Access Fund Regional Summit and Red River Reunion: A fun-filled week in the Red River Gorge

I spent the last two weekends in the Red River Gorge, my home away from home. First, for the Access Fund’s Southeast Regional Summit, then the Red River Reunion.

Before I left, I taught a women’s climbing clinic with Rebecca Robran at Urban Rocks. There were 11 participants  that joined us for two, two-hour sessions of climbing and instruction. It was awesome to see the interest and how participants responded to the things we covered in the class. From the feedback I got, people were psyched and I hope to do it again soon. At the end of the clinic we held a raffle and gave away some swag. Urban Rocks provided some shirts and gear and Sterling Rope was kind enough to send two 35-meter gym ropes and chalk bags that we raffled off. Thanks Sterling! Look at those faces! I mean, they were STOKED!


After the clinics, I left the next morning to head to the Red River Gorge, one of my favorite climbing areas ever. It’s not just the climbing that makes the Red such a special place, but the people. I have been going to the Red as long as I’ve been climbing, since 2001, and some of these people I’ve know from the beginning. It’s funny to think about how different our lives were back then and to see where everyone is now. So many things change, but the important things — the friendships — always stay the same.

The first weekend of the trip, I attended the Access Fund Regional Summit representing the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). Last October, I was invited to be a part of the Board of Directors for the SCC and it was an honor for me to join representatives of the other local climbing organizations (LCO) in the southeast for one gathering. We talked about access issues facing the southeast and the many approaches LCO’s can take to address them. We also heard from all the LCO’s on what their success, challenges and current projects are. It was insightful to me to hear from the public and private policy directors with the Access Fund and great to meet so many people working hard to protect the places they love. Mikey Williams, Deadpoint magazine editor and all-around great guy, wrote up a little piece on the Access Fund’s Southeast Regional Summit for DPM.

At night we sat around, drank beer and shot the shit — like climbers are so good at doing. We even got a couple of pitches in on Saturday before the wintry weather moved in.


VIew from the “mansion” where Russ and Amy stayed overlooking Miguel’s camping.

My attempt at snowflakes through the macro...they were melting too fast.
My attempt at snowflakes through my new $5 I-phone macro lens…they were melting too fast.

On Sunday, Russ Clune and Amy Pickering came in town.

Climbing has a way of bringing people together across generations, citizenship, job status and political backgrounds.  These two are some of my favorite people, and it was great to share some good times at the Red with them and my many other great friends like Emily and Dario and their sweet little Cedar.

Papa D and Cedar. How cute!

Cedar, clearly not impressed with my new iPhone lens.

We climbed a couple of pitches in the freezing rain on Sunday and then sat out the snow for two days. We hike up to Natural Bridge, threw snowballs, made snowmen and drank. We shared stories of travels and showed slideshows of past trips. We watched SouthPark re-runs (Niiice!) and made inappropriate jokes.

By Wednesday, the snow stopped and we hit the crags topping out at a stunning 35 degrees on a cloudy day.


Amy, seen here is Eric Vining’s snow pants dubbed the Kentucky Snowmageddon suit. Eric taught us the beauty of hot rocks in the chalk bag. Unfortunately, it was so cold that even that didn’t work that well.

Conditions were less than prime, but we made the best of it and got in a few completely new pitches (to me) at Chocolate Factory, which has seen a lot of new development in the past year. Like a kid in a candy store! They’re all so sweet!

We climbed the next four days on, trying new routes and revisiting others. By the time the weekend rolled around it was time for the Red River Reunion. This event grows every year. Though it’s a small event it raised good money to benefit the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC). This year they raised more than $4,000. A band — Josh Nolan and the Bad Painter — played and Miguel’s sponsored the chicken taco dinner.  I made crema for the tacos. (Recipe below!)


Black Diamond representin!


The band setting up for their three pointer.


Giant bonfire.

As rainy weather moved in on Sunday it was time to head home. I always hate leaving, it was just another week — so simple and inconsequential. There were no major epics to be averted, no tall tales to come from it, but weeks like these spent with friends in a place I love and eating the familiar foods of Miguel’s Pizza — the best pizza on the planet from an amazing family — well, weeks like these don’t compare. They are the stories we write our lives by, with the people that make it all worth while. They’re the things that make us feel at home.


Almond. Up close and personal.


Another fancy macro shot from my not-so-fancy lens.


I adapted this recipe for 200 people, which means I had to do everything times, like, 50. For giant batches like that, it’s easiest to use a blender and blend entire limes  and then use a submersion blender to smooth everything out in the end. Much more efficient that zesting and juicing stacks of limes. Luckily all these things I had at my disposal in Miguel’s kitchen. But for single servings, here’s the recipe I adapted from food blog, Stay for Dinner. 
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1-2 teaspoon lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
teaspoon smoked paprika (to taste, it’s a strong flavor that some people don’t like)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients and serve over tacos. Yum!

Trail day at LRC and other event

As the weather gets warmer and hits record temps in the Southeast for March (mid-80s, yikes!), climbers get ready for upcoming events starting this weekend at the Stone Fort (known to some of you as Little Rock City) Trail Day. This year is especially exciting because the Southeastern Climbers Coalition was awarded $2,000 by Wild Trails/Triple Crown and Rock/Creek to go towards tree installation at Stone Fort. This addition will not only enclose some areas, but help with erosion.We planted roughly 45 trees around the entrance, the front area and near Crack of Doom, added some stairs and did other trail maintenance. Go check out the results! The trail day was sponsored by Wild Trails/Triple Cown, SCC, REI, Access Fund & Access Fund Jeep Conservation Team, Rock/Creek, The Crash Pad as well as Five Ten, and Horton.

The last weekend in March, March 31-April 1, is a big weekend. The Red Rock Rendezvous in Las Vegas, Nevada will bring in lots of people from all over the country. It’s a great way to meet lots of people and have a blast with hordes of fellow climbers. I will be attending this event and teaching an intermediate sport climbing clinic on Saturday, March 31. If you’re attending the event, check out clinic details here, and get more info on the event here. In the Southeast, there are two other events going on: the Red River Reunion, which will benefit the  Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition, will take place March 31 at Miguel’s Pizza. Here in Chattanooga, the SCC and Access Fund Jeep Conservation Team team up for the Tennessee Wall Adopt-A-Crag Trail Day. You can get more details on the T-Wall Trail Day here.