Like virtually all college freshmen that move away from home, I found myself a little homesick this past semester. But when Thanksgiving break came around, there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to climb! To my parents’ great disappointment (although they still supported my decision), I chose to forgo the typical trip home and instead headed east for the Red River Gorge. I went with the amazingly strong and humble climber Margo Hayes and her likewise awesome dad. We flew to Cincinnati Friday night and drove to climb early Saturday morning. We spent the trip luxuriously in a log cabin with four other friends. Unfortunately, the cabin was only meant for four-five people. I broke out my sleeping bag and mattress pad and slept comfortably on the floor.
Thanksgiving Break at the Red!!! - Delaney Miller
Prior to planning the trip, I had checked the average temps in the area. I found the norm to be in the 50s, which is perfect, high-friction sending weather. Sadly, the temps proved to be not so stellar. The average high was about 35 degrees and there were literally icicles above all the climbs! I was doing everything I could to keep my hands warm, because they kept numbing out half way up the climbs. After finishing one climb,a friend asked, “How was it?” and my honest response was that I didn’t know because I had lost all feeling in my hands shortly after the first bolt. We weren’t climbing with our tendons and muscles; it was just skin on rock. It made finishing hard climbs extremely challenging.Somehow, however, Margo and I did manage to expand our tick lists before the first rest day. Despite the conditions, we both managed to send God’s Own Stone, a 5.14a at the Gold Coast. That was both of ours first 14s so it was a proud moment. We ironically were able to do it by climbing laps. After realizing that the only way we’d get the send would be if our hands could stay warm, we started just doing laps on the climbs and not resting in between. Our endurance proved to be sufficient and both of us were able to make it to the top after a few “warm-up” attempts on the route. I was also able to get Black Gold, a majestic 5.13c next to God’s Own Stone. It was a great day to lead us into our rest day, but we ended up sitting around longer than expected. It rained all day on our first and planned rest day and snowed the next (which became our forced second rest day). In addition to snowing, the high was 29 and there was a 17mph wind! We ended up going to see Catching Fire, watching a lot of Netflix, and doing homework. By the end of it, I had the most literal sense of Cabin Fever!
Thursday and Friday’s weather got better. We went to Chocolate factory on Thursday and had a chill day pulling on many different climbs. I had never been there before, so I was just psyched to see all the new climbs. Didn’t get any hard sends in, but got to feel out some beautiful lines. On Friday we went to Drive-By, which is one of my favorite crags at the red. I guess I was tired from the week of climbing because my climbing was not so good that day. I slipped off Thugs Life after missing the pocket at the crux. I pulled back on the route and finished it easily. Apparently all I had lacked was confidence. As I sat at the base fuming at my missed on-sight opportunity, I turned my attention to a classic; Kaleidoscope. Redemption time, I thought. I had never tried that route either, so I got my shoes back on and decided to give a shot. I got no redemption when I slipped off after missing a jug. I pulled back on quickly to finish the route and felt my frustration building. Another missed on-sight opportunity. I couldn’t finish the trip off that way. I turned my attention to another classic, Easy Rider. I had belayed a friend on it earlier that day, and so I felt psyched to get on it. To keep my hands warm, I didn’t rest before getting on it, but I could feel my fatigue as I made my way up. I used my anger and frustration to keep me on the wall and get to the first the rest ledge. As I lay on the ledge breathing hard, I could hear water dripping from icicles near by. I could also hear birds chirping in a far off tree. In that moment, listing to everything, I thought, “this is what you come to the Red for.” I forgot about my frustration and anger at falling off the other climbs and just totally relaxed in to the crack of the rock. It was the perfect way to finish off my Thanksgiving trip. I finished the climb as the sun made its way down and then we hiked back to the car in near-darkness.
Overall, despite the cold, snowy weather, it was a great trip! I’m so thankful to have been able to go and to be with such wonderful friends! I’m sorry mom and dad for not coming home! I promise I’ll be home in a couple of weeks for Christmas!