Archive | May, 2012

Inspiring climbing and a gnarly whipper on Amarillo Sunset at Red River Gorge

While every climb, boulder, and cliff line is undoubtedly beautiful, certain routes offer an aesthetic that sets it apart from neighboring sheets of exposed rock. At Red River Gorge, one of these climbs unrivaled in its glory is “Amarillo Sunset,” a 5.11b that sits in solitude along a secluded area deep in the woods.

The approach to the climb begins with an approach by car. Our first attempts at reaching the back areas of Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve were thwarted by muddy roads with deep ditches carved out in them – no match for my low-profile hatchback. On the second day, we returned with some beta for a better way to get to the crags, and were successful in reaching our pursuit.

Our crew was comprised of the usual Tally Rock Gym suspects, plus two friends-of-friends from New Jersey who were out on their first sport climbing trip. When we made it to the base of Amarillo Sunset, we were greeted by a group who were wrapping up and removing their gear from the bolts. They gushed about what a blast the climb was, and set an atmosphere of charged anticipation amongst my cohorts.

Finally, our crew began to rope up. One by one, the boys crushed through the moves on this stunning line. I had been debating with my lady friend Rachel whether I felt confident enough to lead it, and ultimately settled on top-roping during my first attempt, with the possibility of a second go on lead if I felt strong enough.

I busied myself by clamoring through a thicket thick with poison ivy to a perfectly situated boulder that provided a great vantage point for capturing the impressive stature of Amarillo Sunset. I was joined on my perch by a group of Canadians who humored me with square-shaped Reeses cups and gushing adoration for Niko’s back muscles. We munched on chocolate and watched in awe from our spectacular viewing spot.

When Rachel got on Amarillo Sunset, she instantly squashed my thought of top-roping it as she led it like a true bad ass. Seriously, this girl is 10x the woman I will ever be; she knows no fear, and doesn’t understand the concept of personal limits. For Rachel, the only purpose for limits is to push them.

I snapped photos of Rachel as she powered through the first, second, and third bolts. My own confidence skyrocketed as I watched how effortlessly she seemed to be tackling the route. As she moved to clip the fourth, she hit a tricky spot and didn’t feel comfortable clipping from the appropriate hold – so she continued climbing a bit to gain better footing.

And then she fell.

As all climbers do – and with her legs properly positioned between the rope. Everything was gravy for a split second.

And then she flipped. 

Upon impact with the wall, the rope somehow wrapped itself around her bare legs, and plummeted her into one of those upside-down positions that have you cringing when you watch it happen on Dead Point Mag videos.

There was a round of gasps, and a collective “holy shit” rang throughout our ranks before Rachel quipped down to us with a shaky “I’m okay!” She quickly followed that up with, “I think you should lower me now,” and Niko gently lowered her to the ground then rushed to her side.

After the shock of the moment subsided, I was truly taken by the way my beau tended to my fallen ladyfriend. He was so delicate and concerned, and touched every part of her knee, asking where it hurt. He tenderly flexed her leg and poked at the swollen bits to make sure nothing was broken, and it was apparent that his thorough care for Rachel instantly calmed her.

But enough of my awwww moment. Back to Rachel.

Once the swelling in her knee subsided, she realized that the source of her throbbing pain was actually in her heel – that’s the body part that first made impact with the wall. Someone whipped out a comically sized bottle of Ibuprofen, Rachel downed a couple, and within a few minutes, it was like nothing had ever happened. Like I said, the girl is a bad ass.

I’m a fairly impressionable gal, and Rachel’s experience totally intimidated me – so I got right back to my plan of top-roping the route. Unfortunately, thunder and rain bore down upon us soon after, and that coupled with a whiny European who came up on our group and impatiently mused about how it was a “waste” to hike “all the way” out to the crag to have to wait for this one climb caused me to lose the opportunity to get on the route myself.

Amarillo Sunset taught me a great lesson about regret. If you see a line you want to climb, and you don’t make an effort to climb it (despite weather conditions and rude dudes with snobby accents) – you will regret it.

But now, I have a reason to get back to Red River Gorge as soon as possible. Amarillo Sunset will be mine – and not on top-rope.

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Five Ways to Piss Off Your Campmates

First of all, my time spent at Land of the Arches Campground was an overall phenomenal experience. The site was a mecca for climbers seeking to avoid the chaos of Miguel’s, and my buddies were big fans of the foos ball table located inside the main bunker.

Unfortunately, our camping was not without a few hiccups – thanks to a family of loud hillbillies with no concept of hushed voices, delicate footsteps, or playing by the rules. We had set up our camp in a quiet, unoccupied corner of the campground, satisfied by our wide-open surroundings, and content with our little plot of land. Look how perfect it was:

So, you want to piss off your campmates? Here are five steps to a guaranteed grumpy neighbor.

