Whippers, Ballerinas, and Thugs

Time is flying by. It’s been over a month since we left home and arrived here at the Red River Gorge. It’s been a blast, with so many new routes and so much lactic acid. I was able to overcome my slight shoulder tweak (phew!) and get through the Kentucky Training Period, as I have dubbed it. It’s the amount of time (usually about 2 weeks on average) it takes for a sport climber to not fall off the chains of every route they try here at the RRG. Power endurance is the name of the game here. If you can hold on forever, you can do anything. That seems to be the secret behind all the tween crushers that warm up on my projects here. Busted! Just you wait until you hit puberty! Ha!

Cat sending Prometheus Unbound, 5.13a

In all seriousness though, it’s turned into project time here at the RRG. While testing the water on some harder routes, I surprised myself by flashing my first 13a (Prometheus Unbound at the Sanctuary Crag, Muir Valley), and the next day, my second (Easy Rider at the Drive By Crag, PMRP). Enthused, I turned my sites on some dream routes. Usually I am absolutely stoked to settle down on one hard route and work on it to completion. Here, however, where there are what feels like a thousand times more routes that back at my home climbing area of the Bow Valley, I’m finding it difficult to maintain my concentration. Currently, I am back on forth on two routes: The Madness (5.13c), 100+ foot route in the Madness Cave with a crux right at the end, and Kaleidescope (5.13c), a shorter albeit more powerful route with fewer rests at The Drive By crag.

Starting up The Madness, 8a+
Photo: Cat Vaillancourt
Where’s Weldon?
Putting The Madness into perspective
Photo: Tom Smartt

Both routes appeal to me for very different reasons. The Madness is aptly named. It’s 100+ feet of pure endurance, with amazing movement on steep, steep rock. After a tough crux at the bottom, you get a little sit down rest to recover and contemplate just how well you’ll deal with the pump this time. After that, it’s paddling up the main cave on big moves between good holds on a wall that adds up the forearm pump like no other angle can. A final rest sets you up for a Mad push to the anchors, where a bulge with some lovely slopers kicks in the fatal pump. The kicker is that it seems I must skip the last 2 nicely spaced bolts on the final headwall to have any  chance of making it to the chains. I haven’t taken the massive whipper yet, but it’ll be a doozy!

Redpoint burn on Kaleidoscope, 8a+
Photo: Tom Smartt

Kaleidoscope, on the other hand, is a whole different animal. Established by one of my heros, Monique Forestier, Kaleidoscope is a beautiful gently overhanding arch. It’s aesthetically one of the most pleasing routes I have laid eyes on. In my dreams, Kaleidoscope was this beautiful, flowing route that required a dancer’s delicacy. It just seemed to fit the image of the route in my mind. Yet when I actually got on the route, I found how wrong I was. This route is pure thug. The holds aren’t amazing, and you need to give lot’s of mustard through the crux. Technique mustn’t be forgotten though. Heel hooks and drop knees are you best friend. In truth, this route has confused me. Over the past few days, I had to change my mindset from “be a ballerina”  to, “be a thug”, to finally, “be a ballerina AND a thug”. Now that I’ve gotten it all figured out, all I can do is go to the top!

Don’t take the apple from the snake!
Cat crushing Snooker (5.13a)

Overall, our time here has been amazing. Yet there is so much work to be done! Unfortunately the spring thunder storms have seemed to arrived, and we are dealing with wet rock and humidity now. Luckily, both of my projects have seemed to be stay mostly dry, so I really have no excuses!

Hopefully my next update will include some happy news about ticking off these two fantastic routes!

Happy Sending Everyone!

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