Sunday, October 27, 2013

First Freeze!

A quick update from the basement at Miguels where I am currently listening to some high schoolers talk about how they have been dating for three weeks, and are asking the unfortunate climber near them (who is being a real sport) about climbing.  Do you free climb?  Do you do any camping on the side of cliffs?  Do you carry a pack with you as you climb?  Mark and I are giggling and looking around the corner at Ben who is also finding it quite amusing.  Note to self- bring headphones next time.  Although the dude was rewarded with two slices of their leftover pizza.  He is psyched!

The past few days have been pretty cold- I only peeled off my long underwear this morning to give them a much needed wash, and I am currently sporting some socks with flip flops (hot).  We woke up the other morning to frost all over!  But we aren't complaining all that much, the friction is better, I don't feel the need to climb in a bikini (good for everyone involved), and the leaves are turning.  Plus Ben so graciously went to the WalMart in Lexington and bought a douche bag, which unbeknownst to me doubles extremely well as a body warmer.  We have been bringing the JetBoil out to the crag, boiling up some water, pouring it in the bag, and sticking inside our jackets.  The warmth is great, but the giggles we have had from bringing the douche bag everywhere with us have been even better.

We went back to Funk Rock City in the Eastern Gorge area and I onsighted (got it clean on my first try without any beta given to me) Eye of the Needle (5.11b)- my first 5.11 onsight!  That was one of my goals coming into the Red so I was pretty excited to make it happen.  I then proceeded to get shutdown on an 11c so don't worry- the ego is entirely in check.  

After making it back to the car from Funk Rock, getting lost and crossing a stream in the dark, we made our way to PMRP the next day.  We warmed up at the Gallery then trekked over to North 40 to get on Amarillo Sunset, a classic 11b at the Red.  The climb has huge moves!  It was super fun and while we were over there Mark found his most favorite climb EVER, Samurai.  Even above Super Pooper at Tahquitz which until yesterday reigned at number 1.  

Here are a bunch of pictures from the last few days.

Mark on Amarillo Sunset

Ben warming his fingers on the back of his neck.  A common technique that has been used the past few days.

Mark on his most favorite climb EVER.  Samurai (12c)

Eye of the Needle (11b).  Mark is up there if you can find him.

Mark on Random Precision at the Gallery.  Thanks Ben for the sweet pic!

Not flip flop weather

A look into Shantytown and the trust Coleman

MK and LMo

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Australian Thanksgiving

As mentioned in our last blog, we have been hanging out with a great crew.  With an oven at our disposal, and a hankering for green bean casserole, we hatched a plan to show our Australian friends what Thanksgiving is all about (nevermind the fact that it is October).  The day was complete with football, pumpkin pie, and the usual spread.  Well, minus the turkey.  Although I was hopeful, the Kroger in the closest town to us only had a frozen 20 lb turkey.  Australian Thanksgiving was a time sensitive event so we went with ham instead.

The spread

It was really fun to have a big meal with all of our friends.  The climbing community, generally speaking, is full of supportive, interesting, and genuine people.  I am very thankful to be part of it.

Since we got back from DC the weather has gotten more fall like and instead of sweating from every pore on my body, I am snuggled up in my big pink puffy jacket.  Much better climbing weather!  We have gone back to a couple of our favorite crags and checked out some new ones.  We only have about a week before our trek back west, so both Mark and I have a few climbs we are psyched to get back on before we head out.  And we are already planning a trip back here.  Of all the places I have climbed in the month of "Rocktober", I have to say that the Red River Gorge is my favorite.  The whole part where it is in Kentucky is not super convenient, but it is more than worth the commute.

One really awesome part about the Red is that you can climb in the rain!  One rainy day we went out to Muir Valley and climbed at the Solarium.  We had the place to ourselves and climbed under the protection of the overhanging rock.  Some of the climbs at the Solarium have huge huecos that you can climb into and rest during a climb, helpful when you are super pumped!  As I was sitting in one of those huecos, looking out at the foggy valley and listening to the rain come down, I couldn't help but think about how lucky I was to experience something so unique.  That day at the Solarium was probably one of my favorite days climbing in the Red.

Nick on a route at the Solarium

Mark on the Infidel at Funk Rock City

Me on the Infidel (so much fun!)

Thanks Ben for taking the pictures!

