by Brittany Griffith
[Connecting the dots on a Motherlode classic. Photo: Keith Ladzinski]
I hung limp on the end of the rope with my forehead resting on the taut line. I felt my throat tighten. I hadn’t been this frustrated in a very long time.
I realized a long time ago that grades were relative, but it seemed everyone here, 30-40 people, including a seven year old homeschooled girl, could climb the severely steep 5.12s that I was just about ready to shamefully accrue yet another DNS (did not summit) on.
I pulled back on, twisted up to a small, sharp pocket, stuffed in two fingers, and then lurched up to a heavily chalked flat edge, which was not nearly as large as my belayer (who was currently engrossed in an all-important dialog with another belayer about learning to play the guitar) previously made it look. I held it (and my breath) with a death grip. Gravity eventually won and I fell until the loop of slack hit the GriGri and my belayer was jarred out of her stimulating conversation.
I was flummoxed. I wasn’t so pumped as much as unable to figure out what position to deform my carcass into to stay on the wall. My usual go to, footwork, was useless. I had no choice but to let go. I fell until the loop of slack hit the Gri Gri and my belayer was jarred out of her stimulating conversation.
“Lower me” I said with tight lips, trying to control my temper. I looked up and mentally recited a Chinese adage, “Control your emotion or it will control you.” But what I was more realistically thinking was, “suck up sucking.”
As I stood panting and struggling to untie my knot thirty feet out from the wall (damn, it was so steep!) a sweet and sensitive twentysomething college kid offered, “There are some really great trad climbs here!”
Oh god, this was bad.
My frustration didn’t last long, however. I was in the Red River Gorge! Best sport climbing in America! Home of
After about five minutes of hiking in flip-flops, and past a cool car, we came upon a 60-foot tall wall with two side-by-side routes. Quick draws hung from most of the bolts. I couldn’t find them in the guide book so I took a picture and texted it to Whitney, “What are these?”
She replied, “Don’t know.”
They didn’t look that bad, and certainly weren’t as steep as the Motherlode beasts, so I told Kris I was going to try one.
“But we don’t know what they are!” She shrieked, incredulous that I would even think of doing something not in the guidebook.
“You are the bravest climber I know!” She cheered as I successfully lowered from the anchors of the climb. Aw shucks, I almost believed her.
I half expected her not to want to do it, but asked anyway. She enthusiastically replied, “You inspired me! I’ve got to try now!” and she tied in and started climbing. Before clipping the first bolt, she reached for a dubious-looking flake.
“Don’t touch that.” I sagely warned.
“This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done!!!” She wailed.
Hmm? Fixed quick draws spaced six feet apart on rock that hardly qualified as choss (the foot holds crackled, but didn’t break) in a First World country where were a 911-call away from a clean hospital?
Half way up the climb, she yelled down, “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m having an adventure in the Red River Gorge!” Kris was giddy with the experience.
One person’s adventure is another person’s redemption.