Hey Monique! Its Craig. Do you want to go climbing with me in The Red? One phone call was all it took.

I have just said goodbye to my climbing partner of two weeks; Monique Forestier, yep I have been climbing with one of the worlds best female sports climbers in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Saying goodbye brought tears to my eyes as the good times over the last fort-night flooded back as she walked away to board her flight back to her husband and daughter in Australia who have been missing her dearly.

Day one in the gorge began with a serious introduction to the area with a quick trip to the house that we were staying at; to find out that the house keys were not where they were supposed to be. So we got in touch with a friend of Monique’s to find out where the keys were and discovered that they were with the other people staying in the house…..at a crag known as “The Motherlode”. Monique says “lets go climbing” I’m saying “Hell Yeah!!”

So off we trundle to the crag…..We walk for a good ten or fifteen minutes and all of a sudden I walk into the most amazing natural amphitheatre that I have ever seen….this place is intimidating and beautiful. It is immense. Monique says “Lets warm up on this!” I’m like yep sure thing; I am in your hands. So my initiation to the Motherlode was a 5.12a route called Chainsaw Massacre; ironic given that I had just flown in from Texas. I have never “warmed up” on 7a+ (24) in my life. Welcome to “The Red” Craig. Monique put the draws on and I got on this beast with a view to warming up…………well guess what buddy, you only need the first four draws to do that. 70ft of climbing, six bolts, 35 degree overhanging face……….get your game on mate or you’ll be fucked.

Monique harnessing up at the base of Chainsaw Massacre 5.12a.
Monique harnessing up at the base of Chainsaw Massacre 5.12a.
The Beast in all its glory - Chainsaw Massacre......the warm up.
The Beast in all its glory – Chainsaw Massacre……the warm up.

After taking a whipper at the fifth that pulled Monique almost through the first draw, I continued up through the next two draws and I was so absolutely flamed. I came down and rested and Monique did another lap. In the meantime we caught up with Monique’s friends Marionna and Dani. I was standing in the presence of one of the worlds great modern sports climbers and one of my climbing heroes. I had never ever contemplated even meeting Dani Andrada; it wasn’t on the radar. But here we were at a crag in the gorge talking about what the moves on the route he was trying may look like and what I thought of it………WTF!!!!!

Dani Andrada cruising up a 8a+ (5.13c) at the Motherlode in RRG, KY.
Dani Andrada cruising up a 8a+ (5.13c) at the Motherlode in RRG, KY.

I gave  Chainsaw another shot and got all the moves second shot with one rest only to be denied the anchors and take a 8 metre whipper as I reached them. Monique ended up in the first draw again……….this was not the way forward and anchoring becoming the practice for the rest of our trip.

As I sit in Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport reflecting on this initiation to “The Red” there is a sense of achievement rushing through my veins and a smile of contentment. I have done something that I had dreamed of doing for a few years now. I think about a quote from a Dan Millman book “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”……….what time is it? Now!!! Where are you? Here!!! For the first time in a long time I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was travelling…….Living a life less ordinary. This realisation is overwhelming and humbling all at once; I AM HERE!! and it is NOW!!!

Our first night at the house was settling in and getting to know each other and how it was all going to work. The Spaniards were already settled and had things sorted….Mon and I were the new crew and needed to find our spots and feet. The house we were staying in was owned by one of the climbing worlds great photographers, no not Simon Carter…….the other guy…..what’s his name Keith Ladzinski…..yeah thats it! Fuck old age is a curse……LMFAO. I am so not old at all. The night was filled with laughs and silliness and I thought if this is night one; we are on a good thing.

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