I hate to be one to complain about conditions, but the weather has not been cooperating. Kentucky is subject to this interesting phenomenon where water condenses on the rock with large spikes in temperature. One of the seasonal climbers said that this is the worst fall for weather that she has experienced in the last four years. Yikes. Despite our better judgment, Alex Barrows (a visiting Brit) and myself decided it was still worth trying to climb. We figured the Purgatory wall would be our best bet because we have had success climbing at that wall on other rainy days.
Once we stepped out of the car Alex described the sensation of stepping into a butterfly house at a zoo: warm, incredibly humid air with that very distinct smell of wet dirt and vegetation. Uh oh. Not long into our approach, we encountered a turtle in the middle of the trail. Another sign of ideal conditions.
Once we arrived at the Purgatory we found the base of every route to be wet to the touch. Psyched. After swimming up some wet 5.11 warm up, we headed over to Lucifer, a powerful 5.14c. This route was on my to do list for this trip, so we figured it was worth a try. Much to my surprise, I was able to work out all the moves on my first attempt. With mandatory stops at every bolt to dry off shoes and hands, real redpoint burns were out of the question. After each try, all evidence of chalk on the holds was lost to the moisture. Nevertheless, on the second attempt I managed to make it up to the crux cleanly. By the end of the day both Alex and myself had worked out sequences that worked. We both left feeling confident that this thing could be sent relatively quick in better conditions. At the end of the day, we were happy that we decided to try climbing because swimming on a 14c was certainly more fun than whining about conditions at the campground.
After another rest day, Alex and I headed back to Purgatory. This time, conditions were perfect. Alex made a quick flash ascent of Dracula ’04, a super classic 5.13b, and an impressive onsight of Paradise Regained (13b) while I made some decent attempts at Lucifer. After making it through the crux on my second try of the day, I muddled about on the upper section. A few more beta runs are in order before figuring out a sequence that works for me. After one more effort, we moved on to the infamous Mother Lode.
With thrashed skin but still psyched, I decided to give Thanatopis a try. Much to my surprise, I was able to send first go of the day! I was extremely surprised given that it was my 6th climb of the day. After a bit of consideration, I thought the route fell on the soft side of 14b. Regardless of the grade, I’m happy to be done with that one. To finish off the day I climbed Harvest, a long, classic, jug hauling Red River 12d. An amazing way to finish off an amazing day.
It was Alex’s last day, so he decided he wanted to try to finish off at least ten climbs in a day. He proceeded to onsight two more 12+ routes on the undertow wall before onsighting just about all of the Buckeye Buttress, only falling at the chains of Stain (12c). It was extremely impressive to watch him climb so many difficult routes in one day. By the end of the day we were both, as Alex described it, “proper boxed” (British slang for totally pumped).
The weather is finally looking good for the next week so hopefully there will be plenty more action to report. Till next time.