Epic Climbs in the Red River Gorge

Phantasia | https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicechen/The Red Riv­er Gorge in Ken­tucky might not have the gar­gan­tu­an moun­tains of the Rock­ies or the hefty boul­der­ing spots found in the South­west, but the sand­stone climbs here are still some of the best and most dif­fi­cult in the coun­try. If you’re look­ing for a real chal­lenge amidst some beau­ti­ful scenery and pret­ty amaz­ing piz­za, there’s no bet­ter place east of the Mis­sis­sip­pi. Next time you’re near The Red, test your might at these epic climb­ing spots.

Phan­ta­sia
Phan­ta­sia wall has some of the biggest jugs in the North Gorge. One of the tough­est climbs in Twinkie, a 12a steep line sport climb that makes even the most sea­soned climbers quake a lit­tle in the knees. For a slight­ly sim­pler climb, but still, pret­ty fun, check out Crea­ture Fea­ture, a 5.9 that’s a bit of a guilty plea­sure for even the more expe­ri­enced climbers but still fun for the novice too. Phan­ta­sia has over 20 climbs in all so it’ll keep you busy a good por­tion of the day.

North 40
The won­der­ful thing about North 40 is that you won’t find any begin­ners hang­ing around here to cramp your style; every route is 5.11 and up, as long as you ignore Sum­mer Breeze. You can just use that as your warm-up. The real gem here is Amar­il­lo Sun­set, a hulk­ing 5.11b climb full of slop­ers toward the bot­tom that shift into end­less under­clings near the top that’ll wear your arms out before you make it to the crux. If that doesn’t do you in, switch over to Swine Flu for the tough­est route on the wall.

The Motherlode | https://www.flickr.com/photos/pachamama6/

The Moth­er­lode
The Moth­er­lode is, sim­ply put, what climbers’ dreams are made of. It holds the most trad and sport routes in The Red and the poten­tial for some amaz­ing­ly fun whip­pers to boot. The Mad­ness, one of The Red’s sig­na­ture climbs, has 120 feet of 50-degree over­hang and is the source of a lot of screams. The real chal­lenges here lie in Thanatop­sis and Cut Throat, 5.14a and 5.13b routes, respec­tive­ly, that con­tain big moves and a lit­tle boul­der­ing skill to make it to the end. Climbers can spend months try­ing to con­quer all the avail­able sport climb­ing in the Motherlode.

Mid­night Surf
Mid­night Surf is one of the most awe-inspir­ing areas in The Red thanks to the walls that over­hang to the point of resem­bling a wave. It’s also home to some of the best mid 12 climbs in the area. Cell Block Six is designed to crush your fore­arms with heel hooks and dynos nec­es­sary to make it to the top. It’s incred­i­bly steep but, then again, so are all the climbs in Mid­night Surf. Shi­va is the bad­dest beast avail­able here, but if you’re look­ing for a warm-up then Mel­low Yel­low will prob­a­bly do.

Bob Mar­ley Crag
If you think that this crag is for the laid-back climber look­ing for an easy after­noon of big jugs and sim­ple jams to keep you afloat, you’re in for a chal­lenge at the Bob Mar­ley Crag. It hous­es what is arguably one of the best climbs in the East with Ultra-Perm. The over­hang here will have your fore­arms pump­ing before you even reach the crux, which is a seem­ing­ly end­less stretch with nowhere to rest between each clip. There are more routes here than you’ll ever get to in one vis­it, from the gross­ly sim­plis­tic 5.7 Get­ting’ Zig­gy With It to the mon­strous 5.15 Your Heav­en, My Hell.