We are down with down

Mark is a super talented rope catcher

Ben on Bath Tub Mary at a place left of the Solarium

Sunset at Left Flank

Foggy mornings at Miguel's!
In addition to having awesome climbing, the Red has pushed me to lead harder climbs, and be more confident on lead.  Because a lot of the climbs here are overhanging, top roping is not really fun.  Consequently, I have been leading a lot more.  Slowly I am finding myself more comfortable leading, and more willing to take falls.  I still have moments of panic and find a way to down climb and reverse moves while whimpering, but those are becoming fewer and farer between.  I have also been inspired by the Australian ethic- they don't top rope.  Although I will still ride the occasional top rope, I have to admit that by just leading everything, it just feels more natural.  Surely this is all very logical, but after however many years of climbing I am finally finding the discipline to get on the sharp end more often than not.

Today is rather blustery and cold, conveniently coinciding with a rest day, so we are holed up in the basement at Miguel's.  Climbers are streaming videos (my internet is so slow!), connecting with their friends and family, and planning out tomorrow's adventures.  Until next time...

Mark and Lauren

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DC Weekend

This past weekend, Mark and I drove out to DC to visit my older sister Maureen (Mo).  Mo has lived in DC for a few years now but this was my first trip out to see her.  Despite the government shutdown we still had a really good time and were able to see more than we anticipated (thank you angry protestors).  DC itself was really cool- I particularly liked the neighborhoods around the capitol, and all the monuments.  I was bummed that the museums were closed but we did get to do a lot of baking instead.  After checking out the local Farmer's Market, local apples in tow, Maureen and I baked up a really amazing apple pie (recipe here).  We also made some apple butter, roasted a chicken, baked chocolate chip cookies, and a few other dishes requiring an oven.  I definitely miss having an oven!

Having our own room, and taking showers without a time limit were some nice weekend luxuries.  It was a quick trip, but it was so good to see Maureen, and meet her new cat Freddie.

Now we are back in the Red, starting to feel in somewhat better shape.  The past couple of days it has been raining but we were still able to climb because some of the cliffs are so steep.  Pretty awesome!

Here are some pictures from our visit in DC.

xoxo Mark and Lauren

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fun in ol' Kentucky

Greetings from Washington D.C. Lauren and I are taking a long weekend to visit with her sister Maureen and see the sights of the nation's capital. Unfortunately, the government is kind of blowing it, so most everything is closed right now. We still plan on taking in the sights from afar, but we're content just hanging out and watching netflix. 

The past two weeks in the Red River Gorge have been a blast. We spend our days getting pumped and trying hard at the crag and spend our evenings eating pizza and laughing with friends. Life is good. 

Lauren on Jingus at Bronaugh Wall in PMRP. Check out the
rope in the trees behind her, that's vertical. STEEP!
The Red is much more expansive than either of us anticipated. There are a ton of crags scattered throughout the forest surrounding the town of Slade. Getting to our destination each day usually involves a fifteen minute drive from Miguel's (campground/pizza place we're staying at) and a ten to fifteen minute hike. So far, we have visited a new crag each day. This has allowed us to sample the diverse climbing styles offered at the different cliffs and zero in on where we want to spend our time for the remainder of our stay. Some of our favorite spots so far are The Military Wall, Bronaugh Wall, and Drive-By Crag. 

As many of you know, I hurt my shoulder about a month and a half ago. Consequently, I hadn't climbed for well over a month coming into our stint at the Red. I was definitely concerned about how it would hold up to the physical climbing characteristic of the area. My first day of climbing I took it pretty slow, carefully testing out my shoulder on easy climbs. It felt a bit unstable, but definitely strong enough to continue climbing; so I did. My shoulder has been feeling stronger every day. It has been really exciting to feel stronger and fitter each day climbing. 

On top of the great climbing, we have been hanging out with an awesome group of friends. Our first night at Miguel's we met up with a couple of our Australian friends, Ben and Ryan, that we had met in Smith and hung out with in Squamish. They are some awesome dudes; we have a lot of fun exchanging cultural nuances and just generally shootin' the shit. I've grown very fond of the Australian vernacular and do my best to make the Aussies feel right at home with such masterful sentences as: "I drank too much grog, now I've come down with the wog. Bitumen!" The Aussies introduced us to Sara, Colby, and Hailey, we ran into our friend Alan who we met in Squamish, and we've made new friends from all over, like Nick from Florida and Zane from New Jersey. Everyone has been really fun and supportive to climb with, and a hoot to hang out with. Every night I go to bed with sore abs from laughing so much.  

Ben on Like a Turtle, Bronaugh Wall PMRP

Colby on Table of Colors, Left Flank

Lauren getting some cool shots up high

Some very unique rock. And it's bomber! 

Belly of the Beast, Bronaugh Wall PMRP

We head back to the Red on Monday and plan on staying there for the foreseeable future. We have loose plans to check out the bouldering in the Southeast and possibly Hueco; but if we're still psyched, we may just stay in the Red until we have to go home. Stay tuned for more from Miguel's.

Mark and Lauren