Friday, September 26, 2014

Climbing at the Red River Gorge

Before climbing began, Zach and I went on a trail run to the Natural Bridge. It was a tough mile uphill, but we had fun pushing ourselves up the trail. We then set out exploring the trails at the top and enjoyed to lovely views. We still miss the views Tennessee offered us, but it was fun to get out of the car and move our legs. We even tried our hand at a few trick jumps off the "Lover's Leap" sign. Zach obviously is more photogenic in action shots then I am...
View of the Natural Bridge.



I did land on my feet, surprisingly enough:)
We then headed to Miguel's, the local climber camping, and set up camp. Its a nice place to stay and it doesn't cost much, but it was not as much fun as Del and Marte's. I guess there is only going to be one Lily Pad:)
Climbing in the world class area of the Red River Gorge, can be slightly intimidating for me as I don't feel like I lead/climb hard enough grades. When Zach and I rolled into a wall with some classic climbs in the 5.8-5.11 grade range, I was worried I wouldn't be able to get up them all. But I am apparently getting a little stronger, and I was able to climb to the top of all of them on lead!! I was pretty stoked:) I only rested on the rope on the hardest of the climbs, but I was still excited I was able to do all the moves on the climb and get to the top as the lead climber! My favorite climb was a 5.10b climb. This is the hardest lead I have done without falling or resting on the rope, so I was pretty excited. This was my third year to climb in the Red River Gorge, but my first year feeling strong here!
Hanging out with the rocks;)

We saw our first Kentucky snake that day when the group next to us found it trying to climb up the wall. It was small and harmless and looked pretty freaked out that his territory had been invaded by a group a crazy people. Hopefully, he got away, but we didn't hang around to find out. I did keep an extra keen eye out for them in the path from then on though. 
Our second day was a fun trip back to Muir Valley, a piece of property operated by a family who keeps the trails and signs in great condition. We love going to this place. The rock face we were looking for was called the Hideout and had lots of classic 5.10 climbs on it! I was super excited to work on leading at that grade. Zach and I had a blast on these climbs and I lead everything I climbed that day:) No top roping for me! I was excited to feel strong and comfortable leading. Zach pushed himself on a harder climb (5.12b) and I was really proud of him. I was happy to just belay and watch him make the hard moves. Someday, I'll be able to climb that hard! 
We also ran into a friend, Adrian, we had made last year while climbing at the red. He was working a 5.12d climb which is a lot harder then he was climbing last year. We heard a yell of excitement after we left him and found out later he had finally sent the route without falling! It was his hardest route yet! Way to go, Adrian! 
On our way back out of the climbing area, I was walking along happily (but still on snake alert) when my danger alert alarmed! A copper head snake was lying across the path a few feet in front of me! I remember seeing him for a split second before my flight reaction set in. Poor Zach was behind me and thus in my escape route. I about bulldozed through him because in my mind the snake was after me. Luckily, he wasn't chasing me and when I finaly spoke words again, I let Zach know what the heck I was doing. That snake did not want to give up its spot and it took forever for us to get it to move over. Neither of us wanted to go around off the path because who knew what else was lurking. He struck at the stick Zach was using to move it a long a few times before finally going off the path. It didn't go as far as I would have liked and so I had to sprint by without looking or I wasn't going to be able to stomach walking by. It wasn't close enough to get me, just too close for my own comfort. 
After that, I walked pretty slow with the stick clip pole in front of me to scare away any of the other snake friends. We made it out of the forest and I happily hopped into the car.
At night, there is a group hangout place behind Miguel's Pizza and Climbing shop. We hung out there some of the time, but found we really were more comfortable in our own van. We had fun watching Battle Star Galactica and playing nintendo video games in the comfort of our own home:) I really do love our van and the set up so much!
Our final climbing day at the Red, we decided to search out for some more traditional climbing. This lead us to the Indian Creek area and we hiked up a trail that was a little overgrown (and therefore more difficult for me to do my snake scan!) and found the climbs we were looking for. Zach lead both of these because I am still working on the easier trad climbs (where you place your own gear instead of clipping preplaced bolts). One was a 5.9+ grade crack that was large enough to get hand jams. Zach did a wonderful job and lead the entire thing without falling! I was impressed and also excited to try out the climb. He had made it look easy, but when I got up there, I realized how hard he had been working! I took a few breaks on the rope and fell one time. I had a blast trying to work my body up the crack! It is a far different feeling and technique then sport climbing where you grab the next hold. I would jam my right hand into the crack and then my right foot, stand up and try and get my left hand in up higher. I did this move over and over to get up to the top. It was a lot of work, but so rewarding to be at the top.
Such a cooling looking climb. Crack Attack 5.9+

Zach's new pink shoes...pretty:)

Everything checks out A OK:)

The crack!
Zach wanted to lead a finger crack which means you can fit your fingers into the crack, but that's it. I wasn't feeling strong enough of a crack climber to follow this one, but I was super excited to support Zach on it! He worked his way though the difficult sections and took some great falls on the gear he had placed. All of his placements held superbly and he worked hard to keep getting further up the route. Now that he knows the climb, I have no doubt he could get it without falling! It was a 5.11d crack climb! Amazing:) 
Zach checking out the 5.11d called Fibulator.
The climb took most everything he had, so we packed it up for the day and headed back out of the jungle to our van. I made Zach go first because I had already had my snake siting for the trip and it was his turn to jump. And jump he did. He even made a little monkey sound. I was so confused on what was going on until I saw the large black snake ahead of him. This guy wasn't poisonous so he quickly tried to get out of our way. He didn't scare me as much, but I sure enjoyed watching Zach get spooked! He had laughed at how slow I was walking after my encounter. Now it was his turn to pause and go a little slower:) We had fun finishing up our nature hike back to the car. I didn't realize quite how on edge I was walking out of there until we got to the van and I breathed out a huge sigh. I was so happy not to have to look for snakes for a little while!
We drove back to Miguel's where we were camping and made mac and cheese! I was a pretty happy gal! We had also gotten Ale8 from the convenience store and enjoyed the regional sweet pop as we settled in for the night. We also had new neighbors and one of them told me her copperhead story where two snakes were around her as she gathered up her climbing stuff! I was definitely glad we weren't going to be hiking back there again. The snakes must be getting ready for winter, but I'm ready for them to go back underground for awhile. 
The perfect combo!
This morning (Friday 9/26), we packed up and headed out of the Red River Gorge. It was fun, but we were ready to move on. We were listening to NPR and a story about apple cider came on. Zach searched and found an apple orchard and cider place nearby. We stopped and got some cider:) Its so fun being able to go where we want to go! 
 I'm excited to be heading to Ohio to meet some of Zach's family! We just stopped to eat lunch and hang out for a bit at a Panera near Cincinnati and then carry on. Our plan is to spend the weekend with family then head out to the New River Gorge in West Virginia to spend a few weeks. We are absolutely loving van life and all it has to offer! One month in and I can't imagine doing anything else! The vanventure continues!!

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