Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Among sport climbers in America, the Red River Gorge carries with it an almost mythical allure. I've heard climbers extoll the virtues of the area so many times that it seemed it could never live up to the grandiose expectations I had cultivated for it. Granted, not everyone is a complete fanatic about the Red, but even so, I've never heard anything but praise for the climbing there. The quality of rock, the immense amount of climbs, the abundance of five-star cliffs...

With laudation like that, it's needless to say that I was psyched to visit the area for the first time this previous fall. I flew out from San Francisco into Lexington, Kentucky a few days before Thanksgiving to spend my break from school getting acquainted with the reportedly immaculate expanses of sandstone cliffs.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't comply and I spent much of my nine days in Kentucky watching the rain from inside the small, cold and slightly run-down house I was crammed into with eight other climbers. It was damp, chilly, and oppressively dreary- not the most inspiring conditions.

even Zeke was bored

Thanks to the overhanging nature of many of the cliffs, I did get some climbing in even when it was pouring rain. It soon became clear to me why so many people fall in love with the Red- the sheer amount of high quality routes impressive, plus the holds on the rocks are just so interesting to grab and seem perfectly suited for human hands.

Me on Check Your Grip 12a (Alli Rainey photo)

Jonathan on SchizaFist 14a (Alli Rainey photo)

I wasn't quite as blown away as I had anticipated, but I'll chalk that up to the weather being such a limiting factor. It was hard to get psyched in the dismal grey omnipresent drizzle that loomed over us the entire time I was there. Smith Rock in Oregon still stands as my all-time favorite sport climbing area, then probably Ten Sleep, WY, with the Red coming in third. I'll revaluate that ranking after another visit to Kentucky, hopefully accompanied by some sunshine.