Tuesday, May 6, 2014

getting lucky in kentucky. and by lucky i mean we did a lot of rock climbing and bourbon drinking

Over April break week, I made my way down (and over, I guess?) to Kentucky with six of my friends for a week of climbing, hiking, and bourbon drinkin'.  Jason, Lu, France and I departed from Boston at around 5:30am on Saturday, April 19th. Why does that time even exist? Let me tell you, I was looking and feeling GREAT, since I'd only gotten about 90 minutes of sleep. Luckily I'm one of those weird people who can actually sleep in cars, and I was feeling slightly more human after a couple hours of rest. With the exception of having to take about 10 bathroom breaks (only half of them were because of me!), the ride down was fairly uneventful. After about 15 hours in the car were arrived at our new home for the week in Slade, Kentucky. Never heard of it? I hadn't either, before this trip - so don't feel too bad.

#uckyinkentucky


We met up with the other half of our group - Nate, Brian, and Dovi had made it to the house shortly before we arrived. We relaxed, ate pizza, had some drinks and got ready for the upcoming week. Our house was located up the hill (mountain?) from Miguel's Pizza. It's well-known in climbing circles as the place to stay if you're climbing in Red River Gorge. There are a couple of cabins for rent, but people mostly opt to camp for $2 a day. Yeaaaaa, no thanks. We woke up on Sunday morning to some beautiful weather. Our plan was to head to a crag called the Chocolate Factory. It was an entirely top-rope day for me. I wanted to get my bearings before trying to lead any routes. I hadn't done any lead climbing since New River Gorge last April (also when I took my first big whipper), so I was definitely nervous, but excited, at the prospect of trying it once again.

Fickelgruber - this is me cleaning Jason's gear. Even on top rope it was scary!
My favorite climb of the day was the climb pictured above. It's described as "wide off-width to room crux. Pull crux and climb 30 feet of good hand crack". It was a challenging route, as I had to retrieve Jason's trad gear. Here's where I discovered that not only am I good at off-width climbing, but that I also kind of like it! For those of you who don't climb, off-width climbing involves a crack that's too wide to use with your hands or feet, but isn't as large as a chimney. Pretty much it means using whatever part of your body will fit into the crack and using that to climb. I'm pretty sure that at one point I shoved my butt into the rock and used that to steady myself. It worked out pretty well.. except for this:

don't worry, it was just a little cut that bled way more than was necessary
Day 1 recap:
Augustus Gloop: 5.9
Chocolate River: 5.9
Sugar Rush: 5.10a
Fickelgruber 5.8 (cleaned Jason's trad gear, then climbed again on regular top rope)

After a long day of climbing, it was time to go back to the house to prepare Easter dinner. Actually, France and Lu did most of the preparing, and I tried my best not to chop off any fingers. It was a wonderful way to end our first full day in #ucky. 


On Monday we made our way to the Bruise Brothers wall, and I was definitely feeling confident enough to try some lead climbing. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures of any of us climbing. I did do some great routes, and managed to get in my first leads at the Red. All in all a successful second day that left me feeling exhausted, sore, and looking forward to some active recovery (aka bourbon drinking and hiking). 

Day 2 recap:
Put the Best Foot Forward: 5.8
The Offering: 5.7 (first lead in the Red!)
Send me on my way: 5.9-
Ohio Climbing: 5.8 (lead)
Rat Stew: 5.10-

Tuesday was a planned rest day. The weather gods seemed to approve, since it had rained overnight and early that morning. Perfect day for a tour at the Maker's Mark distillery, if you ask me. The tour was fun! We were all able to relax, see the grounds, and of course, drink some bourbon. 


Apparently if you purchase Maker's Mark at the distillery, they allow you to dip your bottle into the iconic red wax. Jason bought two bottles and told me that I do one. It sounds ridiculous but I was terrified that I was going to mess it up somehow. What if I dropped his bottle into the vat of hot wax?! Very stressful, obviously: 

#weirdjessiefaces
After getting out drank on, we made our way back to Slade to do a little hiking at Natural Bridge. We took our time getting up to the top, stopping to take pictures along the way. It was so much fun to hang out with the entire group for the whole day. I think that our hike to Natural Bridge was one of my favorite parts of the trip. 


Temperatures on Wednesday were supposed to be much lower than we'd experienced on Sunday and Monday. I've only climbed in warmer temperatures, so I wasn't fully prepared. I expected to warm up once I got on the wall. While that was true, to a certain extent, I wasn't expecting the rock to feel SO COLD. I had trouble fully using my fingers on my first few climbs until I got used to how it felt. We were at a crag called the Boneyard for most of the day and then moved over to Animal Crackers. Between two solid days of climbing, hiking in and out of the crags, and the Natural Bridge hike, I was feeling a bit fatigued. I'm glad that I was able to find some reserves to get in seven solid climbs, including my first 5.9 lead! LEAD CLIMBING MONSTER, y'all.

Day 3 recap:
Hijacked project: 5.9 (top rope and then lead)
Winona: 5.7
Oink! Oink!: 5.7
Surfing the Whale's Back: 5.10a (I got to the last move before the chains and I couldn't get there. I'm only including this because it was an off-width start and SO difficult at the top and I want to acknowledge my struggle, ha)
Riki Tiki Tavi: 5.7
Harvey: 5.7

And just like that, it was our last full day of climbing! Despite feeling sore, I still had a good amount of energy and was looking forward to our last day in Muir Valley. We decided to make it a lead day and climbed at Practice Wall and the Guide Wall - both of which we mostly had to ourselves. It was a laid back day with some really fun climbs. What a perfect way to close out the trip.

Day 4 recap:
Yu Stin Ki Poo: 5.6 (lead)
Acrophobiacs anonymous: 5.4 (lead)
The Archaeologist: 5.7 (lead)
Built for Life: 5.8+ (lead)
Fear of Commitment: 5.7 (lead)
Irish Mud: 5.8- (lead)
Mona Lisa's crack: 5.8- (lead - I think? I can't remember)


Basically, the trip was incredible. I had a lot of fun with my friends, and loved being able to experience Kentucky with them. I'm very proud that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone with leading. Those three fools (and by fools I mean truly awesome folks) in the picture above are the most wonderful climbing friends a girl could ever ask for. I do not hesitate to (literally) put my life in their hands and I am so grateful to have them. Speaking of which.. where are we climbing in 2015?

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