It has been hard to keep up with all the big sends coming out of Kentucky the past couple of months. While there are always notable ascents in the Red River Gorge at this time of year, it feels like this year we’re seeing more than usual!
Here’s a (non-exhaustive!) round-up of the who has been redpointing what at the best crag in America, as well as a little backstory on most of the routes for those of you who like to keep track.
The first woman to climb 5.15a—also the first woman to climb two 5.15a’s, but everyone else is still playing catch up!—had a pretty productive trip down South during October and the beginning of November.
The first big tick she logged was Golden Ticket, a 5.14c first climbed by Adam Taylor in October 2009. Taylor originally graded Golden Ticket 5.14d, but Adam Ondra downgraded it after an inhuman onsight of the route in November 2012. Michaela Kiersch became the first woman to climb Golden Ticket in November 2016.
Hayes didn’t stop there though. She also sent the mega-classic Southern Smoke, the Joe Kinder 5.14c that has become one of the most popular climbs of its grade in the country. When he first climbed it in November 2008, Southern Smoke was just the third 5.14c in the Red, after 50 Words for Pump and Lucifer. Sasha DiGiulian made the first female ascent of Southern Smoke in just six tries in March 2011. Others who have sent the line include Claire Buhrfeind, Brooke Raboutou, Michaela Kiersch, Jon Cardwell and Kai Lightner, among others.
Adam Taylor later added a direct start to create Southern Smoke Direct, which he suggested as 5.15a. Ondra later onsighted that variation too and suggested 5.14d, where it has settled.
Of her redpoint of Southern Smoke, Hayes wrote on Instagram, “Still pumped a month later.” Understandable: that thing looks ridiculous!
Pure Imagination (5.14c) is a bucket-list climb for anyone who visits the Red (and is also strong enough to work the moves). Just ask Dru Mack. Matilda Söderlund, of Sweden, recently spent three weeks in Kentucky, and got deep into project mode on Pure Imagination. She was getting close, but couldn’t polish it off until the classic last-day-best-day. She wrote on Instagram: “After falling high up on the route about a week earlier, the cold weather stopped me from having any good tries on it and I started to lose faith. But so the last day came and the conditions were perfect. I walked up to the crag psyched to climb and give it all I got, not thinking of my previous tries or [whether] I would send or not. The moves had never felt easier.”
Jonathan Siegrist made the first ascent of Pure Imagination in November 2010. Ondra famously onsighted it on November 2012—the same day he onsighted Golden Ticket, for that matter—and suggested the same downgrade to 5.14c, from the original 5.14d. Sasha DiGiulian climbed it in October 2011, the first woman to do so. It has since been climbed by Margo Hayes and Michaela Kiersch, among others.
Melissa Le Nevé
We already posted the video of her sending it, but the French crusher Melissa Le Nevé took down Golden Ticket at the end of November. It took three weeks for everything to fall into place, and all the effort was worth it, as she wrote on Instagram, “I think I haven’t been happier yet to climb a line!”
Also neat is the sweet bat-hang that Le Nevé found on the anchor-clipping jug!
Golden Ticket is far from Le Nevé’s first hard climb in the Red. In October and November 2012 she sent 50 Words for Pump and Southern Smoke.
Anna Liina Laitinen
The Finnish Anna Liina Laitinen hopped on the send train too with a send of Lucifer (5.14c). Back in the middle of November, Laitinen nearly sent the route on her first day of proper redpoint attempts. Then came a week of fever, which set her back.
But Laitinen kept hammering away to regain the flow she had found early on, and earlier this week finally sent “after a rollercoaster of ups and downs with it,” as photographer Andy Wickstrom wrote on Instagram.
Liatinen previuosy sent Southern Smoke at the end of 2016.