Belay Specs Blog

This blog has less to do with Belay Specs and more to do with our employee's climbing and outdoor outings.  We'll talk about exciting news about Belay Specs but we'll talk much more about the trips we've taken and the places we've checked out.  We'd like to share some of our experiences in the hope that they inspire you to check the areas out for yourselves. If you read about an area or activity in one of our posts and have questions on beta, route recommendations or anything else, leave a comment and we'll try to fill you in.

Ben picked me up to Miguel’s this morning and we headed out to a new, unpublished crag today. I’ve been a bit bummed about my lack of fitness so we decided to go hit up some new, sub-12 routes that would be quiet on an otherwise busy Sunday. It was great to have the crag to ourselves although the routes were all pretty stout and one required a stick clip to finish. There is often times little information to new crags like this and the route gradings can be very tentative.

A great thing about the Red is that there is so much rock. The online guide book lists almost 950 sport routes, over 800 trad routes and another 75 mixed routes. Those figures ignore another 200 routes at closed areas (Oil Crack, The Arena, Roadside) and areas with limited access like Torrent Falls. There are easly another few hundred routes that aren't listed for various reason that we'll go into here. "Secret" or "Private" crags have gotten attention on internet message boards, some people feel that these areas should be made known to the public and some are happy about keeping them quiet (maybe because they already know about them). I have been to a few of the crags and have pieced together where others are from comments made by other climbers. There are many reasons that these crags remain unpublished.


Many are simply in development and the bolters would like to put up all the routes before letting the secret out. There have been cases of first accents being stolen and even other developers jugging up fixed lines to bolt someone else’s line. These schinanigans have lead to much debate and developers staying more close lipped about their new areas.

Other areas simply can’t handle crowds. The Southern Region is reached by dirt roads that exist largely to allow access to the oil rigs that are scattered throughout the area including on Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition land. (The Coalition owns the land but not the mineral rights so oil extraction continues on their land.) The main dirt roads and smaller oil roads provide few opportunities for parking and most of the parking spots were built by the oil companies to allow their trucks to access their equipment. Blocking oil equipment led Charmane Oil Company to temporarily close most of the Southern Region in 2003 with climbers’ cars getting towed. A few months later, the Coalition bought the PMRP (Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve) and worked out the situation with the oil company by building parking lots for climbers and educating climbers about where to park to prevent further issues. Some areas, including  Oil Crack and The Arena, remain closed to climbing because the Coalition does not own the land. To avoid aggravating the oil companies, crags with poor parking situations have not been published. The developers of these areas are working with the Coalition to try to develop a parking plan that will provide good parking that does not hinder access to oil equipment.

The third main reason that crags don’t published is that they don’t have permission to develop the area or the permission dictates that area is not published. When developing on private land, you are at the will of the land owner and keeping them happy is crucial. If the crag is published, the area will attract too many climbers to go unnoticed and may get shut down by the owner. Again, this often comes down to parking and road maintenance.

So next time you are wondering why more information isn’t available about that crag you’ve heard whispers about, think about the land access issues and the hard work of the developers.

 

Early this morning I got a text from Bram saying that he wasn’t feeling good and didn’t want to climb so I set to looking for a partner for the day. Luckily I was staying at Miguel’s where the pizza is delicious and climbing partners are pretty easy to find. I hadn’t even started looking when someone asked me where I was headed and when I said I didn’t have a partner yet, he invited me to come to Drive By with his crew. Drive By is a great crag in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP), an area owned by the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC). Drive By is another great crag for a wide range of abilities, which we certainly were on this day. In our loose group of eight people, there was one guy who had led his first route the day before and there was Ethan, the guy who invited me to join them, who had come out to work on Spank, a steep 13a sport route.

I had long ago climb nearly everything in my ability at the main area of Drive By but recent development on the other side of the holler by Kipp Trimmel and Jeff Neal has resulted in ten new slabby routes that I was itching to get on. I warmed up on Sojourner Truth, a route that sandbag-extraordinaire Kipp called a 5.10b. After pulling on some pretty small crimps and searching for a hold to clip the anchors, I felt the route was more like 5.10d. If you ever see a Kipp Trimmel route in the Red River Gorge guidebook, you should get on it because it’s probably good but don’t expect anything easy. With this in mind, I hopped on Return to Sender (5.10c) and found it to be very sustained, desperate slab climbing. I’d call it an 11a 4 star route. The sun was beginning to peak over the slab adding a sun crux to the already tough to read routes so we headed over to the main area and Ethan gave Spank a couple good burns.

