Sup people! So it's been a long time since trip reports were formally recorded so I'll get the ball rolling! ***WARNING*** I’m really long winded so you can scroll to the bottom for a Too Long Didn’t Read Summary.
A group of 9 of us went to the Red River Gorge (the Red) over Fall break and it was freaking awesome. We had two cars and my campervan to get down from campus, which took about 6 hours. Stopped by Lexington for a quick meal before camping at Miguel's* on Friday night. It was forecast to rain at 3am on Saturday so we ended up car camping, a very wise decision on hindsight. Unfortunately for us, the rain caused the summer weather the Red was getting the whole week to drop to like 40 degrees in the morning, warming up probably to 50 during the day. Piss cold, but we sucked it up and got some great climbs in.
*Miguel's is a pizza shop that offers outdoor camping and unstable wifi. For $2 a night per person, you get to camp there, park, use the restrooms, get potable water, $1.50 for showers, and meet awesome people there. There's also a gear shop that you can visit for guidebooks, souvenirs and well, gear.
And just to get it out of the way, for accommodations, we stayed in a 8 person hostel style cabin* that was like 10 minutes from Miguel’s which was pretty nice. It came with hot showers and air conditioning/heating, and for sleeping there were 2 bunk beds (4 people total), two little ‘attics’ with one mattress each, and a sofa (which I think was a sofa bed but with very questionable cleanliness). We managed to squeeze some extra sleeping bags and mattresses to put all 9 of us in which was nice. The was rather bare; it didn’t come with pillows or sheets, it had no kitchen (only a microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker and toaster), and a TV which we didn’t use. But for the price we paid, we couldn’t really complain much. I brought a stove in and we managed to cook dinner using the two pots we had. There was a grocery store that was decently far away but it was still reasonable to drive there to buy food for dinners. But honestly with the company, the place was great cause it was really nice and cozy for some Cards Against Humanity and hearty conversations.
*Check out Camping Cabin A or C at https://www.redrivergorgecabinrentals.com/. You can consider staying in an actual nice cabin like what another larger group did.
Peter with A Late One
First day of climbing we headed to Muir Valley*! Driving to Muir Valley is about 30 minutes from Miguel's with a relatively simple drive there. Parked our cars** at the entrance and got started on our first climb of the trip! Started out pretty chill cause we had some first time outdoor climbers, so we began at Practice Wall. Really nice short climbs to get people on their first climb (Acrophobiacs Anonymous, 5.4, 25 feet high with like literally 2 bolts, and to the right is Yu Stin Kin Pu (that’s the actual name of the climb), a 5.6 of similar nature). It was a good place get people to practice cleaning, lead belaying, lead climbing, and just general feel of climbing outdoors, but if you’re experienced with outdoor climbing then pass on coming here. There are other climbs in the 5.9 and 10 range but in general they're pretty short climbs. I got on a 5.10b called Beta Spewer which was a short overhung route, a decent climb if you’re in the area. I think I could have sent it but god it was really really cold that day. Generally if you’re familiar with outdoor climbing you can pass on coming to this wall. Special mention goes to Peter's route Ai Bang Mai Fa Kin Ni, which is a 5.7 that is exactly what it sounds like.
*Muir Valley is a really established sport climbing area and it has nice guidebooks with plenty of info (supplemented by plenty of Mountain Project inputs). We used the Muir Valley Pocket Guide, a small book with maps, aerial outlines of each wall, and the names, grades and rating of each route. Little to no info on individual climbs but it’s sufficient to get you around. Approaches are decently long but well paved, though the uphill at the end of the day may not be to your liking (ain’t that right Mat)
1) It’s really well maintained, the paths are well marked and easy to navigate and there are vault toilets in the area. There is a fire escape road you can use which is less tiring than some of the other approaches if it’s applicable.
2) The climbs are mostly marked with a small circular plate at the base of each climb so it’s easy to find what route you want
3) Rappel rings are replaced often and from what I understand it is recommended to lower rather than rappel for safety reasons (do double check this claim)
4) Stick clips are available for the day if they are available, don’t hesistate to if you think you need it, some routes do have decently high first bolts.
5) Just take note that there are rules such as filling up a waiver that you need to take note of. Check out more info on Mountain Project and the official Muir Valley website (http://www.muirvalley.com/)
**Parking at Muir Valley is $10 a day (CASH), you will pay for a little tag you leave on your dashboard as proof of payment.
