Saturday, October 30, 2010

Red River Gorge Impressions

The Red River Gorge climbing has a huge reputation for excellence.  People exclaim about the quality lines, the long routes and name your homage to its glory.  All the hype set my expectations very high; high enough to be difficult for any climbing area to fulfill.   

After two weeks and counting climbing in the Red River Gorge, my assessment is:


I’ve thought a lot about this assessment.  Why am I not ecstatic to be here?  Why doesn’t the rock climbing tickle my fancy and excite my soul?  These and similar questions swirl endlessly as I pull on yet another horizontal crimp.
Is it the coarse sand stone?  Nope.  The stone does take a toll on my hands, but rock everywhere can be hard on your skin.  That’s just part of the game.

Is it the mono-dimensional climbing?  Hell no!  I’m a number chaser.  If I could send hard routes without cryptic sequences, bring it on.
We could progress through various aspects of the climbing here, but let me just tell you my assessment and you can agree or not.

My “mas o menos” reaction to the climbing is spurred mostly by the bolting style.  Specifically two aspects of the bolting: run-outs and decking potential.


Run outs are also very common between the last bolt and the anchors and sometimes in the middle of the routes.  Often it is a badge of honor to take the whipper from the anchors.  Yes, it takes courage to climb through a run-out and take the fall.  I get that.  For me huge run outs are a ticket to rope pulling if it’s even possible to get back to the rope.  Let me explain.  I’m 30% heavier than my belayer.  As I push my limits repetitively taking the long fall gets pretty monotonous:  climb through run-out take big fall (30’ +), climb rope back to last bolt and repeat.  If the route is sufficiently overhanging a big fall means there will be no working out the crux as boinking on the rope is not possible with a super-fly weight belayer.  Red River Gorge is sport climbing to push limits of rock climbing not push limit of pulling on the rope.  I’m over it.  Bolt routes for climbing not ego masturbation. 

Decking Potential: 

As an average American, I am relatively small/average at 170 pounds and 5’ 11”.  As a climber that’s huge especially relative to a belayer that is 50+ pounds lighter than me.  When I fall my belayer generally takes an involuntary ride up to the first bolt.  Bolting in the Red generally has the first bolt fairly high; high enough that it can be difficult to stick-clip the first bolt (beyond 15').  This leaves plenty of additional distance for me to fall as the belayer elevates to this level.  Couple this with common run-outs to bolts two and three; I’m looking at a potential ground fall on many routes as I climb to the second and third bolts.  It hasn’t happened, but perceived or real decking potential adds unwanted stress to most routes I have attempted to climb here. 

The routes here are what they are and nothing I write should change them.  I will continue to climb here and possibly learn to enjoy it.  But for now the Red River Gorge climbing is sub-par because of bolting style.  On the positive side, the climbing is concentrated in a relatively small area, but…


1 comment:

piz : ) said...

Tony, I am not surprised that you didn't groove with the RED. It's fun but not the greatest crag in the USA. I am interested to see what you think of the other southern crags.
Be safe and happy extended holidays!