Our fingers itching for Red rock, we instantly jumped on the first routes our eyes laid sight on. One route after the other, we climbed and sent. It was a perfect start to any morning. Meanwhile, the predicted down pour held off. There were spurts and spats of light rain, but not enough to keep us off the classic pockety climbs.
Pendegrass may be one of our favorite crags at the Red, however, the poorly managed roads down to the Sore Heal Parking Lot (the main parking lot where many sweet crags can be accessed) take a beating after any precipitation, light or heavy. Our reliable rig, Jess, and trusty sidekick, Zoe the Zebra/Siberian Tiger (whom graciously added extra horse power), managed to tackle the muddy roads and get us out of Pendegrass’s steep terrain. Pheewww. There were a few close calls, but Jess and her trusty steed accomplished a very impressive feat. Safely, we topped the ridge and stopped at Kentucky’s finest Beer Trailer. After snagging some brews, we rolled smoothly into Miguel’s — a great climbing day behind us and another one to follow.
Day Two >> Yeeeeeeeeeeep. Currently I am sitting in the warm confines of Miguel’s Pizza. My ring finger, middle finger and pointer finger on each hand (also my primary typing fingers) are super tender. Grigore and I got on a super crimpy climb toward the end of the day today called “Golden Road” in a remote part of Muir Valley named Coyote Cliff.
Technical moves and a moderate traverse led to a “blank face” as the guidebook called it. It was obvious these climbs hadn’t been climbed much (if at all) this season, due to the lack of chalked holds. So when I first arrived at the crux of “Golden Road”, the blank face that the guidebook referred to, it was literally just that. After an unsuccessful attempt at the crux, I jugged back up to my highest draw and scoped things out. After further inspection, I spied a few teeny tiny crimps and chalked and brushed them for the subsequent attempts. A couple more unsuccessful tries and I lowered down; my left hand to tired to hold the crux left crimp. Grigore tied in, made short work of the bottom sections and arrived at the crux. Cool as could be, he powered through the crimps, and stuck a positive (but awkward) right hand side pull and hesitated, looking at his feet. At this point, his feet were at his last bolt and he was eye level with the next, “Go for it! There is a jug over the bolt!” Bearing down, he lunged over the next bolt and caught the ledge at full extension. Finishing out the remainder of the route, Grigore snagged his first 12a – and flashed it. Recouped from my first try, I followed suit and got the red point just as the sky darkened. As we packed out, the skies opened for the first time of the trip and started to rain. Not quite done for the day, we decided to stop by “The Great Arch,” which is a crag sheltered from the rain (a big perk of the Red). Just after we arrived, it REALLY started to poor and we found ourselves in a thunderstorm, hail and all. However, thanks to the Great Arch, we were high and dry and continued to climb. What a day. To top it off, soaked and haggard from the hike out of Muir, we ordered a couple of pizzas and relaxed. Now dry and warm, I am thinking of bed… as long as our tent hasn’t floated away..
Day Three >> Expecting a rainy day, we were prepared for crowds at the most popular of the rainy day locations – Roadside Crag. With several climbs staying dry in a down pour, a short hike from the road (as the name suggests), and a nice range of classics from 5.10a- to 5.12c, Roadside is almost always crowded on rainy days. To beat the rush, we arrived at the trailhead at a timely 8:15am and were the second group to arrive, having our choice of warm-ups. Through the morning we got on classics like “A.W.O.L.”, “Pulling Pockets”, “Ro Shampo”, and “Up Yonder”, all super fun for the grade.
The sun made a brief but stunning appearance for about 15 minutes, lifted our weary 50 degree spirits, and convinced us to continue the day back down in Muir Valley. A quick stop back to Miguel’s for some Ale-8 and a cup of coffee, and we were back on KY715.
