In light of today’s election results, I thought what better thing to do than distract myself and others with something other than political woes. Entertainment is our favourite form of escapism, so here is the first of my blogs about my recent trip to the Red River Gorge… Thanks for reading!
This past year has been a true test of my relationship with climbing. Just about exactly one year ago, I ended up in Colorado bouldering alone for the first time and came to the quick realisation that I had absolutely no idea how to do things on my own. I couldn’t figure out how to put my tent up (in my defense it was a complicated one), I ran over my groceries, I almost got a speeding ticket, and I drove over an hour to a mountain crag that is covered in snow that time of year. Things were not going well.
But in the months that followed, with my minimal but newly found independence, I ended up tagging along solo on a climbing trip with some top climbers I didn’t know well, journeying to China all alone to climb with a crew I barely knew (but were awesome!), and then my most recent affair – getting stuck in the Red River Gorge all by myself…with no climbing gear except shoes and a harness.
It’s almost as if this year something in the universe has been pushing me to be that Strong Independent Woman I’ve always thought I was (but apparently wasn’t). And to answer for myself – How much do you love climbing? What does climbing mean to you?
Moving away from the increasingly shrinking airport check in and my would-be-partner, I waved a panicked goodbye and ran to catch the plane. A hallow filled my stomach, regretting the missing rope and draws, but moreso because I still didn’t feel confident enough to do this alone, but I certainly didn’t have a choice.
It might seem like a simple thing to go climbing alone to some people, but for me climbing is often a two-way relationship. The trickles of climbing horror stories that we’ve all heard always left me apprehensive. I knew people went sport-climbing solo, but I rejected the idea long ago, knowing I could never put my life into a stranger’s hands. Unless forced!
My belayer is my partner – friend, encourager, and support. Perhaps I’m too dependant, but when you have to trust them to keep you safe, I don’t feel I can climb with just anyone.
‘So’ Jerome asked over the phone, ‘Are you just going to stay in Florida then?’ But somehow my mouth said the words before I could think, ‘No, I’m sticking to the schedule. I’m going to go alone.’ Something inside made me want to be that person. The kind that could go places and do things alone.
With only 24 hours from landing on USA soil, I packed in a hurry, eager to start the 12-15 hour drive. On the couch sat two sleeping bags and two roll mats innocently waiting for me. I packed them both, just in case.
It was past 10pm when I finally arrived to the Red. Slade, Kentucky, the land of Daniel Boone, rattle snakes, and more than 100 sandstone arches. I followed directions the old fashioned way, turn by turn, sent via text from a friend of a friend of a friend, as there’s no service in most of Lee County, Kentucky.
‘Just meet me at Koops gas station,’ this friend of a friend of a friend said. ‘I’ll be in the black truck.’ I waited at the eccentric gas station, with four small upright rectangular pumps, each dolling out only one kind of gas each at different prices.
The impending big black truck arrived and quietly pulled in. I shut off my engine to get out, but as I did, the truck started driving away – I was meant to follow this person in this car, somewhere, before even hearing their voice or seeing their face. So I did…