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Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure

The Red Gold

By Ramon Marin
27, Apr, 2017

Rich in oil, single pumps dotted around sucking out the black gold. But there's other gold to be found

Red River Gorge is know for its richness in oil, single pumps dotted around sucking out the black gold. But there's other gold to be found in this deep Kentucky valleys, the Corbin Sandstone beautifully carved by millions of years of glacial erosion. God's own stone, as the locals describe it, this textured sandstone is made to be climbed. Different to the compact, bullet-hard sandstone of the Grampians and Mount Arapiles, and more sculpted than the Cederberg relative, the type of rock at the Red gives moulded shapes on a sandpaper-type texture; ike a crossover of Gritstone and Nesscliffe sandstone. Lovely to climb on.

This is my second trip to The Red. On my previous trip five years ago I decided to fly out despite sporting horrible case of bronchitis. That trip gave a good snapshot of the area and a good introduction to the easier crags. On this trip I wanted to taste the harder side of The Red, having some of the most attractive lines in the world at the grades that are accessible to me. Or so I thought. The beauty of this destination is that no matter what grade you climb at, most routes are stunning. You can easily find yourself lowering off a route saying over and over again that that's the best route you've done at that grade.

I thought I knew how to train myself for this trip, but it turn out I was woefully unprepared. Despite upping my volume on rock and focusing on endurance, it certainly wasn't enough. As soon as I started up the steep section of Bohica (8a) it became apparent that I just hadn't done enough for this monster pump-fests. After two days spend falling off big holds I decided to lower the bar and get on 5.13a's (7c+) instead. That proved enough of a challenge and spend most of my trip falling off the top of "Snooker" at the Motherlode. Luckily by the second week I've build enough pump resistance that I managed an "chicken-wing" ascent, but left me pretty much done in for the rest of the trip. So my ticklist is rather unimpressive, but at least now I think I know what I need to do for the next trip. Andre made some really good progress on "Thanatopsis" (8c) but bailed as it became impossible to hold the tiny crimps with the raise of temps and humidity. The rest of the trip I just had a blast doing easier climbs that blew my mind. One that really stood out was "Ballscratcher", a magnificent 5.12a arete that wouldn't be out of place in Nesscliffe, but bolted and on much, much better rock.

The climbing tends to be very pumpy and endurance-based, so don't waste your time on power and Beastmaker as it's unlikely to make much of a difference. So do your homework and get fit...

I'm surprised how unpopular the crag is amongst Brits and Euro's in general. Considering the decent amount of visiting climbers that sees Utah, Yosemite, Rocklands and Australia, and at similar price for a flight to The Red, it's surprising to not see a single Brit in both trips. But on this visit I found that mates back home were a lot more interested than last time around five years ago. Not that I wish the crag to be busier, but sometimes I wonder what makes crags go in and out of fashion. Like, does anyone go to Rodellar anymore? Some people still do, but seven years ago you'd struggle to find a pitch for your tent at Camping Mascun, and now it seems deserted. Like Siurana 10 years ago, there was same amount of routes back then, but literally empty of Brits except for Steve Dunning and a few others in the know.

For a full run down and a few pointers on visitng Red River Gorge head over to my website...

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