Sandbagging at the Red.

I want to talk about some of the things new climbers will experience with outdoor routes. Something called, “Sandbagging“.

Last fall, I was lucky enough to tag along on a trip some of the climbers from our gym were going on to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. This was my first time at “The Red”, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Back home, I can easily climb any of the 5.11 routes at the gym, within 5 or 6 attempts. But “The Red” was different.

We started on a climb called,  “27 Years of Climbing“, which had a written grade of 5.8. Usually, I am able to send this grade first try, but found myself struggling after every clip. I think I had to rest on each one. I am not sure if this is one of those historic routes that were climbed when routes only went up to 5.10, but I think the grade should change to reflect modern grades of today.

After some lunch, we headed to a route called, “Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky“, which had a written grade of 5.10b. Some friends were “working” this route, and I decided to attempt it on top rope. I couldn’t believe the ridiculous grade of 5.10b! This route was waaaay harder than anything I’ve been on before, and I felt very discouraged. This is the trouble with “Sandbagging”. Some areas intentionally grade routes harder than they are, and when people climb there for the first time, they are shut down by grades they easily can climb back home.


Anyway, this is just my way of saying, don’t let climbing sandbaggery get you down. It’s their issues, not yours. Believe in yourself!

Climb on! And climb on rocks!


10 thoughts on “Sandbagging at the Red.

  1. You may find as you climb more outdoors that every route will feel sandbagged compared to the gym. Nobody intentionally grades routes harder than they are.


  2. Hilarious!!! The Red River Gorge is notoriously one of the softest climbing areas in the USA, you’ll have a really fun time at The New River Gorge, Yosemite, Etc.!!!


    • So true. I climb 5.13 in the gym, but struggled with the 3d class approach to Munginella – way sandbagged approach. The climb itself was easily 5.11r or x.


  3. just re-rate the climbs. If you’re climbing 5.11 or .12 in the gym and struggle on an outdoor climb, then obviously the outdoor climb is at least 5.12, perhaps even .12c or d. Right?


  4. I’m with you man. I think it’s super unfair that I can climb gym 5.10b as a warmup, but I got shut down on Ahab. WTF, if I can’t climb it in rainboots, you can’t call it 5.10, offwidth, jughaul, whatever.


  5. Seriously. I was in Yosemite, and I can normally totally crank out the 5.10s. That “Nutcracker” is so bogus. That thing is at least 5.10d. I had to have my partner lead everything. Not sweating it though, we added a bolt just before that unsafe mantle.


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