The adventure continues:- Reflections in “The Red” and BEAR up head!

Since landing in the US and living in Austin I have been waking up with a sore back and having to stretch it out everyday just to really get moving, but not in Kentucky. I have no idea what changed apart from the bed I am sleeping in. I know I feel the same. I am doing a bit more hiking about but all in all nothing majorly different. I will not draw conclusion on the change, however it is a wonderful thing not to have back pain for the first time in months.

Monique has been a wonderful tour guide during the first few days and I have been in the navigators seat; not that Mon required any assistance with directions as her comfort with where we were headed each day was exceptional. I decide its time to suck it up and take the drivers seat, there is a tentativeness that I have not experienced for a while, however I figure it can’t be that difficult to drive on the wrong side of the car, and on the wrong side of the road.

Driving north today for the first time to check out Military Wall I now understand my tentativeness. Its not the driving that gets you, its the cars coming the other way. It totally freaks you out initially. Arriving at the car park and ready for another new crag and a new walk in. We cross the road to the trailhead and there it is! A big yellow sign that I did not want to see. Clearly stated in black paint as to not miss the message are the words “Beware: Bears frequent this area.” I’m stoic on the outside and the inside is going “are you fucking serious!!!” As we walk through the forest feeling hyper-vigilant, I notice just how truly stunning it is. The moss covered rotting tree trunks, the massive lichen covered boulders, wild iris’s growing on the trail edge and hanging moss (like santa’s beard) I think its called father christmas or something like that.

As we enter the cliff-line there are a couple of guys who I recognise from the day before. We have a quick look up at Military Wall and there are multiple parties already very much coveting every line on it. We head back to the smaller wall and do a couple of 5.9 (18) classics of the crag. We wander up to the main wall again and I politely ask the guys on the 5.11 (22) if they will be on the route for long and if it was possible to do a quick layoff it if they were staying on it.

The route was called “Fuzzy Undercling” and it looked great. The leader of the pack, who’s name unfortunately escapes me right now seemed a really decent fellow and was happy for us to jump in. Even offered us their rope to use to save time and hassle. so I tie in and look at the start of this route. I am little perplexed at the start as it does not look anything like 5.11a moves. This bouldery little event ended up throwing me back to the ground with a disrespect that I had only received working on a project back in Oz with a business colleague. I try again and I can’t see it……shut down before getting off the ground…….humbled and shitty I jump on again and pull the first three moves and then say “TAKE!”

I really wanted to spend sometime on this route, but as the gents who’s gear we were using had been so polite I thought otherwise and just pulled through and sent the rest of the route and came down. Monique pulled on and found it a little harder than 5.11a and she sent the route in good style and we packed up and trundled back to the car. on the way back Monique was telling me that the guys had informed her about a route that we should go and do a little farther north called “Twinkie” a five star 5.12a (24).

The name of the sector and crag didn’t sink in to my overloaded mind when talking about it, however I now recall Phantasia Wall clearly. The cliff is visible from the road and I spy a very cute bottom hanging from a rope and hear the words “I cant pull this move, its too long for me.” As we approach the young lady gets back on the wall and pulls through what seems to be a fairly simple move for her. I smile to myself remembering that we all started somewhere and its sometimes the mental game that is the greatest limiter. It has caused me a slow progression in many pursuits for many years. Realisation is the key of change, you just need to start the engine and put your foot down.

We ask a couple of people if they can point us to where “Twinkie” is located and they respond with “Just follow the cliff-line down to the right.” As we walk down and around a corner we both see a belayer standing on this ledge about 8 metres off the deck and he is firing words of encouragement up at his partner who is sending the route. As Monique and I survey the wall in unison we look at each other and smile. We are standing underneath a twenty eight metre high wall with approximately eight to ten metres of 5.10b (21) slab climbing and the rest of the wall is pocketed jug haul at thirty degrees. This route looks like so much fun and fortunately for us the guys on it were just finishing up and said that we could use the draws on it if we cleaned it.

Monique tied in and smiled at me as she took off up the slab, excited to be on such an amusement park of a line. All the way through she was just stating the level of excitement and how much fun she was having and this was awesome to hear. She cruised the route but she was working a little for it and as I lowered her off she was grinning from ear to ear saying “You are going to love this!”. I love that she gets that excited about routes like this. Its awesome.

Monique on Twinkie 5.12a and a man on a ledge.
Monique on Twinkie 5.12a and a man on a ledge.

We headed back to the house to do something. Its not important right now. As we drove back down from the north gorge it became apparent that I had taken a wrong turn and we were headed through the back roads of The Daniel Boone Reserve in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain range. This half an hour detour was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced. This place is truly beautiful and in the spring it is so green and lush with colour you don’t need your sexy polarised sunglasses, but if you do happen to have them, put them on its like being in a surreal scene in James Cameron movie. I cant wait to return here in the fall (autumn) to see the trees change and spread their red and orange glow through the gorge.

Oh yeah, when we arrive back at the house there are a couple of boxes that have arrive for Monique and she is really excited. Her new sponsor has excelled and delivered some awesome apparel for her to wear whilst we are here in Kentucky. I hear her sing out to me saying the fridge light isn’t working. I check the light switch in the living room and nothing. The power is gone….where the hell is the switchboard and will I be able to recognise anything on it.

Finding the board and surveying its layout i reset the switches and hope that it will work. No such luck. The power company have turned the power off and we are in the dark….literally. There is only one thing to do. Lets go climbing!  Drive-by Crag is the destination and the route is “Spank” aka “Ticka Monster” 5.13a (28) and the belayer is me.

This is how it all started.
This is how it all started.

Monique wanted to get on this and I was fried. I had been feeling a little out of sorts all day so I said “Lets go and do it.” She tied in and off she went up through the spoogy undercut to the ledge rested for a few minutes and then out to clip the fourth and up. Monique’s skin was pretty mashed on her fingers and she had taped up where she could without it impacting her contact points.

The humidity in the afternoon at Drive-by is pretty bad in the spring But Mon sent the route second shot and in stunning form. I did a route called “Make a Wish” 5.10b (20) and dedicated the send to a rescue worker who was known to a guy I know in Austin and had died doing her job. It was the least I could do when he asked me to dedicate a climb to her. Another great day in “The Red” with the exception of no power at the house. I laugh as I write this and recall the thought of squatting in a house that has no power. We do however have gas and an open fire place. We decide to spend another rest day at the Rockhouse tomorrow and head into Stanton to grab some candles and a few boxes of matches to get us through the next few days.

It is important for me to remember that I am climbing a lot in the next twelve months or so and I should climb some crag classics and not spend the two weeks we have had currently, trying to tick a single project. We are in “The Red” and there are thousands of routes to get on.

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