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.

After my first day back climbing in the Red, I realized that I was not in shape to push myself on 12's so I was looking to get on some of the new 10's and 11's that have gone up in the last year. Bram and I met up with our friends Audrey and Blake and headed to the Chocolate Factory which has seen a lot of development in the last few years. The Chocolate Factory is the next holler over from the Motherlode and boasts many great sport and trad routes from some slabby 5.9’s all the way to Pure Imagination (5.14d) and overhanging dihedral route Charlie (5.13a). Just before Charlie, Oompa (5.10a) and Loompa (5.10c) are two fantastic overhanging jug hauls with lots of great sidepulls that require good footwork to use optimally. We didn’t do any of these great routes however, we headed to the left side where new routes beckoned. I warmed up on Snarf Victory (5.10b) and squeaked out a send. It is a thin, balancy arête with questionable rock. It was a pretty new route so it might clean up but overall not a stellar route. Audrey went up after me and managed to work out the moves and clip the anchors. Bram and Blake warmed up just next to on us on Sunday Night Cockfights (5.11b). I hopped on it hopping for a better route than Snarf but found the two finger pockets a bit too small for my large fingers.

We headed down the cliff line to an unnamed 5.11c that Bram wanted to get on. He fought his way to the chains and I thought it would be a good idea to get on. Evidently I was wrong and ended up hanging for a while trying to work out the beta. I cleaned it and Audrey hopped on Wonkaholic, a fun but thought provoking 5.10a slabby arête with a tough move and hidden hold at the anchors. She nearly fell at the anchors but managed to keep it together and clip the anchors.

Feeling somewhat depressed at my abilities, Audrey and I decided to head over to the Motherlode to get on a couple new easier routes. The Motherlode is probably the best known crag at the Red with over 60 routes, most of them 5.12 and up. There are however ten 5.11 sport routes and a 5.10. The two most recent additions are Ben (5.11a) and Laura (5.11b), memorial routes for a couple of 18 year olds who died at Emerald City in November 2008. I was friends with both and taught Laura to clean anchors and rappel 6 months before the accident. Getting on these routes was a way to remember them. They are both enjoyable routes with nice holds most of the way up. The crux on both routes guard the anchors. I managed to onsite Laura but not Ben and time didn't allow me to give it another go. We packed up and scurried back to the car, hoping we wouldn't be too late to the redezvous time.


We got up this morning and headed out to the Bright Side, a newly develop area a few minutes down the cliff line from Solar Collector. The Bright Side offers routes from 5.10 thru 5.13 with most of the routes in the 11 to 12 range. In the summer it gets nice shade all morning until ~2:00 pm but in the winter it gets sun most of the day. The routes on the main wall are good and consistent. We warmed up on Chica Loca (5.10c) although I can’t recommend it as a good warm up. The crux is going to the second bolt and a ledge just above the second bolt gives the route a ledge fall possibility, I like my warm ups to be a bit less committing even if they aren't near my limit. Overall it is a decent route, just not a warm up. It felt a bit stout for the grade too. We then headed over to the second easiest route at the cliff, Scalawagarus (5.11a). I liked this route, especially the undercling slopper move leaving the alcove rest towards the top. It feels bad when you first grab it but gets really positive as you move your feet up. It reminded me of a funky balancy move that you'd find in a gym.

Feeling nicely warmed up, we got on Crown of Thorns (5.11d) on the main wall. I climbed well through the first five or so bolts of gently overhanging pockets to hueco rest. You leave the hueco by going straight up, an intimidating path but luckily big holds just above the roof make it easy. I ran into trouble just before the last bolt where the wall goes blank for a section. I desperately clipped the bolt from a very awkward stance and in the process got too pumped to think. After a quick hang I sorted out beta and did a long reach off an undercling to span the gap. Bram walked the route with my beta and I tied in for another go. I got through and out of the hueco fine but felt the pump setting in. I messed up a move just before the last bolt and took a fall. Evidently my training didn’t prepare me for the Red’s forearm blowing pump.

After the sun came onto the cliff, we headed over to Solar Collector and met up with my friend Art and Ayna, who has been climbing at the gym for the past year but hadn’t spent time outside. Ayna always struck me as a very calm, peaceful young woman so I was amazed at the string of expletives that came out of her mouth after she took her first (intentional) lead fall. Bram, Art and I nearly fell on the ground laughing. Solar Collector is a great crag but doesn’t offer much for beginners (Ayna) and the unfit (me), so we hiked over to Crossroads.

Development of the Crossroads stared over a decade ago by Flyin’ Brian McCray and was rediscovered by Wes Allen in 2008. The Crossroads is generally a quiet crag with over 30 routes spread from 5.8 through 5.12. Lots of the routes here are slabby to vertical with a few nice overhanging routes on the left end of the crag. I had done most of the routes here before I moved but a few new routes had gone up that looked doable. I headed up Love Potion #9 (5.9) and found it to be a little awkward and runout but overall a decent route. To my amazement Art convinced Ayna to get on it and she walked up it for her first 5.9 lead. Meanwhile Art had climbed The Country Boy (5.11a), a thin vertical route just to the right. We tease Art a lot about his footwork but I found myself eating my words as I hung on the rope to work out the delicate moves that Art had just walked up. I got the route on a second attempt and we headed over to Hippie Speedball (5.11d) for Art and Bram. This route is much more of the typical Red route: slightly overhanging with positive holds but without the rest jugs that are common. Bram fought his way to the last bolt but took a zigger while clipping it and ended up hitting a big tree just behind the route. I’ve taken the fall before and had not issue with the tree but Bram is not the first to get close and personal with it. Luckily Bram didn't have any serious injuries but now had an excuse for the next couple days. Art nervously headed up the route, hanging along the way to find holds and determined not to repeat Bram's fall.


A good friend of mine is getting married in Indianapolis so I decided to head to Kentucky for a couple weeks and drive up to Indy for the wedding. I moved to Utah from Lexington, KY about a year ago, so I was excited to get back to see friends and spend time climbing in the Red River Gorge.

After living in Kentucky for three and a half years and climbing  80 to 90 days a year, I left the Red having climbed nearly all the sub-5.12 sport routes. I spent the last four months trying to get ready for this trip with treadwall workouts and 4x4’s but I fear my training fell apart in the last month as I worked overtime to take a long weekend trip and then spent a week on vacation with my in-laws. I was hoping to knock off a few mid-12s but I think I’ll have to lower my sights to a couple 12a’s and some new easier routes.

I got into Lexington in late afternoon and my friend Bram Bell picked me up at the airport. Bram owns Bluegrass Boulders, a great little bouldering gym in Lexington that he opened up a couple years ago. Lexington had been without a gym for over 5 years but is full of climbers so Bram decided he’d open up a gym. When Bram told me he’d leased the space I thought he was crazy but told him I’d promise to help him as much as I could. Over the next couple months I would spend 3 or 4 hours a night after work at the gym helping him put up vapor barrier, build walls, cut stairs and drinking beer. The place was built by the community with friends and random climbers coming out to help get a gym up and running. While the gym is small, it’s great for training with quality routes and two tread walls to help build up the endurance needed to excel at the Red. Another great feature is that the gym is open 24 hours a day to key card carrying members, letting folks train around their schedule.

Bram was working at the gym that night so I headed over there with him and caught up with some friends and made plans to climb with some over the course of the next week. I also enjoyed an Ale8, the somewhat legendary ginger ale of Kentucky. It was a great first day back in Kentucky.


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