Climbing Red River Gorge

It had been five years since I’d sport climbed, and even more since I’d climbed in Kentucky. And yet here I was on the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, the final stretch of the drive to the first outdoor area I visited 18 years ago. When I began the drive I had no idea what to expect from the notoriously long pump fests of the Red River Gorge after years dedicated to climbing harder moves on smaller rocks. But as the familiar sights inspired a mix of old memories and new daydreams, my excitement started to boil over.

That mix of past and present was a theme of the trip. I both reconnected with old friends and watched as the kids I coach experienced the Red for the first time. I climbed on routes I had attempted in the past and visited entirely new crags that motivated climbers had developed in the years since my last visit.

Most importantly, though, I ended every day swearing I would rest tomorrow, and started every tomorrow at the cliff once again. When there’s a lifetime of amazing climbing and my motivation is high, I’ve found it’s often best to wait to rest ‘til I’m back at home.

The reality is, though, that tears of the skin on my hands often force me to rest, and that damp skin leads to more tears. I credit Spider Chalk, especially my favorite chalk on the market, their chunky powder chalk, with keeping my hands dry and in good working order for a week straight of climbing many pitches of sandstone in warm, humid conditions.

-Peter Bonamici

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