Rock Climbing --- 3/18/2005 - 3/26/2005 --- Red River Gorge

Spring Break 2005 in Red River Gorge.

Spring Break 2005 in Red River Gorge, Kentucky

My first trip to Red River Gorge was back in 2001 with Elaina. Hadn't been back since, but I remembered lots of fun sandstone climbing and was looking forward to the return trip. Alana, Lindsay, Joe, Vijay and Jerry are graduating this May. This trip is probably the last major climbing trip all of us will be able to take together. At least until someone plans a reunion.

Friday morning, Alana, Shern and I drive from Ithaca to Kentucky in the cushy red Buick that used to belong to Alana's grandfather. We arrive at Miguel's late at night, set up our tents and get some sleep. Miguel's is a cool place. It is a pizza parlor that caters to climbers. The interior is half pizza parlor, half climbing gear shop. Out back there are a bunch of lockers, picnic tables under a tin roof, sink for washing dishes, a semi-functional toilet and a big muddy field for camping. Also the requisite slack line and not so requisite showers ($1 for five minutes of hot water). All this for only $2/person/night. Pretty good deal considering camping in the Daniel Boone National Forest costs $3/car/night for a parking permit. All the climbers at Miguel's are friendly. Some are a bit too friendly. Alana pointed this out when she remarked that, "you don't say hi to someone's butt."

Saturday morning we head to Pistol Ridge and start climbing. Our first climb of the trip is a dihedral called Ride 'em Cowboy (5.7 trad) which I lead. Next we climb Please Don't Feed the Triceratops (5.7 sport) and Danger Mouse (5.8 sport). All three of us take turns leading those climbs. Then we go to climb It's A Wonderful Life (5.9 sport) a three star route which ascends a slightly overhanging arete. Supposedly this route is R-rated, but the eight bolts seemed well spaced to me. I led up the first four bolts to a large ledge as rain was just beginning to mist down. By the time I clipped the sixth bolt, it was raining hard and the sandstone was getting slick. I downclimbed to the fourth bolt. Shern followed the climb and we walked off from the ledge. The rain continued and we were clearly done climbing for the day.

Everyone else arrived Saturday night. Vijay, Jerry and Joe came in Lindsay's car. Kyle and Jeanine arrived a short time later in Peter's car. We were now a full crew of 10 people, plus Paul and Deena who joined us for two days of climbing before heading back to Ithaca. The original plan was to have 12 people for the full week, but Becky and Burk stayed in Ithaca due to Burk's case of mono (and Becky's pending case?) As Burk put it, "I can't crank hard or my spleen will explode."

Sunday morning Alana, Lindsay and I went to Pebble Beach. Funny that the three of us were the only people on the trip with guidebooks and we weren't climbing with the others. Lindsay was nice enough to loan her book to "The Boys" with the caveat that they better not lose it. Paul and Deena joined us at Pebble Beach, and everyone watched Alana lead the first climb of the day, The Arrowhead (5.7 mixed), a climb with barely enough pro on a freestanding pinnacle. After that we climbed Scabies (5.9+ sport) a short, fun climb that everyone took turns leading. Next we jumped on Environmental Impact (5.7 trad). This is one of the few multi-pitch climbs in Red River Gorge. The first pitch follows a dihedral up to a huge roof. I climb the dihedral for about 30' when one of my feet blows off the sandstone. I fall about 15' and am caught by my last piece, a medium cam. This was a bit disconcerting since I wasn't expecting a fall. This is only my third ever lead fall on trad gear (Retribution and Black Crack are the other two) and was certainly the easiest climb I've fallen off since my first year as a novice climber. I thank the cam, gather my wits, and finish the pitch. Lindsay and Alana follow me up and we all cluster together at a hanging belay. They let me lead the second pitch as well, which was probably more of a curse than a blessing. Traversing right around the roof the climb requires awkward wiggling and at least one head cam move to attain a squeeze chimney which opens slightly near the top. By the time the three of us finished the climb and rappelled to the ground, it was nearly dark.

Sunday dinner was a fantastic stir fry that Alana made. We ate in small or large groups a few other nights as well... Monday Alana, Shern and I ate a huge pot of apple curry couscous that I made. Tuesday Shern made pasta for the three of us. Thursday we all went to a Mexican restaurant outside of Lexington. Everyone was on their own other nights, eating food they brought or Miguel's pizza.

