November is the month many Northeastern climbers travel south trying to extend the last couple of weeks of rock season, and pass the time until the ice comes in good back home. Along with the Chattanooga area of Tennessee (see T is for T-wall, below) the Red River Gorge in Eastern Kentucky is a popular season needing location. In the hills around Slade Kentucky lies a lifetimes work of climbing. While there is both trad and sport, the Red is known for it’s radically overhanging sandstone sport climbs. The style is almost pure endurance, where the main challenge is getting to the top. With prime climber accommodations throughout the Gorge ($2 camping), this area makes it easy to come and hard to leave. It’s no wonder many traveling climbers live here for months at a time!

Seth Cohen warms up on Oompa 5.10a at The Chocolate Factory. The steep wall of Pure Imagination 5.14c is in the foreground

Seth Cohen warms up on Oompa 5.10a at The Chocolate Factory. The steep wall of Pure Imagination 5.14c is in the foreground

Mike Mastanduno resting on Tissue Tiger, 5.12b at Military Wall

Mike Mastanduno resting on Tissue Tiger, 5.12b at Military Wall

There are two main strategies to learn in order to climb hard on the Red’s overhanging cliffs. One is to climb fast and efficiently, the other is to train to be good at recovering when you come to a good rest, as in the photo above.

Mike Mastanduno off Tuna Town, 5.12d at The Motherlode

Mike Mastanduno off Tuna Town, 5.12d at The Motherlode

Aside from the pump, the steep walls and rather run out climbs lead to some of the biggest whippers you’ll ever take. The “Red River Belay” involves a large loop of slack and a generous hop when your climber falls. Most of these falls are as clean as possible, and we frequently jumped from the chains to get some of that fun air time.

Chelsea Kendrick on Fuzzy Undercling, 5.11b at the Military Wall

Chelsea Kendrick on Fuzzy Undercling, 5.11b at the Military Wall

The Red is known for having the biggest holds you’ll ever fall off of. After climbing 80 feet of overhanging rock, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how big the holds are, you’re too pumped too hold on to anything! One of our friends melted off the top of this climb on massive jugs.

Erik Thatcher on Steel Worker, 5.12c at Torrent Falls

Erik Thatcher on Steel Worker, 5.12c at Torrent Falls

At the end of the day, The Red offers some of the most enjoyable, stress free climbing around. No frustrating cruxes or micro beta, no scary falls, and a large percentage of climbable days. I suggest every one find the opportunity to head down to Ole Kentucky and check their grip on the Red’s awesome Sandstone buckets!

Erik Thatcher