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Lucky in Kentucky Part 2 Posted on 04.12.2012 by greg.kuchyt

I remember my first trip to the Red River Gorge a few years ago. Even though I still consider myself to be pretty green in the world of climbing compared to those I admire, I was even greener then. I think I was in my first full season of leading trad and you might say I thought I had a thing or two figured out. In short, the Red sent me packing with a pretty good ego-check, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. The steep over-hanging routes exploited my very controlled and slow style of climbing. Simply, I was not a sport climber and didn’t know the first thing about how to be one. The concept of “no-hands” rests and the knee-bar escaped me like discrete mathematics on a grade school algebra student. I remember thinking that the knee-bar rest was lame and a testament to the “soft” nature of sport climbers. Once I proceeded to hang-dog my way up “easy” climbs with a whimper due to the burning in my forearms from the lactic acid pump, I think I surrendered any ground to be casting judgement.

Fast-forward a few years, and I’ve learned quite a few lessons on how to climb the modern style of climbing thanks in part to bouldering a lot more. While I no longer discount the “no-hands” rest as silly, I still suck at finding them. Generally I watch in shame as others find great resting spots where I was feeling the pump clock starting to kick-in to over time. I also think a big thing that changed is that my mental kung-fu is stronger. I am no longer scared to fall when there are few consequences like in the overhanging terrain of modern sport climbing. Rather, my fear has focused on the terrain that produces bad accidents, something I unfortunately know a bit about.

Coming out of the recovery from my accident, I came into this trip to the Red with a renewed outlook on my motivations to climb. On this trip I was really looking to just get back to a place where I could be comfortable climbing again and not be paralyzed by irrational fears/memories. I have to credit my recent flirtation with Yoga as a big influence here. My Yoga instructor has said many times to open up and allow things to happen, rather than forcing them to happen. It’s a sentiment I am trying to embrace and integrate into my life more.

For my partner Zach, this was his first trip to the Red River Gorge. In fact, this was his first real climbing trip in general! Awesome! I tried my best to paint an accurate picture of what to expect, and hopefully I didn’t tarnish it too much with my own personal biases. We discussed a lot on the 14 hour drive down, and in general I think we had very open expectations for the trip. I think this helped alleviate my fears that I might be a walking shit-show post-accident.

Mat on Plate Tectonics (5.10b)

So after looking at the guide book we kind of decided to check out Global Village on our first day (Sat). It seemed like there was a good amount of mellow climbing to get back in the groove after the winter season lull. We had also arranged to meet our friend Mat who we knew from our times at Potsdam. Mat has been at Indian University doing grad work lately, so it was a pretty short hop for him. Mat brought along a couple of friends who were pretty new to climbing, so Global Village seemed a good fit overall. I was pretty impressed with the climbing there, there were a couple of good moderate trad lines with my favorite being Casual Viewing a brilliant 5.7 stemming/layback crack. I was pleased to find that I could at least still lead moderate trad without falling completely apart.

Sport climbing was a different story. I was cursed with the same kind of lock-ups I had experience on my first trip. Any time I moved above a bolt I started to get uncomfortable and any time I wasn’t on a bomber jug, I started to shutdown and would back down and hang on a bolt. It was frustrating to say the least! This pattern continued for the next couple days at the Chica Bonita Wall (Sun) and Johnny’s/Tectonic Walls (Mon). Finally on Monday I got my mental game back. It was really odd, it was like someone flipped a switch in my brain to turn off the “paralyzing anxiety” pump or something. I wasn’t going to argue though! I was also able to shoot some photos of Mat and Zach on Monday, so it was good to get some more practice with the camera and such.

Local favorite Ale8 and Jambalaya

After a rest day on Tuesday, sampling some of the awesome thingsin the Lexington area, we spent our remaining days just kind of having a mellow time and exploring cliffs I hadn’t been to yet. Zach had a great trip that he should be really proud of. With a very short career in hand he proved himself adaptable and learned how to climb this new style and was climbing solid in the 5.10 range, with a flash of Creep Show as his “high point” in terms of grades. I ate my own words when I made the statement to Mat that I would prefer to get mileage instead of working one or two routes. On our second-to-last day, I got enticed by the cool looking line called Infectious. I went into it expecting to not get very far, but I just wanted to see if I could do the opening boulder problem as I thought I could see the moves. Honestly, my plan was to just pull the draw on the first bolt after I got to it, just as an exercise to boost my confidence. Well, on the 7th try from the ground up, I was at the chains after a one-hang burn. It was totally possible to red-point the climb and I got greedy and wanted to get it done. I did the 7 burns in about 30 minutes though and I think I put it all out too soon. I wasn’t able to get the red-point that day. The plan was to return early the morning we were to drive back and just hike up with the 6 draws needed and try to fire it off.

Zach on Creature Feature (5.9)

Unfortunately, it ended up pouring the morning we left for 7 hours overnight. I sat awake in my tent for a few hours around 2 in the morning, wishing/hoping the rain would stop. I was pretty certain that with that much rain, the top of the climb would be wet and I psyched myself out of it. So we just made the long drive back, but oddly I wasn’t too disappointed. Really, the trip was more of a success than I had hoped. I regained my confidence in climbing, pushed the limit on the difficulty I was consistently climbing, and managed to have fun every day. How can you be disappointed with that? Now we are back in the NE, which seems like it is straddling the Winter/Spring mark a little more than I would like. To be sure though, rock season is here and we are starting to get after it.