Monday morning Alana, Peter and I went to Fortress Wall, again joined by Paul and Deena. The sun was out, and I was looking forward to climbing in warmer weather. So far this trip it had been around 45F and overcast during the day. Some of the coldest weather I've ever been rock climbing. But it was much warmer than all the ice climbing I had done for the past two months, so no reason to complain. Our first climb of the day was Bedtime For Bonzo (5.6 trad) a three star route which is the only other multi-pitch climb we did during the trip. Unfortunately, it is also one of the very few climbs at Fortress to be totally in the shade all morning. Bummer. Alana led both pitches of the climb. I thought it was very stiff for the grade, but she reached the top and belayed Peter and I up without any problem. After enjoying the sunshine on the summit, we rappelled down and joined Paul and Deena. They had a toprope on Fortress Grunges (5.4 trad) and I took a run up that. Then I led Calypso III (5.2 trad) with the goal of setting a toprope on Serpent (5.10b R trad). Calypso III is the only 5.2 I have ever climbed. Ever. It felt harder in places than most 5.3 and 5.4 climbs I've done. I think some easy trad climbs at Red River Gorge are severely mis-rated. Novice leaders beware. Most of the climb was easy 5.2, but at one point I had an arm bar in the crack at the back of dihedral, one foot jammed in the crack, and nothing else as I flailed with my left arm for a cam which was on my right side and pinned against the wall of the dihedral. Not exactly 5.2 climbing. My comment was that Calypso III felt like "5.2d" and everyone who climbed it after me agreed. Anyhow, I did finish the climb and set the toprope. Serpent was a fun climb that I was able to onsight on toprope. I joked that it was easier than Calypso III.

Tuesday Alana, Lindsay and I went to Roadside Crag. We were joined by Marcus and Erin who were with their friends Nicole and Steve for two days. Marcus and Erin replaced Paul and Deena as the "graduate student couple who could only stay for two days." Alana and I started on Roadside Attraction (5.7 trad) a three star climb that had been on my tick list ever since I started planning this trip. Like every other trad climb I led during the trip, this was a dihedral. It must have something to do with the way the Corbin sandstone fractures -- most climbs that take gear are dihedrals. It was a fun climb with some committing moves. At one point I peered into the wide crack and saw a huge colony of ladybugs. Alana was surprised to see me sitting entirely on a thigh jam about 10' above my last piece with both hands on the camera taking a picture. The top of the climb was a bit hard to protect since I ran out of large gear. I don't own large cams, but I had borrowed two for the trip since I remembered from my 2001 trip that many climbs took large gear. The two large cams were on the rope well below me by the time I reached the last few moves which I was forced to protect with aliens in shallow pockets. This was to be the last trad climb I led for the trip as our focus turned to sport climbing. Alana and I rappelled off Roadside Attraction and went to join everyone at the grid bolted section of cliff at the far right end. It was down here that we ran into Keenan and a large crew from the Miami rock gym where I had climbed with Lauren in 2004. They all knew Lauren and were a fun bunch to hang out with while climbing. We started our sport-fest with Alana leading Trouble Clef (5.9- sport) a fun three star route which I cleaned. Then I led Kampsight (5.9 sport) another fun three star route which Alana cleaned. We continued right and both took a turn toproping C Sharp or B Flat (5.7 sport) which Marcus had set. I finished the day by leading You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish (5.10b sport) a really fun climb with a really cool name. For what it is worth, the first bolt on this climb is about 30' of very easy climbing off the ground. Everyone told me I was crazy and the bolt was less than 20', but they weren't there clipping the thing. This is the hardest climb I have ever climbed onsight, though since it was a sport climb it didn't feel as difficult or as scary as something like the first pitch of MF at the Gunks. It started to rain just as I reached the anchors, so I cleaned the route on rappel and we called it a day. Getting up that climb was a nice end to a great day. A total of 15 stars of climbing for me!

That night we got plenty of rain and I was glad to have refreshed the seam seal on my tent prior to the start of the trip. Wednesday morning the rain cleared and the sun came out. At least long enough to sucker us into climbing. All ten of us went as a group to Roadside. Alana was tired and planned to take a rest day. She selected her outfit with the comment that, "If I can't climb hard, I'll just look hot." I didn't feel like I could climb hard either, but I didn't bring a change of clothes, so I didn't have the option of looking hot (as if clothes could possibly make me look hot). We set a bunch of climbs on the 5.10 wall... AWOL (5.10a sport), Dragonslayer (5.10d sport), Crazyfingers (5.10c sport), and Pulling Pockets (5.10d sport). I climbed AWOL and attempted Crazyfingers and Pulling Pockets, but didn't have the energy to climb them. It started raining early on and continued raining throughout the day. The climbs we were on were so overhung that we stayed dry even during the heaviest downpours. I watched Kyle pinkpoint Ro Shampo (5.11d sport) and then onsight Scissors (5.11d sport). Ro Shampo is a very steep climb with sharp jugs and huge features. I climbed it on toprope and was able to get up a few bolts, but couldn't come close to finishing the route. Jerry also tried leading the route which Joe captured in this video and this video which you just have to watch. Remember, Jerry is the person who once said, "I was about to fall and noticed the rope was around my leg. So instead of moving my leg I prepared to fall upside down."

