An Adult Conversation About the Future of the Red River Gorge

I have just come back from a 2 week trip to the Red.

Let me first start off by saying, I was there alone, and was unable to find a steady partner.

It seemed like whenever I found someone to climb with, the next day they were nowhere to be found. Miguel’s looked like a refugee camp for people who don’t shower, and I suspect the people I had climbed with had fallen into the crevasse formed by greasy pizza boxes, forever trapped and touching the void. Regardless, I was still able to find a group here and there, and on days when I was solo, I would scope out potential routes, or traverse the base of popular crags. Some of these traverses ended up being quite challenging boulder problems.

The first week, I went to the areas that were recommended to me. This includes, The Chocolate Factory, The Motherlode, Bruise Brothers, Drive-By, and The Zoo. The latter pretty much sums up these crags. Some routes literally had line ups. I half expected to see Mocha Lattes being handed out to those first in line, otherwise, why were they waiting? I don’t know about you, but to me, rock climbing is supposed to be a way to get away from it all. I was baffled that in an area with almost limitless rock, people would queue up for what I can only imagine are sand-bagged and polished routes. Routes like, Breakfast Burrito were spitting people off like they were flavourless wads of gum. Take one look at this route, and you can tell it’s mid 5.11, and yet receives a grade of 5.10c. This is the story of the Red.

And then, I took a chance.

I drove northwards. I left the muddy hordes of Miguel’s behind, and trekked into unfamiliar territory. Crags in the Northern Gorge, Lower Gorge, and Middle Gorge were my ‘New World’. I spent hours exploring, scouting lines, finding rock formations jutting into the sky. These areas are known to house mostly traditional climbs, meaning no fixed protection was allowed. From the descriptions, I was expecting golden horseshoes of stone, split every 10 or 15 feet by perfect gleaming cracks. What I discovered, was horrifying.

Sure, areas like Dip Wall, Indian Creek Crag, and Long Wall had beautiful crack climbs. But what I also found was hundreds, if not, thousands of blank faces, just begging for sport routes to pock mark their faces. I was shocked! There is a whole untapped market for first ascents, in what I call, the New Red River Gorge, or ‘New’ for short. Why are these walls left to the elements? Why is there not outrage over the lack of development? Why do people settle for line ups in the south, when the New could double, or triple the amount of routes available to climb? What does the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition even do? Is this an entity controlled by corporate interests (oil companies) to keep people out of the New Red River Gorge?

I say enough is enough. For those of you still sipping to kool-aid, and happy with the status quo, feel free to stay in your pizza box prisons forever. For the rest of us, let this be a call to arms! Grab your drills, bring you chainsaws, and lets blast Big Willie Style from our boom boxes and get jiggy with bolting some routes!

Who’s with me?!?

 

Wes.

 

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Movie Review!: The Eiger Sanction

If there’s one thing we as climbers lack, it’s Hollywood films about rock climbing. Sure, we have the classics, Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger, and even Mission: Impossible 2, but other than that, I thought we were out of luck. That is, until someone recommended to me, The Eiger Sanction.

Yes, this movie came out in 1975, and yes, it is AMAZING!

The plot?

A classical art professor and collector (and former badass climber), who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend (on the Eiger North Face).

If that doesn’t have you running for the DVD bargain bin at Walmart, I don’t know what will. First off, I was confused at the title. I didn’t even know until some googling after I watched the movie that the “Eiger” is actually a real mountain! Eiger

I would love to go there someday and climb it! Who wants to plan an expedition next year??

Anyway, the movie begins with someone getting killed by an assassin. At least I think so.. the fighting is really awful, and if I’m to believe these are highly trained killers, then I’m a 5.14 climber (not yet, but soon). After that, we meet Clint Eastwood, the epitome of cool-as-shit professor. When a cute, young, blonde student shows up at his office asking if there’s “anything she can do” to maintain her B average, I was hoping Clint would do the right thing and say something like, “close the door and lets find out.” Instead, he tells her to study her little ass off… and sends her on her way. What a gentleman… Although he does slap her on her ass as he says it.

 

The next scene we meet another assassin, who looks like one of my dad’s bowling buddies, mind you, and he tells Eastwood that his old boss “Dragon” needs him for another hit. They get into a bit of a scuffle after Eastwood says “Don’t call me buddy, pal, or sweetheart!”, and Eastwood throws the guy out of his office.

But alas, Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) shows up at the secret assassin killing organization, run by the albino, blind, cold blooded lizard man named ‘Dragon’. He tells Hemlock that another agent was murdered, and the killer is a climber, so now Hemlock has to head to the Eiger to find him, and take him out. Obviously…

Hemlock takes the job, or “sanction”, and flies down to Utah to begin his training for the Eiger. This is where the movie goes from cheesy 70’s blacksploitation theatre, to legitimate Reel Rock Tour worthy badassery.

clint eastwood climbingI dont know how they filmed this… But I’ve got a $2000 DSLR camera, and a hell of a lot more climbing experience than Clint Eastwood, and yet when I try to film climbing, it never looks like this.