Not having anything to do at Drive By, I headed over to Bob Marley with a guy named Mike to get on a new route called Eyeball Chaw (5.12a). This route lies just right of Bettavul Pipeline, another 12a, and is very similar in that they each start with 40 feet of steep climbing on huge holds and have cruxes at the top. Luckily, after clipping the last bolt of Eyeball Chawt, a right heel-toe cam and a left toe hook underneath it takes some weight off your arms and huge jugs lets you get a good shake out for the crux. After the rest the route turns an angling arête and you need to establish yourself on a crimpy technical face. It took a couple minutes to figure out just how to get onto the top face and a lot of cheek puckering to get to the anchors. I’m not sure what the fall would be like but it felt very exposed. After a rest I took another burn but botched the sequence and took that fall. Turned out to not be too bad.

Feeling pretty exhausted, I headed back to Drive By and watched Ethan give Spank another go. He had a great go and stuck the anchor clipping hold for a second before his momentum carried him off it. He was done with the route for the day but wanted to get another pitch in at Bob Marley so we headed back over there. Ethan worked on Where’s the Beef? (5.12c), a steep route in the cave with a ~10 foot roof in the middle of it. I’ve been on it and the thought of it makes my fingers ache. It had been over an hour since I’d gotten on Eyeball Chaw so I was feeling energized. I got back on it and managed to do a move a long move on the lower section statically, which gave me some confidence for the top. After the heel hook rest, I pulled the corner onto the face and, remembering the beta, managed to reach the anchors. After Ethan gave Where’s the Beef? another go, I hopped back on Eyeball Chaw to get some pictures of the long throw on the lower section and then, just to see if it will work, turned the heel-toe rest into a hands free bat hang. A fun ending to a great day of sending new routes.

 

Managing energy and skin levels on a trip is crucial so today I took a rest day. Rather than sitting around Miguel’s and working like I should have, some friends picked me up and we headed to Sunnyside at Muir Valley. Curtis and Audrey Gale-Dyer are some of the weirdest folks that I know and I love them for it. They’re both doctors, love sci-fi and both hyphenated their last names when they got married. When I left Kentucky, Curtis was climbing low-5.11s and Audrey had just led her first 5.10. A year later, we’re headed down to Sunnyside to get on Suppress the Rage, a 5.12a with a somewhat powerful start and a tricky face finish. Along with us is their friend Audrey (let’s call her Audrey2 and the other Audrey Prime). They had been working the route for a few weeks and were all hoping to send today.

My rest day goal was to take some photos to use on business cards and other advertising. I came equipped with my iPhone but Audrey2 had a DSLR that she happily handed me. Audrey2 and Curtis warmed up on a 5.9 and I got some shots. Curtis then hopped on Suppress the Rage to hang the draws while I stick clipped and rope soloed up the next route over to get some shots. With the draws and a rope hung, Audrey Prime warmed up by TRing the route and proceded to send her first 5.12. She moved so fast that I wasn’t able to get many good shots. Audrey2 was next up and she sent  with no problems and this time I kept up with her getting some great shots.

Audrey3STR

With the ladies crushing it, Curtis was under pressure to show results and that he did by walking up it to bag his third 5.12 while giving it the finger.

CurtisSTR

We convinced Audrey Prime to give the route a lead attempt and she stepped up to the plate. Audrey’s lead head isn’t the most impressive which made her send of this more impressive. She knew the moves and kept it together until she clipped the chains in celebration. It was a fun day for me to be a part of and I was glad to have gotten such great shots of her accomplishment.

AudreyPrimeSTR

We headed over to the Washboard Wall to chase shade and get in another couple pitches. Besides being a tribute to my favorite radio stations, Heard It On NPR (5.10d) is a great, somewhat goofy route. You can do it as one long pitch or break it into two short pitches to get a multi-pitch feel, avoid bad rope drag and give a better belay for the upper pitch. I recommend the second option. The mid-point anchors are on a ledge and I have good memories of sitting at them, chatting with my partner and enjoying the view of the valley below. As for the climbing itself, it starts with about 50 feet of 5.9 face climbing on huge plates up to the belay ledge. If 5.9 is your limit, you should do this first pitch as it is guaranteed to make you smile although having a very long stick clip is needed to clip the first bolt. From the mid-point anchors, another 20 feet of easy climbing brings you to the headwall. There is only about 30 feet of climb left at this point and it is probably the steepest, juggiest 5.10 climbing in the Red River Gorge. Imagine taking the biggest holds and putting them on the steepest wall in the gym; that is pretty much the rest of the route.

Being a climbing group of three, Curtis decided to do the route in one pitch on an untrimmed 60m rope. As Audrey2 lowered him off after his send, we got concerned about rope length. In the end, I caught Curtis in my arms and as I lowered my arms down, the rope end went through the Grigri. Audrey2 went next and, being somewhat lighter than Curtis, and therefore not stretching the rope as much, she needed to be lowered onto my shoulders. It was a funny ending to a great day but I recommend using at least a full 60m if you get on Heard It On NPR.

shortrope

 

 

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