Jake McCrary

Spring trip to the Red River Gorge

I hadn’t been down for more than a single day since the beginning of 2020. This was a great return to the Red River Gorge.

Jenn and I drove down Thursday morning and met our friends Joel and Liz at the Slade rest-stop. Our friends had spent the morning climbing in Miller Fork.

We arrived in Slade around 3:30 PM and drove to the Phantasia crag to fit in some late afternoon climbing. We planned on jumping on the classic Pogue Ethics.

We hiked in the path that takes you to Creature Feature and then followed the crag till we got to Pogue Ethics. It would have been more efficient to hike down the road and take the alternative path But it was nice being outside.

Pogue Ethics is such a fun climb with a little spicy crux approximately in the middle. The crux definitely is less intimidating if you tall enough, I was tall enough, to hang the draw before doing the move.

Pogue often has, and did this time, a lot of chalk Xs on some hollow sounding holds. Despite the sound, those holds feel bomber.

After Pogue, we hiked back to the road, moved up the road, and then back to Creature Feature.

Creature Feature is another classic. The bottom part up to the roof and pulling the roof are definitely the harder sections of the climb. Once you get past that the rest is real solid flake pulling.

We climbed late enough that headlamps were useful. We cleaned the route when it was starting to sprinkle.

Miguel’s was almost closing when we arrived. The vegan cheese on the pizza was pretty solid.

We headed to the Big Bear cabin we were renting for the trip. This cabin is in the same general direction of Muir Valley. The fenced in yard was useful for the dog and the cabin made a good home base. Probably the biggest “downside” of the location is it discourages you from going into town to hit up the coffee shop or Miguel’s.

On Friday, we left the dog at the cabin and went to Muir Valley. The weather forecast predicted rain and it was spot on.

We opted to go to Bruise Brothers since we knew a lot of routes would stay dry. We didn’t climb any of the longer, really fun routes because it would have been a little miserable to belay there. We basically climbed out all of the dry problems in the shorter area, including the easy short ones to the right. We also top roped an undeveloped route to the right of the last short one.

It did get crowded but that isn’t surprising. It is Bruise Brothers, of course it is busy. The day was quite wet but still fun.

We ate dinner at Red Point BBQ. It was good and had vegan food that Jenn could eat. In fact, it was Jenn’s favorite meal of the trip. Unfortunately the weather encouraged us to eat inside but the views from the restaurant are amazing.

Saturday’s weather forecast also called for some rain but less than on Friday. It had rained all night though so we tried to find a crag that would be dry.

We ended up at Chica Bonita in the PMRP area.

This was a great choice of crag. It has a mix of easy and hard routes that stayed dry overnight and continued to stay dry during a light sprinkle.

It was a lot of fun. Many other folks showed up too but we were able to stay somewhat spread out and the vibe was fun.

We climbed:

We did not get on it but Cold Hard Bitch was also dry and looked fun. There were definitely more accessible and dry climbs that we could have gotten on as well.

Dinner on Saturday was Miguel’s again. The pizza I ordered was spectacular but I cannot remember the toppings.

Joel and Liz let us borrow their gear so Jenn and I could get more climbing in on Sunday. Four people, one being pregnant, and a single rope doesn’t lend itself to cramming in some early Sunday sends. It was nice of Joel and Liz to do this.

With Joel and Liz leaving early, Jenn and I only had her tiny car for getting around. So we went back to Muir.

It had been raining for days so we continued the hunt for dry rock.

We first went to Inner Sanctum and climbed two routes there Those routes were Netizen Hacktivist and Bad Company. This crag had more dry routes but we headed to Slab City instead of continuing at Inner Sanctum.

I really wanted to climb Return to Balance at Slab City but we started with Thrillbillies. Thrillbillies was great. 90 feet of Red River Gorge slab climbing followed by a beautiful view at the top. I didn’t recognize the route at first but by the top I got to the top I realized I had climbed it before; I think on one of my first trips to the Red. The lizards were out in full force and we saw at least three while climbing this route.

Due to its length and style of climbing, it took as a long, long time to finish Thrillbillies so we didn’t have time to try any of the other routes there. Slab City looks like it has some really great climbs at it though. I want to go back.

Despite its name, it looks like the harder routes at Slab City would stay dry in some rain. Thrillbillies would not but had dried out in the sun.

This was a nice trip. It felt great to have a few days of easier climbing in Kentucky.