Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Red River Gorge Climbing

Last week after work, Jeremy zipped by to pick Kenai and I up to head to the Red River Gorge (RRG) in Kentucky for a climbing trip. At ~6 hours away from home for me, its quite a surprise that I hadn't frequented this place for climbing prior - especially in college when I 1.) worked at a climbing wall, 2.) was friends with mostly climbers, 3.) was dating a climber, 4.) lived with all climbers.

Good things come to those who wait, or so the saying goes. And good things were quite plentiful on this trip!

1. Kenai was able to come. Jeremy was able to move things around a little from our original plan to adapt for the addition of Kenai. This trip was so wonderful for him. All the mini hikes into the crags were perfect rehab for him. We never hiked more than a mile (and rarely that) at a time. The terrain was equally up and down which was perfect for getting Kenai to incorporate all ranges of motion in his knees/hind limbs.

I was really apprehensive at first about the whole Kenai hiking thing. I worried it would be too much. He'd be sore. He'd be too stiff. More harm than good would be done.

A scared Kenai hiding under Jeremy after we made him climb up onto
a ledge

I'm really, really happy to report that I was wrong on all fronts. He was a little stiff and sore in the evenings, but he fared really well over all. He even got a rest day when we went to an area that forbid dogs.

Kenai LOVED this trip. It was so great to get back out with my little buddy like pre-surgery times. He was moving so much freer by the end of the trip. That casual, lofty trot of his was beginning to return!

2. I didn't have to camp in the cold. I'm on ski patrol. I very much enjoy winter. Snow is fun. HOWEVER, my body sucks at regulating its temperature and remaining warm throughout the winter months. As much as I love playing outside in the winter, I really appreciate a warm place at the end of the day to recuperate.

Jeremy rented us a room for the whole trip. Beds and heat. The first night I was chilled to the bone from being out at the crag until dark relatively unmoving as the guys worked a final climb. I was SO THANKFUL for heat and a place to hide away and regain warmth afterward.

Two queen beds, two desks, ample space for two people!

I have a feeling that if we had camped I wouldn't have regained warmth for the entire trip. I'd also not have been as happy a person to be around!

3. Great company. I've spent most of this climbing season out with Jeremy, which says a lot for how
great his company is. ☺ I [finally] got to meet his friends Jorge and Jess (and their dogs Lola and Rowan) on this trip.

Jorge and Jess live at Miguel's where we stayed. Jess works there and Jorge is [f]unemployed for the time being. Very strong climbers, the both of them. Really amazing people. Very, very fun. So much laughter.

Jorge is really flippin' incredible with dogs, too. He and Jess both. It was enjoyable for me to watch their interactions with their dogs and gain some insight for my own training methods for Kenai and other future dogs.

4. Lots and lots of climbing. I lost track of the climbing I did. It was a lot though. Many, many 10s. While uneasy about leading a 10 (right now), I did climb the majority of the 10s that we hit up cleanly or with only 1 or 2 hangs. This isn't too shabby for someone who hasn't been on rock for several months!

Rock amphitheater. Note the people (adults) at the center. HUGE formation.

Under the amphitheater, a little right of center in the preceding photo's point of view.

Rowan. Such a cutie.

Jeremy visualizing moves on a 12c project; I took this picture to show the ledge I was belaying from.

Overhanging cliff

Top roping a 9

Day one we climbed at Emerald City and I jumped on a 10d and 10c. Day two was at the Gallery and I jumped on a 9 and an 8 - maybe a 10, too? Day three was at Muir and I hopped on 4 or 5 climbs, though I don't remember what several of them were. Day 4 I climbed up something 6 times (twice on two climbs). Why twice? Because...

5. I finally confronted my fear of leading. In sport climbing (what we did this trip), there are bolted hangers for quickdraws (two carabiners connected by reinforced webbing) along the route. You place the draws as you ascend. These bolts are often 5-8 feet apart. This means that you have to climb past one before you're clipped into another. Thus, the max distance you could "fall" before the rope/draws "catch" you (your belayer on the ground below is key to the "catch") is the length of the rope above the last point of protection x2. (Climb 3 feet above the draw and "fall", it will be 6 feet before you cease the "fall".)

I'm afraid of the "fall". More specifically, I'm afraid of an unclean fall (i.e., I'm afraid of cracking some part of my body off the wall while falling thus resulting in greater injury).

My fear is irrational. I've recognized this for years. Until recently though, I've been unable and unwilling to confront it despite my understanding that it was silly.

Jeremy has been after me since spring to lead something. He tried over the summer but I spazzed and chickened out.

Not this trip.

Day 2 we climbed (I top roped) a really awesome 8. I told Jorge and Jeremy that I'd lead it in a day or two. It was a really straight-forward classic climb. The only place that was a tiny bit tricky (and even then, SO EASY for me) had a nice clean fall if I effed it up.

Day 4 dawned and Jeremy and I headed back to the Gallery where the climb I said I'd lead was. The wall this climb was on was really busy, so we headed under and through the amphitheater of rock to another wall with some available climbs.

Jeremy put up a really tricky/technical 10b first. I TR'd and then cleaned it. We then hopped on a 7 that I knew I could lead. Jeremy led it and placed the draws (per the norm) so that I'd have one less thing to worry about, and I climbed up after. Instead of cleaning the draws and rapping down though, he lowered me, pulled the rope through and I led it.

I knew I could do this climb. I'd just done it. Not to mention it was several grades lower than climbs I'd been climbing clean on top rope in previous days.

I toughened up, silenced my fearful mind, and lead the damn thing. I got a little shaky between the last two bolts and the anchors, but I took a moment, breathed, and pushed through.

It felt good to get it over with. So good.

I was really proud that I didn't freak out more than I did. Huge deal for me. I don't think Jeremy even realizes how huge that was for me. Its been 4 years since I led a climb, and even then I was borderline panic attack the whole time.

After the experience with my lead on the 7, we went back over to the now empty wall where the classic 8 was. Same song and dance: Jeremy led and placed draws, I TR'd, I led.

I didn't freak out at all.

I was calm. I used logic to calm my nerves. I had FUN.

I confronted fear and turned it into a form of excitement instead of terror. I can't wait to do it again.

5. I finally got to see the Red River Gorge. ...which was very different terrain-wise from the New River Gorge at home in WV. RRG cliffs are nestled in a series of valleys throughout the Daniel Boone forest. The cliffs at the NRG are all a part of the gorge system (one huge valley more or less).

In addition to seeing a lot of the RRG, I got to finally see the Natural Bridge, a unique rock formation within the RRG.

5½. Oh, and did I mention that it SNOWED? Because it did. Our last morning there we woke up to snow. Quite comical.

It made for a beautiful, easy little hike though.

The view of camp from the room the last morning

Our campground!

6. We ate really well. Good food = energy to do all the climbing we did. Miguel's pizza. The Rockhouse Cafe. A Mexican place one night. Sushi in Lexington another night. Yeah. I ate well. It was awesome. 

And thus, lots of good. Lots of fun. Lots of awesome.

Such an awesome trip. I had an absolute BLAST. Thank you, Jeremy for making this happen and pressuring me to lead finally. =)

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