Saturday, March 19, 2011, 6.15am. My phone rings and all I get is a “We’ll be at your place in 30 minutes. Hope you are ready to leave..” Of course I was not ready, actually still in bed and cursing myself that I said it’s OK to leave before 7am. Nothing packed, not showered yet. I jumped out of the bed, gave some food to my kitty, and packed my backpack for an amazing 8 days climbing trip. Who needs a shower anyways if there is a week of dirt-bagging ahead…[shashin type=”photo” id=”51″ size=”max” columns=”1″ order=”user” position=”center”]
At 7am we left from Ithaca, Sebastian, Kerry, Stephen and me, in a completely stuffed car, no view through the window in the back, no space to move a limb. Ahead lay a 12-hours drive to Slade, a village in the beautiful state of Kentucky. The driving went somewhat slow, 60 just don’t look much if you are used to the metric system. Besides an Indian reservoir, where the pot-holes were so deep that you thought the car breaks down every second, Columbus and Cincinnatti were the only interesting landmarks along the highway. Ohio is just such a boring state with nothing going on left and right of the six lanes. But then, finally around 7pm we reached our destination, Miguel’s Pizza, THE place to camp at when you are climbing at Red River Gorge. We put up our tents and ordered pizza. And then we remembered what we forgot to bring. Torrent county, a dry county, no alcohol being sold at the weekend. ÜBERFAIL. How to people here survive anyways? So we had to stick to the local soda, ALE 8-1, aka a late one. Apparently everyone loves it and it’s sold only in Kentucky, so we tried it and got hooked up as all the other climbers too.
During dinner we already realized it’s going to be a cold night, and so it was with temperatures around the freezing point. And in my thin sleeping bag I was shivering all night long, until at 6am, exactly on the minute, the rooster living in a shack next to the camping ground reminded us that it’s time to wake up and take the brown climbing pants on.
Around 7am we met for breakfast – a cup of tea, a banana, some cereals. What do you need more. And off we went for the first cliff, superpsyched. Since three of us have never been lead climbing before we picked a place with doable and not too scary routes. We went to Bruise Brothers located in Muir Valley. There were some 5.7s and 5.8s, perfect to learn how to lead. It looked scary and it was scary – to know that even after you have reached the first clip you could still smash into the ground if you fell. Luckily that didn’t happen and after we got a taste of leading, we wanted more.The weather was just amazing, sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, guys unpacking there six packs. Julie was in heaven =) As it started getting dark we went back to Miguel’s for pizza dinner.[shashin type=”photo” id=”60″ size=”max” columns=”1″ order=”user” position=”center”]
Miguel’s pizzas are probably the best and weirdest you can find anywhere. A pizza comes about 12 bucks with 4 toppings, and you can choose amongst toppings such as pasta, sweet potatoes, black beans, rice and the stuff you also find at the average Italian pizza place around the corner, except that all the vegetables are home-grown in Migue’s garden. And yes even vegan pizza available. Julie happy.
We went to sleep early, not enough sleep the previous night, a long day of climbing behind us and another day ahead – and still no beer, reason enough to go to sleep. This time I wore an extra jumper as I crawled into my sleeping bag and what a surprise, it didn’t get as cold as the night before. But the rooster still had no mercy at 6am…
On Monday we went to Phantasia Wall, a nice wall not too long a hike away from the parking lot with the epic 5.12a route ‘Twinkie’. No I didn’t even think about trying it, too overhung. Stephen did it though, hang-dogging. At the wall we were joined by the Colorado climbing team. A group of 12-18 year old kids with the most amazing climbing skills I have ever seen. They started warming up on a 5.10b and continued to flashing Twinkie and the 5-star 5.12d Phantasia without batting an eye. Just impressive those kids. Makes me wonder again why on earth I haven’t started climbing earlier (or why after 2 years I am still stuck at the 5.10b/c level). Feeling a bit bad about our performance compared to the Colorado kids we went to the not so difficult but still epic Pogue Ethics, an 80 feet high 5.9+ with 4 stars. One of best routes I have ever climbed. After that one was off the tick list there was still a nice 5.10b waiting for us, Overlord, which would have also been a 4 star route if it hadn’t been for the blood all over the holds. Thanks a lot to the dude who did the route before us -.- The day ended after another exciting pizza and socializing with decent looking rock climbers at the camp fire while drinking a late one.[shashin type=”photo” id=”54″ size=”max” columns=”1″ order=”user” position=”center”].
