The last time we headed to the Red River Gorge our intent was just to climb some real, outdoor sport routes. As a part of that goal we wanted to explore the Muir Valley. Now, having a modicum of experience, we had loftier objectives. We wanted to top out on something which was higher than we could get in a rock gym. This time our goal was to send ‘Eureka’.
Eureka is located in an area called Global Village, which is probably a mile hike from the road. In March we made the hike and got set up to make the climb. The rock was very cold, but we were prepared. We had hand warmers in our chalk bags. However, even that was no help; the wall was soaked. The water running down was a frigid mix of cold rain and melting snow. Matt, the first to attempt the climb, got no further than sixteen feet before calling it off. Fortunately, late March’s unusually cold weather was replaced by May’s unseasonably warm weather.
We arrived at the parking lot early on Friday, but not early enough. One car had arrived just before we did, and they were headed to Eureka. Our goal for the weekend was to send Eureka, so we couldn’t just give up. We decided to follow the other group in. We would find another route to try while they were working on Eureka, and they agreed to let us know when they were done.
The route we decided to tackle while waiting was ‘Kentucky Pinstripe’. Prior to our trip Doug had been telling us that snakes were prevalent in the area. I pretty much dismissed the concern. I have spent time in southern Ohio where snakes are also supposed to be prevalent, and have seen very few. As we rounded the corner to ‘Kentucky Pinstripe’ there was a medium sized copperhead snake in our path. We routed around the snake and it ended up sliding under a nearby rock.
‘Kentucky Pinstripe’ is listed as a 5.10a. Our unofficial limit was 5.9, but this was the easiest route in Global Village besides Eureka, so it was our only choice. Like much of the Red, the hardest part was near the bottom, after that it was fun climbing. The entire route sloped backwards, and after about thirty feet there were some nice large ledges. ‘Kentucky Pinstripe’ is taller than Eureka. The top is above the trees, and a nice secluded cabin is visible off ot the right. This route gets full morning sun. It was a little too hot on this trip, but would have been great back in March.
Next to ‘Kentucky Pinstripe’ is a trad route called ‘Father and Son’. The route follows a finger width crack. We didn’t have much trad gear, but we could reach the anchors for the route from the large ledge accessible via ‘Kentucky Pinstripe’. So, we were planning to set a top rope and try some crack climbing. Then, the other group of climbers let us know that they were done with Eureka.
Eureka stands 70 feet tall, but its 5.6 rating makes it approachable for beginners. Which is good, because it was going to be my first real lead climb. Everyone, except me, led it to the anchors. I made it one bolt from the anchor before burning out. I struggled way too long on one move. I should have just went for it, but I think the mental weight of having never taken a fall on rock weighed me down. This is when I decided I need to find some opportunity to take some outdoor lead falls.
The forecast called for rain in the afternoon, so we went back to Miguels to get a late lunch and plan out our afternoon. We made it just in time. We ate lunch on the back patio as a small storm blew through. When the rain seemed done, we headed to The Crossroads. It had been such a long, hot day that we were beat by the time we got to the crag. We struggled enough with Deeznuts, which is just a 5.8, that we almost left some gear on the wall. Matt cleaned the route and we called it a day.
On Saturday we headed to the Muir Valley. We were still beat, so we practiced anchor clearing in the early morning. In the late morning we headed back to the guide wall for some easier climbing. I lead ‘Fear of Commitment’, which is a 5.7 with only two bolts. I was having trouble making the small leap for the last move, so I decided to take a fall. Then another. I took a few falls just to get more comfortable with the idea. Falling was starting to be fun. The last move was easy at that point. Doug and Matt took turns taking some falls next.
Originally, we were thinking that we should find an ideal location to practice taking falls. After taking falls on ‘Fear of Commitment’ we realized that we should really be comfortable taking falls on any wall that we are leading. If we are not comfortable falling on a wall, then we should probably not climb that wall – just in case we were to fall.
Matt was the last to take lead falls, so he cleaned the route. That’s when it started pouring. And that’s how we ended this trip.
An very artistic shot, taken by Doug, of me working 'Kentucky Pinstripe'
Canon T3i, EF 28mm f/1.8 USM