Two hours southeast of Louisville, Kentucky lies the Red River Gorge. The Red has become one of the most popular crags in America with its pocketed overhanging sandstone walls and has drawn climbers from all over the world to test their power endurance. These cliffs set the stage for the yearly event of Rocktoberfest, put on by the Red River Gorge Climbing Coalition to help pay for the expenses such as their purchases of the Bald Rock and Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (home to some of the most popular crags in the gorge), and save money for future purchases. This year’s event saw 80-degree days and what I can only imagine was 125% humidity. Luckily, there was local beer on tap to keep everyone cooled off as they strolled through the campground visiting with vendors and watching REEL ROCK 12 and Red River Rendezvous.
The first morning brought a thick fog to Land of Arches Campground as bleary-eyed climbers made their morning coffee and headed off to join their clinics. Some went to go maintain trails near the Motherlode Crag with the RRGCC while some climbed the Red River Gorge classics with Dru Mack.
While conditions were suboptimal, everyone was excited to get out and go climbing. Crags were full of festival goers and clinics trying to keep from getting pumped and searching for any shade they could find. Eventually, everyone loaded back in their cars and headed back to the campground to get the party started. There were pro climbers signing posters, a dyno comp and enough prizes given out to satisfy any dirtbag climber.
Later in the night came the announcements of the opening of newly developed and sustainable climbing area called Camelot, and an $80,000 payment toward the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve.
When the final day of the festival arrived, climbers devoured a complimentary breakfast before heading down into the gorge. Met with some of the best conditions of the weekend, everyone was eager to get to the cliffs.
Clinics varied from redpointing with Jon Cardwell to Gym to Crag training with Red River Gorge native Dru Mack and Molly Mitchell.
All in all, it was a classic event with true southern hospitality on some of the best sandstone North America has to offer. What more could you ask for?
For more of Levi Harrell’s photography, follow him on Instagram @ofallnationsphotography