On Tuesday we split up. Stephen and Jeff (another Cornell kid) went to The Motherlode, a region with climbs 5.11 (for warming up) and over. Kerry, Sebastian and I took of to PMRP (Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve). Our destination: the Shire. Getting there – an offroad car would have been better. In Kentucky things are a bit weird, so you see things like pipelines coming out of the ground in the middle of the road, and little oil pumps left and right of the road. We managed to reach the parking lot and started with an easy route, Pee-wee, a 2-star 5.7. Wasn’t too exciting so we continued on Audie, Miranda Rayne to the Significant Other. After we felt we were done at the Shire we moved to Volunteer Wall, and then ended the day with Threat Level Blue at the What About Bob Wall. And there we realized how tired we actually were. A 5.9 with three stars didn’t sound that bad for ending the day, except for the description “Make a committing move to clip the chains”. Sebastian gave up on it at the last clip. I made the committing move, but couldn’t hold it to clip the anchors and took a pretty nice whipper onto the ledge under me. Too tired for another attempt that route called for our first and (luckily) last bail-out biner. But we had fun, especially with our first stick clip attempt – a tree branch, some tape, a quick draw and a little rock – make something out of it. On the way back we finally remembered to grab some beers. When climbing at Red River Gorge there is only one place to get beer, the Beer Trailer. A large banner on the roof greets you with “Welcome Rock Climbers”, and sold are beers from all over the world. Next to pickled eggs on the counter a small sign reminds you that also shirts are sold, and what would a climbing trip be without a shirt bought from a local. So we got our C&S Carry Out Beer Trailer shirts and left with happy faces – happy about beer, happy about a 12 pack of ALE 8-1 (from now on every day would start with a late one), and brand new shirts that would be unique there where we had to return to. The day finished as all the previous days – with a crative pizza from Miguel and some chit-chat at the camp fire.[shashin type=”photo” id=”49″ size=”max” columns=”1″ order=”user” position=”center”]
Wednesday was our official rest day. No climbing for today, but just in case I packed a rope, a harness and a pair of shoes, you never know. The day started later than the others, we ignored the rooster and got up some time around 8am. The destination for today was Natural Bridge, as the name says, a naturally formed bridge. The weather was OK, the occasional rain drop, but nothing to worry about, not yet. We hiked the trails and after 2 hours we saw what there was to be seen. We decided to check out a place called Global Village. The hike to the crag was pretty long, but it was a rest day anyways and we weren’t in a hurry. The guys brought some beer, I brought some equipment and climbed the 4 star 85 feet 5.6 Eureka. An easy one that seriously deserved the 4 stars. It was so fun I did it twice. After that one we found a more challenging 5.10b, Loosen up, and Sebastian and I climbed it while Kerry and Stephen took care of the beers. And then the rain started.
The next morning was rather cold and I had a small pond in my tent. But the crags were dry and so we went to Military Wall. This wall has lead climbs 5.9 and up and it turned out to be an amazing day. Sebastian hang-dogged the 5.11b Fuzzy Undercling, and Kerry and me started on the 5.10b Danita Dolores with a “Desperate start.” A tree helped to get at least the hands on the starting hold, a pull up, and let the fun begin. Sweet route! Because we felt like the kings of the world we went on to the 5.10d Possum Lips. Almost made it clean, but just almost. After dinner I moved to Kerry into the EMS sugar shack due to my tent being completely wet. Stephen and Sebastian joined for making a plan for the next day, our last climbing day. However, we had to break up the planning and delayed it till the next morning because Stephen tried to kill us with the stench of his feet.
Friday morning we decided to finish our trip in the same region where it began, in Muir Valley. We went to the Great Wall, split up there, Sebastian and Stephen went to Solarium, and Kerry and me hit the Hideout and Indie Wall. Although the weather was not great we got a lot done. As it got dark we met up and went for our last pizza at Miguel’s.
Saturday morning we skipped breakfast and decided to stop somewhere at the highway for a bite to eat. Note: at the waffle house in Ohio people don’t know what vegan means. They made it sound like a disease. Subway, here I come. On our journey back we then saw a native Kentuckyan taking a deep sip from his beer can while driving. Since he didn’t let us pass and drove a sinus curve on the road, we stopped at a petrol station to fuel up, and I bought another souvenir, a redneck shirt. We arrived in Ithaca around 9pm. I was dropped off first, and shortly after I got in, Stephen called to tell me what I forgot in the car. Kerry and Sebastian continued their trip down to New Paltz – another 3 hours of driving.
In conclusion: It’s been an amazing spring break trip that I’ll never forget! It was certainly better than spending spring break in Orlando or at some other beach rolling drunk on the ground and not remembering anything. I met a lot of nice (6pack) people, ate the weirdest pizzas ever and got 6 days of climbing done. Thanks to Stephen, Sebastian, Kerry and the other Cornell kids that met up with us at Miguel’s and made the trip unforgettable, and special credit to my new solutions – the best shoe I have had so far :P[shashin type=”photo” id=”58″ size=”max” columns=”1″ order=”user” position=”center”]