  1. Begin by arriving at to the campground at 2:30, in the morning. Lights out at camp is 11 PM? Silly campers, this group is just getting started. Forget a quickly pitched tent and instant snoozefest – this collection of inconsiderate campers went right to town setting up their gaudy tented empire. Blow up a giant air mattress with the noisiest pump you can find, hammer in your tent stakes with the mightiest banging possible, and be sure to step on your neighbor’s tent a few times in the process.
  2. During your boisterous twilight set-up process, bicker with your spouse as much as possible. “I wasn’t being nasty, you were being nasty.” – You know what’s nasty? My attitude in the morning after listening to the woes of your finicky relationship all night.
  3. Show total disregard for the concept of shared space. Sure, there’s an enormous amount of grassy sprawl across this campground, but why claim your own area when you can pitch your tent just inches away from another group? Who wouldn’t want to hear the sounds of your quarrels, complaining children, and assorted ruckus? Hog the fire pit, and for bonus points, keep your headlights on for as long as possible when pulling into the site – shining directly upon someone else’s tent, of course.
  4. Let your kids run amok. I know we’re outside, but that doesn’t excuse your excessive use of your outside voice during an hour when everyone else at camp is trying to snooze. I’m not sure which constantly repeated phrase was more obnoxious, “When are we going to Cracker Barrel?” in the middle of the night; or “Who threw away the last frosted Pop Tart?” all morning. Kid, your Pop Tart is in the trash – fish it out and eat it, or shut up and munch on something else.
  5. Don’t forget to rival your entrance spectacle with your exit strategy. Quiet hours run from 11 PM to 7 AM? Perfect, let’s wake up at 6. Since your annoyed campmates moved their tents away from your infuriating mess of a site, ensure that your noisy departure is loud enough to still reach their ears. Rev your truck’s engine a few times for good measure, let the kids haphazardly attempt taking down the tents, and loudly shout “It’s time to wake up!” in a pitch that can awaken everyone else at the campground too.

Thankfully, these rude campers only remained as our camp neighbors for two nights before heading out to infect other parts of Kentucky with their obnoxious disregard for others – but fear not, a few days later, a field trip of 30 middle schoolers descended upon the campground. Thankfully, this time we were wise enough to move ourselves to the most secluded spot in the area.

Moral of the story? Don’t be that guy. 

Do you have any sour experiences with not-so-awesome campmates? I’d love to hear ’em!

Video of Niko crushing Hippocrite (5.12a) at Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge. What a destination. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bummed to see a climbing trip end, particularly because I’ve got about a dozen climbing buddies who are still out there right now. Gorgeous crags, overhangs that stay dry even in downpours, phenomenal pizza, and a beautiful camping experience. A lady truly couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

I have about 800 photos and a dozen or so video clips to edit before the full trip report, but I couldn’t resist posting a quick littleteaser to give you a taste of Kentucky.

This video features Niko climbing “Hippocrite,” an aesthetic 5.12a line that sits towards the left side of a crag called “The Zoo.” We visited this area on Cinco de Mayo, which I declared a rest day. Armed with a six-pack of Coronas, a juicy lime, and a little salt shaker, I spent the afternoon sipping on cold beer while the boys went to town crushing some gnarly routes. Check it out:

Note: This video was shot with my iPhone 4s – and I was about three beers deep when I decided to film the climb, so please excuse the lack of my usual standards, ha. 

Here’s a fun little bonus photo/story: After shooting Niko on Hippocrite, I was overcome with the urge to break the seal – so I tromped down into the woods and found a nice little spot to relieve myself. In my tipsy stupor, I was totally ignorant to what was going on right in front of me – I didn’t even notice the snake that my stream had narrowly missed.

I literally almost squatted on the slithery creature, and upon noticing it, I immediately whipped out my phone to take some pictures of the cute little guy. Here’s the best one – I reckon it might just be the best picture I’ve ever taken on my iPhone:

It wasn’t until I returned to the group and showed off my shots that I was jolted to be informed that my little friend was actually a copperhead. Oops.

Stay tuned for plenty more updates from my trip to Red River Gorge!

Where am I now? Crushin’ rock at Red River Gorge in Kentucky!

Greetings, from a nearly empty Panera Bread in a very, very small town outside of Lexington, Kentucky. After a day of driving that began at 5:00 AM, I’m taking a dinnertime break to co-host the weekly ATQA Adventure Travel chat – and update my lovely readers on my ever-changing whereabouts.

As all my hype on Twitter and Facebook has given away, I am beginning a week-long adventure to Red River Gorge near Slade, Kentucky. Armed with a guidebook, my trusty La Sportiva climbing shoes, and all the appropriate gear, I’m finally putting my endurance training to the test with a crush-fest at this iconic crag. I’m joined by my wonderful co-pilot (in travel and life), Niko, and the owner of Tally Rock Gym, Rich.

Never been to the glorious sandstone wonderland that is Red River Gorge? Give yourself a taste of the adventure with this great video I found while pouring over every bit of Red River Gorge information I could get my hands on prior to the trip:

I’ve got my eye on more routes than I’ll ever be able to tackle in just a week, but my most beloved project is Amarillo Sunset, a gorgeous 5.11b that is calling my name. I’ll be shacked up at a campsite with wi-fi since I’m not taking any time off work for this trip (LivingSocial, I love you for giving me a job that lets me work while on climbing trips!) – so stay tuned for updates live from Red River Gorge!

For now, enjoy this shot of Amarillo Sunset, compliments of Ben Cassedy, who submitted this photo to the Mountain Project collection. Seriously, how could anyone NOT want to get their hands all sweaty and chalky on this beautiful line?

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