Anna Liina Laitinen, a 26-year-old climber from Finland, sent Southern Smoke (5.14c) during her first
trip to the Red River Gorge, Kentucky this season. The climb was her first of the grade.
“The first time I was on it, it was like [a] slap in the face! I got totally shut down by the slopers, pinches and long powerful moves,” she tells Rock and Ice.
But, “The route was so good and fun that I was happy to take that slap!”
Southern Smoke (5.14c),
at the Bob Marley Crag of the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP), was equipped by Joe Kinder and Brad Weaver in 2008. Kinder called it
“one of the cleanest routes that I have ever bolted (half bolted anyway).” They worked out the beta together, and soon after, made back-to-back ascents.
The ninety-foot route consists of sustained, steep climbing. “I think the crux for me was memorizing all that beta,” Laitinen says. “There was just too
many options and chalk so I used different beta every time, and I had to change beta on the fly. There were also some really long moves, which demanded
some faith from me. And slopey holds are definitely my weakness, that’s for sure!”
She adds that the route didn’t suit her style “at all,” but that only made the projecting process a more rewarding experience. “The whole process was a
mix of love and hate and rebellion,” she says. “That ‘slap’ just made me [want] to try even harder … I went happily to it even though I was
so tired that I couldn’t even link any moves and my skin was screaming and bleeding. But I tried again.”
When asked how many attempts it took her, she said, “I took plenty!”
Known for her endless psych, Laitinen says this time it almost cost her the whole trip, which was her first to the Red River Gorge. “After our first day
I was so stoked that I couldn’t even sleep. I woke up at 5 a.m. and started to get ready!” she says. “That psyched backfired later when it led to skin
issues. Still, I wouldn’t change anything.”
Her main project, Pure Imagination, gave her “heinous splits for weeks,” she says, and when she realized that her fingertips would not
heal fast enough for Pure Imagination, she shifted her sights to Southern Smoke, a route she had attempted a few times while
climbing in the area with Matty Hong earlier in the trip. But she didn't try Southern Smoke “seriously” until her last week of the trip.
“When I finally clipped the chains, I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
“This was my first time [to the RRG] and definitely not the last! We still have some amazing sectors left we didn’t even see!!! Can’t wait to go back there!!!”
In other news from the Red, Matty Hong finished a Jonathan Siegrist project, which Siegrist bolted in 2011. “It climbs a slightly overhanging
face and has a difficult boulder at the end. Maybe V10?” Hong tells Rock and Ice. He kept Siegrist’s name, Apple Juice Flood, and
suggested 5.14c for difficulty.
Hong also made the first ascent of another open project, bolted by Andrew Gearing, at the Chocolate Factory, called Sweet Tooth (5.14b). “It climbs
out a steep cave and consists of hard bouldering for four bolts,” he says.