Picture this: last day at the Red, a project undone, one headlamp, and an empty amphitheater of rock swallowed by the blackness of night. Rad.
This is how my friend, Zak McGurk, experienced his last day in Kentucky. It was American Thanksgiving, and Zak and I headed back to the Motherlode one last time, in order for him to attempt to send his project, Last of the Bohicans. This amazing 5.13d is the extension to the classic 100 foot long BOHICA (5.13b) in the Madness Cave. (fun fact of the day: BOHICA stands for Bend Over Here It Comes Again. Love it). Zak had done the route with one fall on a previous day, and was eager to complete it before heading back to the Great White North (that’s Canadia for all you southern folks). It started out as a gorgeous sunny day, and we were giddy and gushing over our great luck with the weather. Yet as soon as we warmed up and headed over to the Madness Cave, the sky instantly darkened with clouds and the air turned frigid. Nice one.
Zak’s first attempt on the route was proud and he fell after overshooting the shallow pocket on the crux section. As he rested, I attempted to flash the classic Snooker (5.13a) on the GMC Wall. I felt strong, yet fell immediately before the gigantic rest (of course). When I got down, Zak was not yet ready to go, so we booked it back to the car to warm up, as the wind was seeping into every crack and seam in our clothing. On his second burn he once again failed to latch the pocket and came down frustrated yet not deterred. I hopped back on Snooker and managed to send it second go, which I was thoroughly psyched about.
As the sun set behind the hills, the Madness Cave began to turn into a wall of black. Luckily, Zak managed to borrow a headlamp and he set back up the route for a third time. As I stood at the bottom of the route in the dusk of the day, I could barely make out anything but the silhouette of Zak’s body cruising up the first 100 feet of the route. As he headed towards the crux, I yelled and screamed at him, pushing him with all the mental strength I had to stick that pocket. In the darkness of night I saw him throw for it, latch on to it..and after a full stop when I thought he had it, he came screaming off into the black. I expected a huge wobbler to erupt from Zak, but no, instead I heard this “Man, that was the most amazing thing ever! You really need to try climbing up here with a headlamp. It’s unreal!” I was shocked and amazed, and truly inspired. To have that attitude, to be able to fall on your last burn of the trip, on a route where you are oh so close to the chains, is truly incredible. That is pure love for the sport right there.
As I started to pack away the rope, Zak is still gushing. After about a 10 second pause in which he stares up at the wall, he turns to me and said “Can I try it once more?” Hell yeah! The sun has fully disappeared for the night, and all I can see is his illuminated torso as he heads up the route one last time. Completely gassed, he fell once more at the pocket, and once again came down with a shit eating grin on his face. “Guess that just means you’ll have to come back next year eh?”
“Oh for sure”