Lena on Yu Stin Kin Pu (5.6)
Exactly what happened to Peter
Second area was Guide Wall which was a short walk away from Practice Wall. A few 5.7s and 8s that are pretty nice. Again, good for beginners to come to get some climbs in, but generally pretty easy and nothing harder than 8s here. Mat got on Mona Lisa’s Crack and Peter got on Fear of Commitment. The former looked like a great climb while the latter not so great, but I can’t say for sure since I didn’t climb them myself.
Peter on Fear of Commitment (5.8)
We tried to go to Bruise Brother Wall which we heard was really good, but there were way too many people (literally every climb had a rope or someone already on it). So we ended up in Sunnyside, which was as implied pretty sunny and nice. The climbs there are mostly in the 5.10 range and not overly beginner friendly, but there are some really good climbs there. Kokepeli’s Dream is a great 5.9 slab. **Spoiler beta** (Watch out for the first bolt cause it’s the crux and falling there wouldn’t be fun, as I almost did). Another really good climb is Machete which is a great 5.10b, lots of fun on a relatively sustained route. Ended the day at Miguel’s eating some delicious pizza and I’d highly recommend just going to eat there at least once (though it can be a little pricey for us college students).
Poh leading Machete (5.10b)
Aww yea pizza
Day 2 started out at The Hideout and I absolutely loved that place. It got some nice morning sun which gave us a good start to a cold day. I got on 3 great climbs there in the 10 range. First was Boltergeist, a pretty long but well protected 5.10a (105 feet, 13 bolts). There wasn’t exactly a crux per say and honestly most of the climb was probably a 5.8 or 9, but still a fun climb, one of the classics there based on Mountain Project. While climbing there we met some students from West Virginia University (I think) and so we swapped our routes with them for convenience, and so I got on Crusin’ for a Brusin’, which was probably one of my favourite 5.10 climbs. It’s a 10d on the guidebook but it’s not sustained, only a few moves are pretty challenging especially if you’re a shorter climber like me. I’m pretty grateful that they suggested swapping our routes of I wouldn’t have given the 10d a shot, but thanks to that I became a little more confident about climbing the full range of 10s in Muir Valley. Last climb I did there was Pre-emptive Strike, a 5.10c which was really fun as well. Can’t remember too much but I’d say it’s not as challenging as I expected. Also fun fact I think my Gopro fell like 50 feet from the wall onto the soil from here but it’s working well so +1 for Gopro quality.
We then moved on to Animal Cracker Wall which is a section of slab. The routes are mostly 5.7s or 8s, including one called Harvey which is a 2 pitch climb if you want to get a little experience on multipitch, though we didn’t do that. I got on Sam which was a nice 5.10b slab, the hardest climb at the wall. Much more technical than I gave it credit for, and while softer than Jackson, it was still a decently challenging slab climb especially near the top. I believe that the others also got on Rikki Tikki Tavi and Panda Bear which I heard were not bad either.
Mat getting technical on Rikki Tikki Tavi (5.8)
Finished off the cold cold evening at The Boneyard. Unfortunately Peter didn’t manage to get his lead climb in, but I managed to get on Hijacked Project, a 5.9 which started out with an easy but pretty cool roof problem (which if you’re worried about falling, can take the ledge on the side), then onto some really big, juggy, but sharp holds which hurt like hell when your hands are freezing. Didn’t particularly enjoy the climb due to the cold.
Third day our group shrank to just Mat, Lena, Poh and myself, and we left Muir Valley for Graining Fork Nature Preserve (aka Roadside). It’s called Roadside probably cause the approach from the roadside parking area* to the crag is like a 5 minute uphill approach. The routes at Roadside are probably still softer than Jackson but definitely harder than Muir Valley, but no doubt there are some pretty damn good sustained overhung climbs in the crag**. Started off all the way out right of the crag with probably my favourite name of a climb, You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish, a rather soft 5.10b that’s mostly slab. Couldn’t remember too much about this route other than the name but I enjoyed it. We then went to the middle for some classics. First was Pulling Pockets, a 5.10d that despite what it sounds like had more crimps than pockets than I remembered. At this point of the trip I was really pumped out (typical climber excuse heard at the Red “If only I had more endurance I could totally send this”) so I pretty much bolt to bolt the route. Would definitely head back to try and send that. Next was AWOL which was a 5.10a that I got stuck on at the end because I was being stupid and not finding a good hold further up at the anchor to secure myself for clipping in. Note to self, being a short climber doesn’t give you excuses not to reach far up to find good holds. But it was still a great climb and I’d recommend doing it. In my opinion, this route was pretty fairly graded. The last climb was Crazy Fingers, a 5.10c which I managed to do with I think two takes (a personal achievement considering I was expecting to bolt to bolt most of it). We had plenty of beta from a lady who climbed this route multiple times which really helped. It felt like a better climb than Pulling Pockets and I thoroughly enjoyed this climb despite not being able to send it. Ended off the day with a 5.9 top rope that Mat and Lena set up, Jump for Joy. You can recognize it by the lock in the first bolt, which leaves the second bolt (now the first) pretty high up. Lena and I both top roped it but it was clear that her having almost an extra foot of reach was pretty useful, cause I definitely found my beta to be more challenging than hers. Managed to get my Gopro up at the top for some nice panoramic views.
