Grace Wu

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Stop #28: Red River Gorge, KY

From Murfreesboro/Nashville, I drove northeast to Slade, KY, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest. More specifically, I was headed to Miguel’s Pizza, the epicenter of climbing in the Red River Gorge (and cheap camping!) Climbing here is famous, professional climbers come to test themselves on steep Corbin Sandstone cliffs while the beginner or average climber can find something to get on.

I had purposely planned to come here towards the end of my trip, hoping to get some good fall sending temps. Mother Nature had other plans. There was a heat wave hovering over the whole Midwest and South and it was not moving until next week. I was able to find a partner online, through a forum post on Mountain Project. I met Mike at Miguel’s Sunday night and we planned what we would climb the next day. Mike is a retired firefighter from Indianapolis who discovered climbing last year. When he retired, he bought a Nissan van and has traveled to various places to climb. I’d say that sounds like a pretty good retirement!

Red River Gorge has hundreds, actually, thousands of climbs in the area. Climbing is spread out over different areas in the Gorge. Mike is relatively new to climbing so we both agreed on easy routes in the Muir Valley area. We were able to climb several easy warm-up climbs (two 5.7’s) and a long, fun 5.10a that was luckily still in the shade. The heat made it harder to climb but we were undeterred and moved to another wall called Animal Crackers. We did two climbs here, which had some slab climbing. Slab climbing is not my favorite kind of climbing because you are climbing on a slight slope which can make for tricky feet or hand holds. Also, falling seems more scary as you would most likely hit rock if you fell. (Vs. if the wall was slightly overhanging or straight, you would most likely fall straight down and not into rock.)

We called it quits after our 5th climb and my toes couldn’t be happier. We headed back to Miguel’s and got some pizza. It was still blazing hot. Well, all good because I was about to go take a shower and go to bed. Except Mike went to get shower tokens and found out they didn’t have any left. Uh-oh. There was no way I could get in my tent with how I smelled currently. I remembered they had a utility sink to fill water bottles or wash dishes. I brought over my Camelbak and dish tote and filled them with water. Luckily the water wasn’t too cold and combined with the hot sticky air, a cool “shower” felt great. Never thought I’d be using a Camelbak as a shower device but glad I was able to rinse off somehow.

The next day we decided to go North to a wall called the Military Wall. It was one of the originally bolted areas and there were two 5.9 climbs that were popular to do (Moonbeam and Sunshine). The rock looked like if someone took a melon baller and took big scoops out of the rock. Let’s just say after a full day of climbing before combined with hot sticky weather, the climbs felt much harder. I didn’t finish the first route but Mike was able to finish it up and try the second climb next door. The sequencing was tricky and he took a fall on the first clip. Whew! I caught him fine but we bumped into each other. I tied in to top rope and clean the route. It was fun to climb the pockets and funky holds. After the adventure of those two climbs, Mike and I were good for the day. We drove back to Miguel’s and I showered (with a token this time) and headed up north for my last destination before home, Columbus!

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