Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Although Hogwarts is on state land, the access road is on an easement owned by the nearby ranch.  Please be respectful while climbing here.

View from Hogwarts.
Muggles beware!  A force has been building near Rifle.  A new crag with great rock, rope stretching lines, and short approaches.  A place where the magic of a drill and some hard work has transformed an ordinary piece of rock into a great new climbing area.

Small tufas at the start of Horny for Hermione- 13b.
Well, Leah and I had been hearing about this place since last Summer and we finally decided to check it out.  It was hard to escape the magical spell of Rifle on Sunday morning, but the promise of a new wall was enough to ignore the slightly guilty feeling I had as we left the canyon.

Hogwarts lives down East Elk Creek Road, a road I have rushed by a million times on my way to Rifle.  A short drive up this beautiful valley reveals vibrant red cliffs, a wild river, and a hidden canyon with huge limestone walls that stretch beyond sight.  Luckily, Hogwarts and the Distillery flank the parking area at the mouth of the gorge.

The Distillery
A ten minute approach brings you across a river, and up a calm hillside to the left end of Hogwarts.  The rock has a similar hue to Rifle, but the features are less 3-dimensional.  Most of the routes are 25+ meters and follow features such as flakes, cracks, and pods up slightly overhanging terrain until the wall slabs out and features change to whipped spines and scalloped pinches.  For those who hate the buttery texture found at Rifle, Hogwarts offers a chance to play on new routes before they get greased up.
The Daily Prophet- 12a.
There are a few good 10's and 11's to warmup but most of the routes are between 12a and 13a.  Although we didn't see the entire cliff, it seemed to be extensivly developed.  Expect some loose rock on these routes since they have probably only been climbed a few times each.  I might be a good idea to bring a helmet.

Leah anticipating some choss.
Another nice thing about this cliff was the fresh feel of the crag.  There is still grass and flowers at the base.  We saw snakes, butterflies, and lizards all day.  You can hear the river rushing below.  Everything is calm and quiet which is a nice change from the rush and buzz of Rifle.

Top of the Distillery.
We ended the day by trying Imperio Direct- 13a.  It follows edges, flakes and a bonus tufa up a pretty white face to a thin crux and then moves up the slab using grooves, pods and pockets.

Imperio Direct- 13a.
Imperio Direct climbs just left of the large scoop, and ends just below the bushes to the top.
So, if you are tired of trying to find parking in Rifle, or looking for a quiet wall with great routes and nice scenery, check out Hogwarts.  Thanks to Dave Pegg, Josh Gross, and everyone else who helped develop this crag.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Red River 2013

Early April found us back in Kentucky for our annual Red River Gorge climbing trip.  It always feels like a gamble when you buy tickets to the Red in the Spring.  It could easily rain for a week straight.  Luckily, we had perfect weather.

This trip was powered by MetRX.
We stayed at Lago Linda's last year, but our cabin was infested with ants, spiders, wood cackroaches, and mice.  So we decided to stay in the Treehouse at the Quiet Waters at Natural Bridge.  The cabin was great, but, we quickly realized why the cabin was such a great price.  The "short approach" they mentioned ended up being a 5 minute, straight uphill slog that we dreaded- especially after a long day of climbing.

However, we didn't know that when we first arrived.  At the parking lot, single wooden sign pointed us straight uphill, into a dark forest for an undetermined distance.  So, we marched into the darkness with 10 bags of groceries and our rolling luggage(which doesn't roll that great on uneven, rooty terrain), until our arms burned and our minds started questioning the existence of the Treehouse.  Eventually, I started laughing hysterically, dropped all my stuff, and went ahead until found the cabin.

In short, we both agree that we prefer pests over a heinous uphill trek.  So, if we rent a place again, we will probably end up a Lago Linda's.  Live and learn...

Leah doing what she does best- getting cozy.
Since we had visited the Red last April, we knew what to expect and trained specifically for the trip.  Leah was no longer literally expecting "jugs" and I expected to top out at 13b if I was lucky.  Unlike most trips, I didn't make an extensive tick list.  Instead, I just let the days unfold, which worked out sometimes, and backfired others.  Somehow, I ended up on two routes with full-on dynos(Bundle of Joy, and Appalacian Spring).

My abs were looking really good on this trip.
It's funny how climbing preferences change.  I visited the Red for the first time in 2004 and thought it was fun, but kind of monotonous and mindless.  I scoffed at climbers who obsessed about sequences around the fire at Miguel's.  I rolled my eyes as they refined their, left, right, left, until you reached the chains beta.  At the time I was enamored with the 3D style at Rifle and decided one visit was enough.

Leah on Amerillo Sunset- 11b/d.
Now, almost 10 years later, my love affair with Rifle has matured into a relationship that leaves room for other climbing areas.  I have a new appreciation the Red's straightforward style, and feel inspired by fresh crags with colorful, sweeping walls that are tucked in a beautiful, quiet forest.  Although I really struggle with the nature of the routes, it's exciting to find an area/style that exposes such a weakness.  Ultimately, if I can improve at the Red, it will transfer to other areas of my climbing.

Wonder what would happen if I removed the plug...
One of the biggest regrets from last year's trip was not visiting the Mammoth Caves- the world's largest cave!  So this year, we got up early, and forced ourselves to do the 3 hour drive.  It was pouring all day, so going underground seemed like the perfect activity for a rainy rest day.

Onyx crystals on ceiling.
We ended up on a great tour of the New Entrance, with only about 20 people(instead of 150).  We descended a steep stairwell down a narrow, vertical shaft that led to the floor of the cave.  Most of the people were old, so it took about 10 minutes.  I kept trying to imagine how long it would take with 150 old people.  The two hour tour would be eaten up just getting down the stairs!

Cave cricket on the ceiling.
The going was slow since some of the older people struggled with the uphills and muddy terrain, but nobody cared because there was plenty to look at and wonder about.  We learned that the original owner had a wine cellar down there during prohibition(we didn't get to see it).  I can only imaging the cave parties that were thrown.  He also tried to mimic all the major attractions of the Historic Cave Entrance, like the Fatman's Misery, and the boat ride.

Onyx.  People originally thought the ceiling was covered with diamonds.
Fairy Castle on the ceiling.
Frozen Niagra.  This pic might be upside-down.
Although our tour was only 2 hours long, we walked away with a good understanding of the history, legend, and tragedy of the cave.  I would definitely recommend doing this tour if you are in the area.  Next time, we are doing the Wild cave tour, which is 6 hours long and doesn't allow people with chest's larger than 42inches to go(mine is 42 inches).  I might get stuck in one of the squeezes!  I guess am going to have to diet even harder for caving than climbing!  Maybe caving will help my climbing?

Frozen Niagra.
On our way home, Leah suggested that we get BBQ, so we stopped at the nearest BBQ place we could find.  We ended up at Big Bubba Bucks Belly Busting BBQ Bliss.  Love that name!  We tried fried pickles and wanted to order the fried moon pie, but to our great disappointment, they were out.  While we ate, the owner was on a CB radio luring truckers off the highway to try their BBQ and naner naner naner naner puddin'.

Octodog!  I almost ordered it.

Kentucky was good to us.  We climbed 6 out of 8 days, and our skin and muscles were destroyed.  Leah took MVP of the trip- sending Triple Sec 12d and doing a 5.12 on each climbing day(some onsight!).  I continued to struggle with the style but managed to do a few 13a's and did more onsighting than usual.    Needless to say, neither of us wanted to go home. Oh well, I guess we will have to go back.

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