The thought of going to The Red River Gorge for some late summer climbing over Labor Day Weekend made me a little apprehensive because of the certain crowds, but Thursday night came and Alison and I loaded up her Jeep Patriot and took off to pick up our friend Lindsey before heading out. Lucky for Alison and myself, Lindsey had just gotten off her shift from working at the local pizza joint by the University of Central Florida (UCF) and hooked us up with one of their famous buffalo chicken slices of pizza. Now, when I say a slice of pizza I mean this slice of pizza is bigger than your head, and I was able to be a man and chow down without any utensils and didn’t even make a mess.
We took turns driving all through the night and I think I ended up getting maybe 4 hours of sleep. I took over driving around 4:00 a.m. and noticed that it was starting to get pretty foggy the closer we got to Kentucky. By 6:00 a.m.ish we were in Kentucky and driving through the mountains. The fog hadn’t lifted so I was staying right at or under st speed limit, just to stay safe. We finally got off I-75 around 8:00 a.m. and started driving through the back country and “surely” I thought to myself “we’re almost there.” Well the fog had gotten worse, the GPS started taking me down sketchy dirt roads, and my two passengers were starting to get a little sick. I guess their Florida stomachs weren’t accustomed to mountainous roads. We finally pulled up to Miguel’s Pizza and Campground at about 10:15 a.m. and got our first look at this world famous place (it’s world famous in the climbing world). We took some time to brush our teeth, use the bathroom, and before we knew it we were on our way to go climbing at one of The Red River Gorge’s many climbing crag’s, Muir Valley.
When we pulled up to the gravel parking lot we were surprised to see only a few cars there, one of which being our fellow Floridian climbers that we were planning on meeting up with. We grabbed some breakfast and while we were munching, on of the owners of Muir Valley, Rick Weber came over and started chatting with us. Not knowing we brought our own, he offered us a stick clip to borrow and gave us some good ideas for walls to check out that I wasn’t even taking into consideration.
First we made our way over to The Guide Wall to get some easy climbs in. We started off on Acrophobics Anonymous (5.4) and then upgraded to Yu Stin Ki Pu (5.6) so Alison and Lindsey could get their first ever sport climb sends in and under their belts. They both got the send in on both of their routes with ease and before we knew it, we gathered our stuff and went up to The Guide Wall. By the time we got done sending Fear of Commitment (5.7) and Irish Mud (5.8-), it was already past 3:00 p.m.! Before we went out looking for the other folks in our group that drove up seperate from us, I decided to give Mercenary of the Mandarin Chicken (5.9) a try. Already tired out of my mind and beat to crap, I ended up having to leave a bail biner behind and get lowered before finishing the route. That was the first time that happened to me and it was a crushing blow to my soul.
We ate some Clif Bar’s and headed over to the Bruise Brothers Wall, since I heard that’s where they might be. We ended up stumbling across a different group of our friends at the Bruise Brothers Wall, a group that we didn’t even know was going so it was a pleasant surprise for all of us. Lucky for us, by the time we got there, they were getting ready to set this beautiful 75 foot route called Send Me On My Way (5.9-). Being that I had a throbbing headache, was out of water, and was suffering from lack of sleep, I decided to sit on the bench and just watch everyone climb.
That didn’t last too long.
After a couple of my friends got their sends in and came down gleaming with excitement of how fun and juggy the route was, my headache miraculously started going away and I decided I needed a redemption route. I worked my way into the pecking order, first I belayed my buddy Danny and then my friend Carly gave me a catch. I was the last one to climb it so, I also had the fun job of cleaning the route by retrieving all the gear that was placed on the wall. By the first bolt I felt like I was spent, but luckily that was the hardest part and it was a straight jugg haul to the finish. I was so stoked to get the send and have some redemption from leaving a carabiner behind on that last 5.9 I had attempted.
The sun was starting to set and we were all tired from a long night of travelling and a day filled with climbing. We made our way back to Miguel’s, our home for the weekend, but not before stopping at the beer shack on the way. We got to Miguel’s paid our camp fees, set up camp, and met up with the third group of our friends that we couldn’t find at all that day. Some of us cooked and some of got some of Miguel’s world famous pizza as we reminisced on our day of driving and climbing.
Have you ever driven through the night? How was it?