Near the end of the day, Kyle led Jersey Connection (5.12b sport) and set a toprope on Synchronicity (5.11b trad). A few people took shots at Synchronicity, including Alana who got all the way up even though she wasn't planning to climb hard. I was feeling spent and didn't even give it a try.

This evening we learned that the apartment where Lindsay, Joe, Vijay, Kyle and Jerry live had been broken into while they were gone. Computers and cameras were stolen. Quite a bummer, though it looks like the Cornell Police may have caught the perpetrators. We chilled out that evening by watching Napoleon Dynamite on the DVD player in The Monastery, a shack connected to the toilet and showers in the back of Miguel's.

Thursday we all went to Muir Valley. We had all signed the online release for this private area in anticipation of climbing here at some point. We hiked down to Joe Ponder Branch Hollow where everyone got on a few of the short sport climbs. I went to scout the area while they were climbing. I returned and suggested a new location, but first took a quick run up Barenjager (5.10d sport) to clean it. We all hiked to Lower Tantroft Branch Hollow and quickly got on the rightmost climbs. I led Gettin' Lucky In Kentucky (5.10b sport) which, like You Can Tune A Piano..., has a great name and at 5.10b is one of the hardest climbs I've onsighted. That lead and the previous day's rest had me feeling really confident. So I jumped on Spinner (5.10c sport) and nearly led it onsight, falling once right at the anchors. Other than some sport climbing I did at Caudey's Castle back in 2000, this is the only sport fall I've ever taken. After that I toproped Bethel (5.10b sport), 59" Drill Bitch (5.10a sport), and Plate Tectonics (5.9+ sport). Got them all with no falls, but was exhausted by the time I finished Plate Tectonics. Great day with a total of 14 stars of climbing!

Friday we went to Torrent Falls for one last day climbing as a large group. Jerry led Bandolier (5.11a sport). I attempted to follow, but Jerry had cleaned the draws and the climb was so overhung that when I came off once I was unable to get back to the cliff. After that I went around to where folks had set It's Alive (5.10d sport) and Reanimator (5.10 sport). These two climbs share a very steep start. Check out this video of Lindsay pulling the opening moves of the climb. I climbed It's Alive on toprope and was definitely feeling tired. Then I went to clean Reanimator. About 20' from the top I was hanging on the rope totally exhausted. Then I heard a thunderstorm rolling in. I quickly batmanned the last bit of the climb and cleaned the gear. After the storm passed, I was done for the trip and spent the last two hours watching Kyle attempt Paranoia (5.13b sport). He got up to the eighth bolt before having to lower off. It was the hardest climb I've ever seen anyone attempt. Kyle wasn't tired so he led (and nearly onsighted) Bare Metal Teen (5.12a sport) which my guide says is the "hardest 5.12a in the Red." Meanwhile, Alana and Lindsay both climbed Bandolier on toprope.

That's the trip. Saturday morning Alana, Shern, Joe and I drove back to Ithaca. Lindsay, Vijay and Jerry went to Hershey, PA to spend a day at Lindsay's house. Peter, Kyle and Jeanine stayed to climb Saturday morning, and drove back to Ithaca Saturday night and Sunday.

For me, there were many personal bests on this trip: Seven straight days of climbing. Eight straight days in the same polypro. Nine straight days without a shower. Ten straight days without a shave. Oh... some hard climbs too. Total cost was about $50 for my share of the gas, and $16 for camping. I donated a dollar or two to the private landowners at Torrent Falls, and spent $5 at the Mexican restaurant (mostly eating the free chips). Otherwise my only expense was food, but it was all food I would have eaten at home so there was no extra expense. In fact, it was probably cheaper since I brought mostly dry staples to Kentucky.

