What a place:
Beautiful scenery (definitely coming in the Fall is the best time of year to come, just to see the changing of all the leaves across the forest).
America for all it's amazing qualities, and it's flaws.
The amusement of seeing Miguel's campsite in a 'dry' county, but able to purchase beer in another county only a kilometer up the road.
Eating Miguel's awesome pizzas.
The realization of just. how. big. the USA. is.
And the people, what a great bunch of people (mainly American, but lots of internationals too). This is why I travel as much as I climb - to meet those with a similar bond:
In no particular order:
- Spider, in his 50's/60's absolutely going for it on routes in the mid 7's/5.12's
- Dru, a soon-to-be-if-not-already 8b+/5.14a crusher, with an awesome attitude.
- Nate & Natalie - positive energy
- Elodie, still traveling and inspring!
- Sabina and Matt of Switzerland, eternally smiling as the Red pump overtook their arms
- Margarita, in her 40's/50's?, killing Flower Power 8a.
- The Austrians showing their on another level to everyone else.......
- All those females going for it on the 5.12's and 13's
- Pat and Boone the dog
- Johnny, the first every James Joyce fanatic I've come across, and in all places Kentucky. For reminding me I never want to wreck my shoulder climbing!
- Those two amputee climbers (both climbing with one prosthetic leg) climbing 5.13 (7c+ and above). I'm humbled.
- Canadian Phil, the wall owner, for what he's doing to help the local disadvantaged kids.
- Eddie B and Alex B, nice to meet faces from home!
- Amanda showing the Arkansaw psyche and laugh
- Rick and Liz Webber for showing me a true passion for giving back to the community
The RRGCC and the Webber's
What was truly inspiring was the structure in how access has been arranged to many of the climbing areas. In a turn that I've never seen anywhere else in the world, the local community of climbers have grouped together to form the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition to not only maintain relationships with local land owners, but also buy
any areas that have issues. Most notably, some of the most major climbing crags in The Red (Bob Marley, Chocolate Factory, The Motherlode, etc) all were threatened with closure due to access issues, so the RRGCC bought all 700 acres of land there (with the accompanying $30,000 a year mortgage), all fully funded by donations from climbers. How inspiring is that and the power of the community!
As for the Webbers, both in their late 60's (and Rick still climbing 5.12), they own, pay for 90% of all the maintenance fees, and host 30,000 climbers per year on their property, The Muir Valley - which is open to all, free of charge (although, they're obviously keen to take donations). Having met Rick on our first morning there, as he walked around to welcome everyone (as they seem to do every single morning), it was a privilege to get to explore their wonderful land and climbing (it's about the size of Glendalough valley with hundreds of climbs). For more information, Outsider Magazine has a great article/interview here
And of course, I have to mention the climbing. Yes, it's as good as they say. Being sandstone, there is challenging sections caused by sheer blankness which can be overcome easily by reach or with major difficulty by shorter climbers, that's about the only bad thing I can say. The bolting is sparce too which makes for epic falls too and lets you focus just on the fun of climbing and movement. Knowing that there's lots of wild and dangerous creatures (snakes, bears, etc) in the forest makes for a truly special destination.
|We camped this time at Miguel's but next time I'd love to bring enough people to book this out. The 'Penthouse', a 16-person cabin that Miguel has to rent.|
|Sipping down some of the local refreshment soft drink.|
|Five Ten Teams and a Sterling Nano rope. Both perfectly at home. If you're on the lookout for new gear, you'd be doing well to consider these.|
|Eddie Barbour, high on 'Last of the Bohicans', 5.13c/8b on a last-day send.|
|Hallowe'en dessert-eating party at Miguels. All made by the campers.|
|Lovely shot from last day of Naomi trying Chainsaw Massacre 5.12b/7b at the Motherlode on the least steep section of wall|
|Naomi taking the plummet of Chainsaw!|
|Nice book to arrive home to!|
|'Arty' shot taken approaching Chicago on the return flight.|
In the end, it was a great trip. I didn't climb as well as I'd hoped (I was pushing to break into a new grade) but left onsighting most 7c's, almost onsighting 7c+ (dropped two soooo close to the chains) and climbing 8a+ third redpoint. I did have a go or two on one of the well known 8b's but came away with my tail between my legs from some crucial errors - it's becoming obvious that at 8b I can't always figure out the moves on my own, and also need some guidance on how
to climb such difficult, sustained, movement. Nice to know I've been able to get to 8a+ on my own though. Not bad overall.
Naomi gained a lot of new experience climbing on the much steeper than usual terrain she's comfortable on which I suspect has opened up a lot of new climbing for her. Eddie Barbour was killing it under the guiding hand of Alex Barrows too - impressive to see the two guys taking down a bunch of hard routes including one of the classic 8b+'s in the Motherlode.