Wanna get really motivated? Try driving 18.5 hours, alone, across the great plains of America in a single effort. After an endlessly flat horizon and miles of lethally dull landscape, motivation to climb, or move, or really do anything but sit and stare will be oozing from your pores. Early on Sunday morning, when I awoke at a freezing Missouri rest stop in the back of my packed Subaru, I could smell my own special scent of motivation (or was that just the too many long hours in a car funk?). Regardless, I was so stoked that I drove directly to the crag on a hunch that I could meet up with a few friends and get some pitches in- something.. anything.. I would have paid $10 a catch at this point- that is motivation.
Maybe it was this overwhelming level of excitement, or the great people I've recently met, or perhaps it's these ridiculously inspiring cliffs that are around every turn, but I can full-heartedly say that the Red River Gorge is the shit.
The night I arrived I accidentally met up with photographer Andrew Burr as we were both somehow lost trying to find the Purgatory. I thankfully had the excuse of having just come off a desperately boring car ride. Two heads truly are better than one though, and as a team we were able to find the (clearly) marked path to this amazing wall. BOOM! Red River Gorge at its finest and I was completely blown away by this beautiful, massive cliff. Motivation still oozing, I jumped right on an incredible warm up and then moved my rope beneath the wicked 'Lucifer' 5.14c. After a good re-con burn I was completely stoked out of my mind on the movement, aesthetics and difficulty of this beast. Lucifer is a stunner, and I was fully inspired. On my second effort I was able to grit my teeth and manage a one-hang. Stoked. Very Stoked. And tired.
Back to the house to meet up with the crew and get a good night sleep. The following day Lauren Lee and I had an epic morning of bush-whacking in the efforts to find some trad climbs before we gave up and headed over to the Purgatory. I was extremely excited to try Lucifer again, to the extent that it surely must have annoyed Lauren. Thankfully I got my chance, although I could only manage a one hang on it for my third and fourth burns.. On my final effort of the day I was hoping to suss moves and refine beta, but before I knew it I had fired the bouldery crux and somehow was feeling refreshed at the crappy rest immediately after. I knew that I had a chance to finish it, but I was also aware of A) how tired I was at this point in the day and B) how much difficulty was between me and the top. I grit my teeth, licked the bag, dug deep, tried hard, or whatever other ways you wanna say it but after 20 more feet of hard bouldering in shallow pockets and edges and another 50 feet of puke-in-your-mouth-pumpy jugs later I was clipping chains. Scott Milton and Brian Goldstone of Arcteryx got there just in time to catch my ascent on both film and with stills (see attached photos complements of Brian and Arcteryx). Climbing such an amazing route is a hell of a way to kick off a great trip and I could not be more stoked.. until the next day of course.
Having never been to the Red before, looking through the guidebook causes almost too much excitement to handle. It's easy to get lost in your stoke and end up going crazy with planning. Lucky for us the Arcteryx film and photo crew was around to help make decisions for us. Gold Coast it was, no problem, I'm happy, let's go. Yet another ridiculous wall, covered in difficulty and stunningly beautiful. After warming up on a couple amazing traditional cracks Lauren and I headed to the burl. I got the beta run down on 'God's Own Stone' 14a, and was able to succeed at a flash. I followed up with an on-sight on the incredible 'Golden Boy' 13b (one of the best of the grade I've ever been on) and also 'Black Gold' 13c. To cap off this fantastic day I did a less-travelled route called 'True Love' 13d on my second attempt- a great Dave Hume route albeit not quite in the same star category as the others I thought.. A great day out for sure with perfect weather and good people all around - the Gold Coast is legit!
I felt I'd earned a rest day and here I am.. resting.. Kentucky style! Shooting guns in the morning and buying used furniture in the afternoon. Brilliant. I'll update on the next rest day- hope everyone in the northern hemisphere is loving the fall.. it's time to get out and send your proj!!
photos: Brian Goldstone- Lucifer, Golden Boy and Black Gold..