Wednesday, October 28

Kentucky Still-Stoked

Usually a couple hundred miles of highway lie in-between beautiful world class cliffs. After a couple days of climbing, you jump back in the car, and drive to the next spot- incredibly inspiring to always be sampling new-to-you high quality stone and it drives climbers all around the world to road trip. Wouldn't it just be ridiculous if there was a place on earth where you needn't drive to reach that next spot? where you could stay put for weeks, or months and still hit a new, amazing cliff, everyday?

Enter the Red River Gorge. In my opinion, one of America's greatest resources for rock climbers. I imagine you get the point.. I'm still impressed. And I'm still inspired.

On Monday, fresh after a rest day and still buzzing from my success on '50 Words for Pump' and 'Cherry Red'. I headed to the GMC wall, appropriately named after a ditched GMC that lies topside beneath the cliff. 'Thanatopsis' 14b was a route that had been on my mind from the moment I made plans to come to the Red. Short and slabby by local standards, this Dave Hume route is a technical masterpiece. On my first attempt I managed to figure out beta for what I thought was the crux, a very difficult dead point off of a terrible right hand crimp. This movement leads directly into another hard move involving a good right hand side pull and a powerful cross through to a poor left hand crimp. This move stumped me, numerous times. I lowered to the ground contemplating the subtleties of my body position and footwork, confident that a minor shift would make the difference, but uncertain as to what it might be. I had enough time to contemplate while my boy Benny took his time sussing out the amazing 'Cut Throat' 13b just next door. On my second burn I entered the crux confident that locking off the right hand side-pull very hard would prove adequate, and to my surprise it did! I found myself at a poor rest above the crux, peering up at a rather large, blank section of stone between me and the anchors.. some inner (and outer) dialogue began.. 'a jump perhaps? I suck at jumping.. is there a crimp somewhere? Oh shit I'm getting pumped.. f*ck it, I'll jump!!!' no dice. I grabbed a terrible rail just inches from a jug. But, it did give me the opportunity to hang a rope for Scott to shoot and also put a whopping tick on the finishing jug. After a good rest I finished Thanatopsis, so stoked. Such an amazing route- one of my favorites at the grade anywhere. On the soft side of 14b, but considerably harder than the other 14a's here, no question. Bottom line- wicked movement and a welcome change from ultra steep jug climbing; a Red River classic.

Benny trying 'Cut Throat' got me all stoked for the rest of the GMC wall. I was able to flash 'Cut Throat' and onsighted a very cool 12d that ascends a shallow corner called '8-Ball' along with a very straight forward, albeit awesome 13a called 'Snooker'. 'White Man's- everything' was baking in the sun so I headed over to the undertow to hang with my friends Tony Yao, Mike Alkaitis, Alli Rainey and Kevin Wilkinson.. all great people. I finished the day on two great 13a's, 'Convicted' and 'Skin Boat'. 12 pitches total.. I was tired. Maybe a little too tired actually, the next day I was feeling it.

We woke up to rain on Tuesday, and thus decided to head to a rain-okay spot, which was definitely the Dark Side- it was completely dry. This wall is rad. A rainbow band of honeycomb pockets runs the length of the wall at about third bolt height and offers a few tight pockets and tough moves on nearly every climb there- get your bowling ball grab on!! Warming up is a little hard here, but we managed. I fired an onsight on 'The Force' 13a to kick things off. Either I was tired (indeed) and / or this wall is stout (indeed), but all these climbs felt solid. I tried and failed to onsight 'Swingline' 13d. This route offers a super interesting crux involving a sloper gaston and some thin, accurate pockets.. super cool and different, I sent 2nd try. I managed an onsight on 'The Return of Darth Maul' 13b (absolutely wicked and perhaps the best of that grade at the Red IMO) and 'Mind Meld' 12d. At the end of the day, all brutalized and battered I somehow clipped chains on 'Elephant Man' 13b second go- ultra hard crux move! Benny killed it. Doing 'The Force' second try- 5.13 in a day boi!!!! sick.

Now I'm at the crib, checking flight status like a freak cause my girlfriend and Andy Mann are supposed to arrive tonight, but Denver is experiencing a nightmarish winter storm explosion. Got my fingers crossed for sure...

Scott Milton has been putting together the video from this last week, including an almost finished short on 'Lucifer' - looks so sick!! It'll be posted up here soon, so stay tuned. I'm stoked beyond belief at my successes thus far and to think I have 5 more climbing days in this incredible place is mad inspirational! Thanks for all the love everybody!

Photos Compliments: Sandra Studer / ARCTERYX