Hemlock trains for about half the movie with his old mentor, and a native american climber girl who doesn’t talk, but makes Hemlock run on 4th class terrain with jeans and a denim shirt on, after which she sheds her top and reveals her breasts to him, either for motivation, or because… well, it’s Clint freakin’ Eastwood.

After some more fights, more ass grabbing, and more offensive 70’s characters (Hemlocks old arch nemisis is so gay, he named his dog, “faggot”), Hemlock and his old mentor climb an unclimbed tower, and marvel at how well Hemlock is climbing.

the eiger sanction beerThe best part of the movie is when Hemlocks buddy says, “How about a beer?”. Then Eastwood replies, “If you brought beer up here, you’re even crazier than I thought!” To which buddy replies, “I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. I didn’t carry it, you did. It’s in your pack!”.

That line alone… is worth watching this film.

Anyway…. after that, they go to the Eiger. A bunch of stuff happens, he tries to find the killer, people die… but it’s mostly mountaineering, and nobody likes to watch mountaineering.

5/5 Stars! * * * * *

What do you guys think?

Wes

 

 

Climbing gear is a rip-off!!

I watch a lot of these shows on television where people ‘pitch’ businesses and products to wealthy investors. Aside from inspiring me to pursue my guiding business, these programs have taught me that most products cost 46 cents to make, and yet are sold to you and I for $50. Never is this more true than for the outdoor gear industry. There’s a reason we call Patagonia clothing, Patagucci. The “real world” has no clue that the ugly brown fleece sweater I’m wearing, probably costs more than the faded Guess jeans, polka-dot Gap shirt, and those SoftMoc moccasins combined that the girl sitting at Starbucks is wearing. But why?

patagonia

  • Newsflash: Every sweater that you own for climbing is made out of plastic. That’s right… You are paying cashmere prices for the same material as that disposable fork you’re eating your kale salad with. And how much plastic is used to make one sweater? About the size of a small apple! Stretched out into plastic thread, and woven by machine (or child in sweatshop) into that fancy sweater. Total cost of plastic? 79 cents. Total cost to you? $249.99. Stop the madness..
  • Cam I help you? Spring Loaded Camming Devices, Friends, Camalots… These are the ultimate “bling” in climbing. Nothing proves how badass you are more than having a shiny new rack of cams dangling off your harness, other than some well loved hexes. Lets do some math here… A # 6 Black Diamond Camalot costs $110 at your average gear shop and weighs 1 lb, 4 ounces. Scrap aluminum prices are about $ 0.74/lb. That means the camalot has 92 cents worth of metal in it. That’s a mark-up of….  over 10,000 %! But I hear you… you’re paying that mark-up for the engineering, integrity, and safety of the the product and design… These things are bomber!

106320088_medium_bf0da2

 

  • This ain’t your daddies hemp rope: Climbing Ropes are ridiculous… At least with most other climbing gear, if you take care of it, it can last a lifetime. Rope on the other hand, barely lasts a season. Why? Bingo! It’s made of plastic! Climbing gear companies are huge corporations that pretend to be grass roots, save the whales, organic hippie farmers. They are out for one thing: Profit. I’m sure that these companies would be able to produce a stronger, longer lasting rope made from something other than nylon, but why would they? Most ropes can only take 6 or 7 falls before the company recommends replacing it. And at over $200, they can be sure you’ll be bled dry at the start of every season. Even someone like me who doesn’t fall often, has to worry about the rope deteriorating into dust after a season’s worth of UV damage.

Damaged rope

  • Shoes: I for one, don’t believe in climbing shoes. If you think wearing Solutions makes the difference between sending, and not sending, get in the gym and train, because you’re not strong enough yet. However, I know most of you wear some form of climbing shoe. Have you ever looked at a climbing shoe? I mean, really looked at it? It’s nothing more than a few strips of leather, stitched together, and dipped in rubber. Slap on some velcro and paint, and boom, you’ve just made a climbing shoe that sells for $179. Now you’re talking AirJordan prices, and worst of all, climbing shoes only last a couple months before the rubber wears off, and then you’re left with the worlds most uncomfortable house slipper. Climbing shoes should cost about 30 bucks, and be coated in a rubber that doesn’t wear out.

climbshoe

It’s all about greed folks. These companies preach the dirt bag lifestyle, though I wouldn’t be surprised if all the employees are out there sipping on macchiato’s in their Audi’s, listening to Nickleback, while we pick up the bill.

Let’s change the world.

Wes.