*There is a DAILY permit to fill up online, do that with stable internet (not Miguel’s). For money, there is no parking fee, nor is there a daily cost when filling permit, but there is a recommended donation and for maintaining such a great crag I think it’s only worthwhile that we make a fair donation to keep such climbing accessible and maintained for the community.
**Roadside has some really high first bolts and we only managed to get by because some nice people lent us their stick clips. I would highly recommend bringing a stick clip because taking a fall from the first bolts can be quite dangerous.
Poh on Crazy Fingers (5.10c)
Our final day was at Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Area (PMRP). We didn’t have a guidebook for this and got lost along the way but we eventually found the carpark* to begin our long hike in. By some good stroke of luck we met this pair who were going along the same way and they very kindly brought us to The Gallery where we spent the day. We didn’t really recognize which part of the wall we were due to the lack of the guide book (we wandered off way too far), but the furthest left climb in the main area is The King Lives On, a nice 5.10b on the left of the arete which Lena and I got on, while Poh and Mat did Murano, a 5.10c. We didn’t exchange routes but it seemed like we all liked the climbs we did so I would recommend them. Next up was 27 Years of Climbing, a 5.8 classic with plenty of amazing jugs up the route and good stances for clipping, great for a first lead climb. I then got on A Brief History of Climb, another classic that starts out with a easy run-out scramble of sorts, to quite literally a stair of jugs towards the top. I thought it was really softly graded for a 5.10b but nonetheless I enjoyed it thoroughly. And to finish off the trip, Poh and I got on Johnny B. Good, my first 5.11a which unfortunately did not manage to send (because I was at the anchors but my draws were on the wrong side, and I took a 30 foot fall when trying to match hands…). It’s mostly a 5.8 except for the roof which is rated 5.11a, though personally I think it was a 5.10b or c. A really fun climb and if you wanna feel good about saying you did a 5.11, this is it.
*Try to get a proper map for PMRP as we had troubles with Google maps directions. Also parking there is free, but there are two areas. The first is up on the hill which is probably where you’ll park. The second area is actually all the way downhill, past some really steep and pot-hole filled road that you should not take if you don’t have an AWD or 4WD. Though this means a long and annoying uphill hike at the end, it sure beats having your vehicle stuck in a ditch. Also parking at PMRP is free which is great.
Super friendly people <3
The staircase of jugs on A Brief History of Climb (5.10b)
And that concluded the end of our 4 day climbing trip! Lots of fun and laughter, with plenty of good climbing. For me it was a first for both being mostly in charge of a group of climbers, and also climbing for more than 2 days in a row. Honestly I think 3 days of sustained climbing is probably my limit, before I’d need a day with 3 or less climbs or even a rest day. But honestly I enjoyed the trip with The Red Squad, and I’m really glad that they trusted me to plan and lead this trip. Thanks again to Adam, Lis, Arif, Muffaddal, Peter, Mat, Poh and Lena for coming on this trip and I look forward to climbing with you guys again!
- The Red is freaking awesome for sport climbing, but by mid November it can also be freaking cold
- Miguel’s has great pizza and is a great place to camp if you’re intending to do so
- Muir Valley is super well maintained and easy to navigate. Highly recommend Practice Wall for beginners, and The Hideout for some 5.10 climbs (notable climbs: Boltergeist, Kokepeli’s Dream, Crusin’ for a Brusin’)
- Roadside is easy to access and there are some super cool overhung 5.10 climbs in the middle section (notable climbs: AWOL, Pulling Pockets, Crazy Fingers)
- PMRP is a massive pain in the ass to navigate especially cause of parking, but the Gallery packs some seriously good climbs (notable climbs, 27 Years of Climbing, A Brief History of Climb, Johnny B. Good)
Submit Your Trip Reports