Monday, November 28

empty handed

It has been a tough season for me out here in Kentucky-- I would definitely be stretching the truth if I were to say that I'm leaving psyched. It seems that over the last 7 weeks I've been battling one thing or the next-- bad skin, humidity, rain, heat, etc. but before I take it too far... It's always important to put things in perspective. It's only natural that every once and a while a climbing trip turns out sour. At times repeated setbacks can feel like something of a curse, but then I am reminded that this is my life (and that's awesome).. and just like with any pursuit there will always be ups and downs. It's all in your attitude.
It's all good. I'll be reluctantly moving on tomorrow empty handed, but that's not to say that I did not have a few victories out here. This was the first year that I really got a taste for the vast potential in the area (very inspirational). Cliffs stretch for miles in every direction-- the rock here is featured, interesting and almost sculpted for climbing. The primary obstacle, as I'd mentioned before, is access, and while this is no easy egg to crack, I see the continued efforts of select individuals and the RRGCC alike to be working in the right direction.
Home improvement... rainy days are perfect for it.
a lot of hanging out-
I bolted a number of routes while I was here, including a rad new 12c on the Solar Collector I named 'Space Junk'. I also added some awesome routes at a lesser known cliff that all turned out to be quite hard and absolutely brilliant but for the meantime must remain unnamed due to access issues (I suspect/hope this will be a completely open crag in the next few years).
amazing new routes...
As I eluded to before, I spent a good portion of my trip working on the Vader Project, which turned out to be quite an epic process. I entered the fall with a strong ambition of finding a next-level challenge for myself and when I first started working the Vader Project in October I was convinced that this was it-- a heinous boulder problem opens the climb, followed by a resistant mid-section and an even more heinous boulder problem at 2/3 height, ending with a pumpy and explosive finish. I had the climb down to two parts after a number of days (during which a hold broke, a new sequence emerged, etc.). I had been working the route alone until my buddy Dave Graham gave the route an effort two weeks ago. Dave found a path of least resistance that traversed 6 feet around the upper crux. Had I bolted the route originally I would have noticed these holds and directed the route towards it, but instead my vision was narrowed by the belly-to-the-bolts crux that produced the difficulty of a climb I was really looking for. As soon as Dave exposed this alternative sequence, my old method seemed terribly contrived. I moved three bolts slightly, and chalked up the new holds. Now the route was just a matter of me getting through the bottom boulder, which I'd done many times, and linking the top. I was pretty confident that I would take down the Vader on the next good weather day, which, unfortunately never came. A storm rolled in, soaked the route, and after four days of warm, dry weather the route remained wet. Yesterday a larger storm moved in, and is predicted to dump 2+ inches of rain and potentially snow in the region. Bummed, I took my draws off the Vader project on Saturday.
I could certainly wait around and hope for the best, but I feel like my chances are slim and I've spent enough time waiting this year-- I'm ready to move on. I had a great season spending time with a bunch of different friends, exploring this amazing place and climbing as much as possible. Although I'm done with the Red for this year, thankfully my lifestyle is such that it seems as though there is always something to look forward to. I'm blessed to have as much freedom as I do, and what good is freedom if you don't exercise it? Time to make a power move! on to the next location!!
still plenty of metal left over for the winter...
Static line for days!
In between rainy days, walking cliff line and bolting, I did get a few new-to-me routes under my belt. Favorites include the thuggy and powerful 'Supercharger' 14a and the amazing 'Cat's Demise' 13b a burly route with incredible stone (maybe it was my height or the gnarly humidity, but this route felt SOLID at 13c!). Otherwise most of my time climbing was spent again and again repeating some of the classics in an effort to stay fit in-between attempts on the Vader and my other bolted projects.

Tomorrow I'll be headed back west to visit with my family for a bit and have a short mental and physical break from climbing before making my way back to lovely Las Vegas for the winter. Awesome.

Wednesday, November 9

time flies

Time flies in Kentucky...
Have a look at the last 2 weeks.
I've already run through my first two boxes of bolts-- bought two more today. When the weather has not cooperated for climbing, I switch modes into sinking metal. I'm really pleased with my new additions thus far, now I just have to finish climbing them all! The stone here is so well suited for climbing it's almost strange. Lines of pockets, sculpted holds, inspiring features and brilliantly colored walls. I've cleaned a few new routes with nothing more than a tooth brush. Choss certainly exists however (like most areas it's probably 90% choss), but the sheer amount of rock overcomes this statistic.
We've been touring the landscape, taking notes, talking around and making friends. The potential for new routing here is staggering-- the primary obstacle remains to be access and many zones are far too sensitive to even have a peek at. Hopefully, with the tireless effort of the RRGCC and the local and traveling communities alike, we can continue to respect, secure and expand the incredible climbing here in Eastern Kentucky. As I said after my first visit here in 2009, I strongly believe this is America's greatest single pitch climbing resource... and there's a whole lot more where that came from.
With the arrival of some cooler temps I've revisited the Vader Project at the Darkside with some renewed stoke. First day back on the route I managed to do all of the moves-- completing a heinous boulder problem at 2/3 height that I feared to be impossible (at least for me). Over the next few days I continued making progress with better and better links, inspiring some confidence but also absolutely ruining my skin. My skin has had a rest now and tomorrow I'll return to this beast of a climb, hopefully with improved power. This has proved to be a seriously worthy opponent-- the hardest route I've ever tried. Regardless of it's difficulty, or of my success or failure, it's already proven a great learning experience.
The Vader Project takes the blank section of immaculate stone to the left of the obvious chalk line (Return of Darth Moll)
Scott comparing Bourbons
We toured the Buffalo Trace Distillery on our recent rest. It's a rad way to spend a rainy day and some of the best value for your money entertainment anywhere (it's free).
Peer pressure?
Alright... off to climb. Hope everyone out there is enjoying the fall!