October 3, 2016

Climbing in Kentucky!

When you're 200 feet above ground, you gain a new perspective. Not just in view, but in mind, body, and soul. You realize you can mentally and physically accomplish more than you ever thought possible. You feel a deep appreciation for the vast natural beauty this world has to offer. That's how I felt on the top of this mountain. I never imagined myself to try mountain climbing, but there I was in the middle of Slade, Kentucky, exploring the Red River Gorge. I went down with Erik and his friend's Brad and Marcus, and met Kyle at Miguel's Campsite. Famous for climbers, professional and amateur, from all around the world to stay and camp. With it being the weekend before Rocktoberfest, the campground was packed by the end of Saturday with 500 tents. Who wouldn't want to camp there, with a restaurant serving Miguel's legendary pizza, a gear shop, showers and restrooms, a basketball court, a giant pavilion to gather, and endless land to set up a tent, it felt like luxury camping. Not to mention the crazy parties that Miguel hosts at his house in the mountains, with live bands and endless drinks and pizza. My previous camping experiences involved showering in the lake, and making grilled cheese over the fire! Maybe that's why everyone was so pleasant ;D The climbing community is a friendly, supportive, and relaxed group, that at the same time can be very intense and instinctive when it comes to survival. Everyone there is concerned about the safety of those around them. If gear is missing, you can bet a perfect stranger will be kind enough to lend you theirs. The goal is that everyone makes it up the mountain, no matter how old you are, where you come from, or what language you speak. We hiked, explored, and climbed several different areas in the Gorge. Each climb has a rating, with 5.0 being the easiest and 5.15 being the hardest. I range between 5.6 to 5.8 in difficulty, where as the guys ranged from 5.9 to 5.12. Each climb also has its own name, like Bedtime for Bonzo, Chocolate Factory, and Sunnyside. In order to get to your climb, you drive to a site, walk to the wooded path, and hike for miles. Sometimes it was literally a walk in the woods, and sometimes it was a 90° angle hike of pure terror. But after the blood, sweat, and tears, the feeling of bliss at the top is worth it all. The last day was when I reached that 200 foot feeling. It involved us doing the hike of terror, a 1st pitch climb to a cave, then a 2nd pitch climb, or 2nd scramble (a freakishly difficult hike, where you "scramble" up) to a 200 foot view. From that point, you have to make it down eventually right? So what you do is repel back down the side of the mountain from a rope. With only having one solo repel experience from the previous day, Erik set it up so that we both could repel down the side together. Thank goodness for him being in charge, because my eyes were glued shut the whole way down! Although I was frustrated at times, and came home with cuts, scrapes, and bruises, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I've never felt more connected to nature, more driven to pursue more adventures, more gratitude for the kindness of others, or more in tune with myself. After all, "It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

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