On Best Friends and Trad Climbing in the Red River Gorge, KY
A few weekends ago I went on a whirlwind “birthday” trip to the red with two great friends. One has been my best since we were 15. The other I’ve known for 6 months, was my boyfriend for a bit, and now were trying to just be pals. (Wish me luck.)
In any case, as with best-friends, ex-boyfriends, and birthday shenanigans, there are always issues. With me, there are always problems planning on who is going, when, and how. Everyone takes time off, and then no-one talks about the fact that they can’t leave till super late, or that they have to get back crazy early, and really I should be making a google document. And requiring you to sign your name in blood.
Regardless, we ended up going down for 2 days, and climbing for 1 and a half of them. I always feel like I have to climb as much as possible on my weekend trips or it’s not worth going, but this trip was different. I went with my best friend and we were there just to have a blast.
We went to crags that weren’t new to me, and we climbed climbs I’ve done before, more than just once or twice. It didn’t matter. I was there to share experiences with people who mean a lot to me. I didn’t climb my best, or my worst, it was just an average weekend, with anything but average people.
We spent our one full day of climbing at Fortress Wall after spending our first afternoon at Fantasia Wall. I’d been to both walls before; Fortress years ago, when I was just getting into climbing (a climbing baby!!! oh my!) and still borrowing gear from everyone I knew. I remember doing my first pink point and my first multi pitch route at Fortress in 2008.
Now I was back, and calling the shots. (And was labeled the “director”).
We started out on an Bedtime for Bonzo, an easy, fun, 5.6 multi pitch route in which the reward is the view from the top. Erika had never climbed so high in her life. And then (of course) we made her rappel for the first time. Rob had never lead a multi pitch trad route. And I helped coach him on how to coach someone unsure of themselves (Erika) up a route.
The rest of the day I spent casually climbing relatively easy trad routes. Erika tried to find lost motivation. And Rob took his first fall on his own trad placements. (Later we named our pizza Trad Whipper). I worked on wearing a helmet, (a little shout out to all the bloggers out there trying to get on the helmet wearing phenomenon) even while on the ground.
I didn’t focus on sending any climbs that day. I don’t even remember how many I did, or how many takes I needed. All I know is that it was one of the best climbing weekends I’ve had in years. All because I was there to spend time with friends. There we’re no expectations because the trip almost didn’t happen. We were there to be with each other. It didn’t matter that I could barely do the approach, and was still unwilling to lead. Or that Erika psyched herself out on the last pitch. Or that Rob over exerted himself and could have taken a bad fall.
What mattered was that we were there together, supporting one another, and having fun.
I think that is what I love most about the outdoors, and climbing. It’s a chance to play outside, and see who your friends really are. I helps you realize who you’ve become, and why you love what you love. I’ve always known that I care deeply for the people close to me, but seeing them respect me, and just genuinely having a great time with me, makes me feel honored. And just plain happy.
Get outside. Do it with the people you love. It’s what makes my heart beat. I’ve yet to find a purer joy in life than being with my favorite people, climbing rocks. – It’s worth pulling teeth to get them to come with you. And they’ll thank you.