The Red River Gorge Climbing Trip Recap Part II

Click here to read Part I, if you haven’t done so already.

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We woke up to overcast skies on Saturday morning and got moving, hoping to get some sends in before it rained, like the forecast was projecting. We got out to Muir Valley before 10:00 a.m. and booked it straight over to The Boneyard Wall. We were, well let’s just say “happy-go-lucky” to have gotten a decent nights rest, put food in our bellies, and to be going climbing with each other on actual rock and not stuck pulling plastic in the gym. Danny started singing songs and some of us joined in. I think the most popular song was All The Small Things by Blink 182. I guess it took everyone back to their middle school and elementary days.

We got to The Boneyard Wall after about 15 minutes of hiking. When we got there, another group were just finishing up on a couple of 5.9’s, routes that we wanted to warm up on. To kill some time, we decided to explore the rest of The Boneyard Wall and we were sure glad we did. At the far right end of the wall I was able to see my first ever outdoor 5.13 routes with perma-draws bolted into the overhanging rock above. It was an amazing sight to see and I just couldn’t stop daydreaming and thinking that one day, I’ll be able to send these insane routes.

Once we were done gawking at the sheer amazingness around us, we headed back and the other group was just about to start cleaning the route. Once they were don, Carly geared up and took off setting On-Armed Bandit (5.9). It was a pretty big and vertical 80 foot climb that looked pretty menacing. The start seemed to be the worst, with the first bolt far out of reach so the stick clip came in handy on this route. By the time she was done setting gear on all 10 bolts and the two anchors, the skies were starting to get dark. We decided it was best to just get all the gear off the wall before it got too wet and wasn’t climbable. Melinda top roped it and we all felt like it was no big deal until that first bolt of lightning struck and we heard the booming thunder right behind it. Before we knew it, the skies opened up and started dumping rain all over Melinda and the route. She was about halfway up before her and her belayer thought it was best for her to just hike up to the 10th bolt, retrieving gear on the way, and then get lowered leaving only 2 draws on the anchors. 2 draws can easily be replaced and we were all happy that she was back on the ground and off the route with all the lightning in the area.

We packed up all our gear and took cover in a cave right by us, now that’s what I call some dumb luck on our part. Ha! It took about 30 minutes for the storm to pass and no one wanted to really venture out into the rain since we all left our pack covers at home, except for Danny. Once the storm had passed, all the routes at The Boneyard Wall were soaked and we hit the trail over to Tectonic Wall because it was more overhung and we had a better shot at finding some dry routes there. I was stoked to be heading that way because my friend Katie, from The Morning Fresh, told me before I left that there was a stellar route here called Plate Tectonics (5.10a), which was recently upgraded from a 5.9+ rating.

Once we strolled in, we saw that there were already a couple groups there and the only dry and open route was Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky (5.10b), a humorous and fitting name for a route in Kentucky if I do say so myself. Danny went all beast mode on and set the route for everyone, that guy is an animal and is so much fun to watch climb. I took my turn on it and my excuses for only getting to the second bolt are: I was really tired, my arms were hurting from the day before, and I was hungry. One good thing that come of it…I took my first outdoor whipper! Come to find out, it aint so bad, especially if you have an awesome belayer that knows how to give you an easy catch so you slow down nice n’ easy rather than coming to a dead spot after falling about 10 feet.

Here’s some shots of a few of my friends crushing on Gettin’ Lucky In Kentucky, some of these just so happen to be some of my favorite shots I got on the whole trip.

Danny

Danny on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at Tectonic Wall at the Red River Gorge in Muir Valley in Kentucky

 

Danny Rufrano on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Melinda

Melinda on Plate Tectonics 5.10a at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Melinda on Plate Tectonics 5.10a at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Melinda on Plate Tectonics 5.10a at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Josh

Josh on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Josh on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Carly

Carly on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Carly on Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky 5.10b at the Tectonic Wall in Muir Valley at the Red River Gorge

Plate Tectonics finally opened up. We set it and I just couldn’t wait to get my turn on the route. The hardest part looked to be the start since the feet were bad and had some rubber built up on them from all the different climbers getting on it over the years. As I was belaying on Gettin’ Lucky In Kentucky, my climber took a little whipper and I made one of the most boneheaded mistakes of my life. For some reason I was caught off guard and decided to brake with my feed hand (my left hand) rather than my brake hand (my right hand). As I was trying to brake with my left hand, I just felt the rope starting to burn my skin. I got pulled off my feet, up the wall a bit and I could already feel my hand on fire. I kept belaying until my climber finished the route and got her back on the ground safe. I got my first look at my hand and saw burn blisters had already formed on 4 of my fingers and different parts of the palm of my hand. It was a burning sensation that I’ve never felt before.

I quickly poured some cool water over it and it helped, but the burning sensation came right back. I grabbed my ClimbOn! Bar and slathered that stuff all Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior cooling off his rope burn in his Watertight Rain Jacket by Columbia Sportswear in the rain at Muir Valley in The Red River Gorgeover my hand. It helped with the burning a little bit, but what helped the most was the cool raining falling from the sky. Alison helped me put my Columbia Watertight Jacket on since everything I touched with my left hand made the burning worsen. I got all zipped up and let stood in the rain, letting the rain cool and soothe my burning hand while everyone else climbed. I guess that’s what I get for being an idiot, lesson learned, and at least I stayed dry.

Katie was right, Plate Tectonics looked like it was a really fun route. Luckily my hand started cooling off, thanks to the ClimbOn! Bar and cool rain mixture and I was able to get some more shots of my friends on this route.

Again, we packed up and Alison was being a flippin’ awesome girlfriend (nothing new here). My hand was still really sensitive so she helped me pack up all my smelly climbing gear. Helped me get my pack on and was there to help my get my straps buckled and tightened down before heading out.

It was only mid-afternoon, the burning sensation on my hand was starting to fade, and there were still more routes to be sent. We made our way to Bruise Brothers Wall since we knew we’d find a wide variety of dry and overhung routes. T our surpirse, we found another group of our friends that had driven up that night, making a total of 4 groups of Floridians driving 12+ hours to find some of the most epic sport climbing in the U.S. What a crazy bunch we are.

Alison setting her first sport route on a 5.7 at the Bruise Brothers Wall in Muir Valley at The Red River GorgeAlmost everyone in our group wanted to climb routes in the 5.10 grade range, but Danny found a super sweet 5.7 and showed it to Alison and me. It looked like the perfect route for her to set for the first time. I was pumped the day before that my girlfriend climbed sport for the first time and now she was setting a sport route? No matter what my hand looked and felt like, I wanted to have the honor of belaying her on this momentous occasion. The chick set and cleaned the route like she’d been doing it for years and I was on the ground, happy as can be.

The sun had already started setting by this time, so most of us started the long uphill walk back to the parking lot. Again, we stopped by the beer shack on the way back to Miguel’s to get some beer. I was referred to a new Ale that I fell in love with, Kentucky Bourbon Ale. Has the sweet taste of bourbon, but brewed like an ale and I fell in love with that stuff. Not to mention that it’s 8%+ and will make you feel great when you’ve barely eaten all day.

We got back to camp, had some grubb, got cleaned up , and shared some stories with our other friends that we hadn’t seen all day before calling it a night.

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