A dose of caffeine and a semi-sunny Muir Valley kept our spirits high. We hiked the 15 minute muddy trail to find Tectonic and Johnny’s Wall dry and fabulous! These slightly overhanging routes provided us with wonderful rainy day climbing. After the typical Kentucky down pour, the routes at Tectonic and Johnny’s were very friendly and welcoming. Here, we found classic plate-like holds and unique features. Our tender and raw fingers enjoyed epic four to five star climbs (the highest star rating at the Red River Gorge – signifying sweet, classic, ‘must-do’ lines) that included, Fifth Bolt Faith, Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky, Bethel, 59” DrillBitch, and Spinner! What an amazing ending to a featured and fantastic climbing day. To top off the wonderfulness, we made a hearty dish of Penne pasta mixed with red peppers, broccoli, delicious pasta sauce, and Sierra Nevada’s tasty brews (Torpedo and Pale Ale). MMMMmmm mmmmmm good and Kentucky cheers to another great day at the Red River Gorge.
Day Four >> Our fingers were anxiously itching to climb before 8AM on our last day at the Red. We hurriedly stuffed our packs, rolled up our tents, ate breakfast, and packed the car. Our hope was to get in at least four pitches before saying goodbye to Kentucky and its famous climbing area. The plan was to explore the area of Funk Rock City – a new crag to all. According to the guidebook, the approach is time consuming, but the climbs are epic. We were stoked! Using the directions from the book as well as the Red’s website, we managed to find the designated large parking area with an old road blocked by large mounds of dirt. Swift Camp Creek guided us along the old dirt road. After 0.6 miles, the directions told us to either a.) locate rocks to hop across the creek or b.) wade across by foot. Neither one of those options sounded too appealing, however, our luck arrived right on time. Further down the creek, we found a conveniently placed tree trunk lying across it, allowing us to pry off our shoes and tiptoe (or scoot) across the log without dabbling in cold spring water. Yayayay! So far, so good and only minutes left before our eyes laid sight on beautiful Funk Rock City.
We followed a slightly worn foot trail 200 feet until we lost sight of it and began scrambling up toward the ridge. Being that is was only the early season of climbing, our guess was that not too many climbers had made it out to Funk Rock yet. A vanishing foot trail was nothing to worry about. As we scrambled closer and closer to the wall of rock, the rhododendrons thickened, the foot trail or slightly worn path could not be found, and crawling became a must-do. After several feet, we managed to find a beautifully tall rock palace, however, it was not Funk Rock. No bolts could be found and any hint that this was a climber’s territory was lost. We were confused. What had gone wrong? We followed the directions bit by bit until there was nothing left to follow. Instead of getting down on ourselves, we decided that Funk Rock was close and all we had to do was follow the wall around the corner and bolted routes would appear. So.. that’s what we did. We scrambled back through heavy rhododendrons and over mossy tree trunks before coming up on a second beautiful rock wall. We were excited and almost positive this was it! We rounded the corner to find amazing sandstone with orange coloring and beautiful features. However, to our disappointment, no bolted lines could be found. Funk Rock was still missing. By this time it was nearly noon. We had been lost trying to find Funk Rock City for almost three hours! Where had the time gone and more importantly, where was Funk Rock? We had two options left. We could either try and search around the one last corner to find Funk Rock or we could accept defeat, bail out now, and begin our 8-hour-trek back to State College a little earlier than expected? The decision was an obvious and unanimous one >> we would continue fighting rhododendrons and Mother Nature’s light drizzle to catch Funk Rock and get in a pitch or two before packing up and going home. We put our hiking faces back on, tightened our shoes, and began the final trek around the corner. Up steep and wet terrain, we managed to find the base of another beautiful wall. Our hopes peaking at a high, we came into a clearing free of suffocating plants to find just another beautiful wall. Funk Rock could not be found.
After spewing “I don’t understand” and “Where could it be?” we accepted defeat and slowly began our descent. This descent was like none other. With no foot path to follow, we hiked down the mountain through thick plant life, muddy pockets of quick sand, and mountain runoff. What a morning! By the time we made it back to Swift Camp Creek, our shoes were soaked, twigs were tangled in our oily locks, and dirt was crammed under our fingernails. To top it off, we hiked so far over that the tree trunk we tiptoed across was several feet in the opposite direction. Instead of hiking back through suffocating rhododendrons, we decided to wade the creek. We rolled our pant legs and took the plunge. Cold spring water tickled our knee caps as we hurried across. Thankful to be safely on the other side, we hiked the remaining distance up to the car, changed into whatever dry clothes we had, and drove away, saying goodbye to the beautiful and never found, Funk Rock City.