Sunday, 10 November 2013

'The Red'

I cruise past Miguel's. I can almost hear the tires crunching through the carpet of leaves that covers the landscape from head to toe and the last signs of the cliffs disappear in the rear view mirror. Another angsty Country song comes on the radio, one I've learnt from my time here, and I can't help but smile. There's something different inside me when I'm on a trip. A contentment and happyness that makes everything feel more alive. The grey stresses of home morph into vivid golden leaves falling to the floor whilst we try not to do the same. I turn onto the Mountain Parkway and grin to myself again. God I love trips. A few hours later and I'm sitting in the airport, the feeling fading already. I could turn and walk out the door. Sack it all off. I could be back for an afternoon session. But I've not got the balls. Maybe one day...?

The Motherlode, a.k.a. Heaven. Spot the climber.

Right. Enough self-indulgent introspective bollocks. I'll try to keep the rest of this post as useful as possible for anyone thinking of a trip to red river.

The sandstone at RRG is basically gritstone with holds. But way longer. And way steeper. And WAY better. As a downside, this does mean it can be a bit conditionsy. Arriving to unseasonably warm temps and high humidity the gameplan for the start of the trip quickly switched from hard redpoints to mileage onsighting. With a relentless stream of amazing routes to try on highly onsightable rock it never went back!

There are 2 main camping spots in the red - Miguel's and Lago Linda's.The dream team - Eddie, Ally, John and myself - checked into Linda's, the quieter of the two. This place was damn good - for the first 2 weeks we had the bunkhouse ($44 per night for 4 people) and then when Ally and John left it was into a tent. Unfortunately this coincided with a major drop in temps. Fortunately this made for amazing conditions! Some were complaining about the difficulty of avoiding numbing out, but if you're used to the tactics required for Malham in February you'll be fine and can reap the rewards of perfect friction. Plus, for a mere $5 a night for camping you've got a covered cooking area with picnic tables and lighting and a nice warm chill-out rooms for the cold evening! You also get to hang out with a bunch of super friendly people, although you may be disappointed about how few of them own guns.

Home sweet home
The style there is pretty fitness orientated. Generally good holds (particularly for the feet), fairly steep and power endurance or stamina based. I was in heaven. If you're training for onsighting there then foot-on-campus aerocap should be high your to-do list.

It's hard to pick out highlights - I barely did a bad route in 4 weeks of climbing! Anyway, a few favourite memories include:
Onsighting The Madness, 8a+ doesn't come more 'edge paddling' than this. Pure stamina, pure quality, pure fun.
Falling off the last hard move of Last of the Bohicans (8b) on my onsighting attempt. Ed even offered to get me beta and I said no. Idiot! So close. So angry. So much fun anyway.
Everything else in the madness cave too. I just wish there were 5 more of these caves next door! Sure, you could accuse the climbing of being formulaic, but I'm not one to get bored climbing, I was having too much fun!
Onsighting 2 8a+s in a day was pretty damn cool, and the first time I've done that. It was even better when Ed fell off one of them. He claimed to be tired from having done 8b+ earlier that day but I think he's just a weak punter.

It's not really a gorge, and there's not really a red river. Welcome to The Forest, sport climber style.

Watching John's comeback-king display was awesome too - from falling off 7a to nearly flashing 8a in the space of 2 weeks! It was also really cool to have my good friend Eddie Barbour psyched again. I've climbed with Ed for a long time now, and over the last few years it's seemed like he's drifted in and out of psyche a bit, but the last couple of trips we've been on he's been back on the waggon and you can hear the excitement when he talks about a route or a trip. Feeding off the psyche your friends have is inspiring and it's good to have my arch-nemesis back in the game. Even if he's a punter nowadays.

The perfect conditions came to an abrupt stop at the start of my final week. Whilst the crags there are remarkably free from seepage and run-off (a damn useful trait!), they do know how to condense in a way that would make the cornice proud.

A couple of rather damp days were spent on the testpiece Lucifer at a sector called Purgatory. I'd heard this 8c+ was supposed to be one of the more finger strength intensive and less stamina orientated of the hard routes, and thus not so much 'my bag', but hey, it was dry. Actually on the second day it wasn't dry at all, it was totally soaked, but trying was much more fun than sitting around at camp! Plus the route is brilliant climbing, mainly on small but positive back 3 pockets and edges, and is a joy to try even if it can tear the skin a little.

The downed local watertower

On my penultimate night the Gods decided it was time to give me one last taste of just how good this place can be. A storm swept through (with impressive consequences - see above!) clearing out the air and bringing back the dry rock for one final day. I headed back up to Purgatory with strong Yank Mike Foley  who'd been kicking my ass on Lucifer (although he doesn't own a gun or a pick-up truck, so he's probably a Canadian in disguise). He had some good runs on that whilst I flashed the classic 8a of the cliff and set off adventuring on another one, Paradise Regained. This thing is basically two 7c+/8a routes with a sit down cave in the middle. The bottom is a super-classic on bomber rock, whilst the top is the most fun you've ever had climbing chossy stuck-on crimps and praying all those snacks and burgers haven't made you too fat! A great experience if you don't bust anything off, and a perfect way to round off the trip. After that a quick crag change was in order. Mike dispatched Thanatopsis at the Motherlode and I hit the mileage, climbing until my arms were useless lumps of lead, and then climbing some more. With a final day like that there was no way that I was saying 'goodbye' to the area the next day, just 'see ya later'...