Leading Ride 'em Cowboy (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Leading Ride 'em Cowboy    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana leading Danger Mouse (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana leading Danger Mouse    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Shern leading Please Don't Feed the Triceratops (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Shern leading Please Don't Feed the Triceratops    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Deena, Paul and Lindsay (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Deena, Paul and Lindsay    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana preparing to lead The Arrowhead. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana preparing to lead The Arrowhead.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Deena, Alana and Lindsay at Pebble Beach. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Deena, Alana and Lindsay at Pebble Beach.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana starting to lead The Arrowhead. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana starting to lead The Arrowhead.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay starting to follow The Arrowhead. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay starting to follow The Arrowhead.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana and Lindsay (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana and Lindsay    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana and Lindsay (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana and Lindsay    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Paul leading Scabies. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Paul leading Scabies.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Starting up Environmental Impact. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Starting up Environmental Impact.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay, Alana and me at the hanging belay on Environmental Impact (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay, Alana and me at the hanging belay on Environmental Impact    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Paul (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Paul    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Who is that guy with the monkey on his shoulder?  I wonder... (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Who is that guy with the monkey on his shoulder? I wonder...    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Miguel's (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Miguel's    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Breakfast at Miguel's.  Jeanine, Kyle, Jerry, Alana, Lindsay and Shern. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Breakfast at Miguel's. Jeanine, Kyle, Jerry, Alana, Lindsay and Shern.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Tent city behind Miguel's. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Tent city behind Miguel's.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

On the slackline behind Miguel's. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

On the slackline behind Miguel's.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle on the slackline behind Miguel's. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle on the slackline behind Miguel's.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana starting up Bedtime for Bonzo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana starting up Bedtime for Bonzo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana belaying me to the summit of Bedtime for Bonzo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana belaying me to the summit of Bedtime for Bonzo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Nearing the top of Bedtime for Bonzo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Nearing the top of Bedtime for Bonzo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Peter, me and Alana at the top of Bedtime for Bonzo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Peter, me and Alana at the top of Bedtime for Bonzo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Celebrating at the top of Serpent. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Celebrating at the top of Serpent.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Jerry climbing. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Jerry climbing.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Jerry bouldering. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Jerry bouldering.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Jeanine (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Jeanine    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle leading something hard. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle leading something hard.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Huge colony of ladybugs in a crack on Roadside Attraction. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Huge colony of ladybugs in a crack on Roadside Attraction.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay climbing. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay climbing.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay doing the penguin dance. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay doing the penguin dance.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Waiting out the rain at Roadside. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Waiting out the rain at Roadside.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Peter climbing. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Peter climbing.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Vijay on Ro Shampo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Vijay on Ro Shampo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Jerry on Ro Shampo.  Rope?  Yeah!  I knew I forgot something! (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Jerry on Ro Shampo. Rope? Yeah! I knew I forgot something!    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle in the process of pinkpointing Ro Shampo. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle in the process of pinkpointing Ro Shampo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Waiter at a restaurant in Lexington balancing six dinners at one time. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Waiter at a restaurant in Lexington balancing six dinners at one time. Even though the menu clearly states that milk refills are free, they aren't. However, chips are free, so eat plenty.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

The huge overhang behind Torrent Falls. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

The huge overhang behind Torrent Falls.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Torrent Falls. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Torrent Falls.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana at the top of Torrent Falls. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana at the top of Torrent Falls.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Jerry and Joe. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Jerry and Joe.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Shern on the steep opening moves of It's Alive. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Shern on the steep opening moves of It's Alive.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Vijay belaying Kyle on Paranoia. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Vijay belaying Kyle on Paranoia.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle on Paranoia. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle on Paranoia.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Shern relaxing at Torrent Falls. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Shern relaxing at Torrent Falls.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Joe, Jerry and Shern relaxing at Torrent Falls. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Joe, Jerry and Shern relaxing at Torrent Falls.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle leading Bare Metal Teen. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle leading Bare Metal Teen.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Kyle leading Bare Metal Teen. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Kyle leading Bare Metal Teen.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Vijay, Joe, Jerry and Shern (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Vijay, Joe, Jerry and Shern    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Alana belaying Lindsay on Bandolier. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Alana belaying Lindsay on Bandolier.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay climbing Bandolier. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay climbing Bandolier.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Lindsay after falling off Bandolier. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Lindsay after falling off Bandolier.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

End of trip group photo.  Joe, Jerry, Alana, Peter, Lindsay, Vijay, Shern, me, Jeanine and Kyle. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

End of trip group photo. Joe, Jerry, Alana, Peter, Lindsay, Vijay, Shern, me, Jeanine and Kyle.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

My LaSportiva Boulders suffered a sole delamination. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

My LaSportiva Boulders suffered a sole delamination. Duct tape held them together until I returned to Ithaca and applied copious amounts of shoe goo.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Me with 10 days of stubble.  This is about as shaggy as I ever get. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Me with 10 days of stubble. This is about as shaggy as I ever get.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005

Rough sandstone meets soft skin. (Category:  Rock Climbing)

Rough sandstone meets soft skin.    Red River Gorge, KY -- 3/18/2005 - 3/29/2005