite climb of the trip despite not sending and the moderate grade.  We rushed over to What About Bob Wall to tick the 5 star routes Kentucky Flu (5.10c) and No Sleep ‘Till Campton (5.10b). KY Flu is crimpy and balancy up a the left side of a water groove.  No Sleep has some rough crimps and a challenging crux to fuck up. We sent both in good style just as the sun was dropping.  The toughest send of the day was the gravel road out which took about 6 attempts with the crux at the top of the hill.   We rejoiced with a pit stop at the beer trailer and pizza at Miguel’s.

Saturday Nov 7th. Phantasia. With the weekend upon us the crowds have returned to Miguel’s and the crags. In an attempt to skirt the crowds we headed to the Phantasia wall in the trad heavy Eastern Gorge area.  We took two open lines: Pogue Ethic (5.9) and Overlord (5.10) before heading back to the tick of the day: Twinkie (5.12a).  Russ sent the climb first go. Twinkie ascends a tricky slab to a rest before the wall kicks back 40degrees over your head. 2 clips up to a big rail and the wall gets steeper yet. Fire through 4 bolts to a no hands rest before 10 more feet of climbing to the chains. I made a good push the first go but was flummoxed on mediocre holds before the rest. I gave it a second go but did even worse, grabbing the wrong hold.  I think it will go if I were a bit more fresh.  Russ gave Phantasia a go (5.12d) and made some progress up the steep wall. I didn’t bother.  We finished up on the classic Creature Feature (5.9) which is like a 5.9 gunks roof move followed by easy 5.5 climbing up plates to the top.  We made a return trip to the beer trailer. We picked up 24oz cans of BEAST ICE and a 6er.  Dave met us at Miguel’s and we had some pizza and hung out upstairs.

Sunday Nov 8th, I was ready to head home and ignore the weather.  We stopped a few times, unfortunately we tried KFC…which is now blacklisted (along with Arby’s).  We cruised pretty well up till Baltimore when we got stuck in 3 hours of traffic due to a flipped oil tanker. I got home around 11, rolled over to N3rd and had dinner and beers.  I think I was slightly delirious after 2 beers but managed to take a shower before crawling into bed.

The trip was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back to the Red.  I was seriously impressed with the climbs and the areas.  The crowds are a bit overwhelming on the weekends, which is surprising given the fact that the red is close to NO WHERE. Also there isn’t much of a town around the Red, restaurants besides Miguel’s require a drive.  The camping is ok, most people cook for themselves so breakfast and pizza dinner is somewhat manageable. I ate egg wraps every morning we were there. The shell station near by has enough crap to suite your needs the rest of the trip. Camping is only $2 a night, internet is cheap and the food reasonably priced.  Miguel’s has some gear if you need new shoes, replacement pieces, draws or a rope.  There are lots of collage age kids hanging around for months on end. We met a few people that were there for more than a month, a week is pretty good though.

more photos on Russ’s site

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One Comment
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