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Elemental Climbing Club Blog | Rock Climbing Blog | Louisville Climbing

Our blog posts contain stories about our climbing trips as a club, as well as our opinions on how to get stronger and enjoy rock climbing more. Whether you're training to climb hard, or just climbing to have fun, check out our posts, and let us know what you think!

Top Routes at the Red River Gorge by Grade

Tyler Yarbrough

At Elemental, we want all our Louisville climbers to have the best experience possible, no matter what grade you climb. Fortunately for us, some of the best routes at any grade are in our back yard, at the Red River Gorge in Slade. Whether you're new to lead climbing or trying some of the hardest routes in the country, this is the elemental list of Red River Gorge favorites.

5.8 - Boiler Plate at Crossroads - one of the best moderates anywhere with interesting movement and good rests. Runner Up - 27 Years of Climbing at the Gallery. One of the best warmup/moderates around!

5.9 - Creature Feature at Phantasia - THE hyper classic 5.9 at the Red River Gorge. Conquer the slopey start, and pull a roof by using a head height heel hook (or just campus for additional fun!) to reach the vertical face full of the biggest jugs in the gorge. It's so good, we want that face climb to be our morning commute to work. Runner Up - Pogue Ethics also at Phantasia. A long, beautiful and adventurous route sure to test the 5.9 lead head. Multiple ways through the crux!

Pulling the roof on Creature Feature - a classic moderate at the Red River Gorge

Pulling the roof on Creature Feature - a classic moderate at the Red River Gorge

5.10a - Boltergeist at The Hideout in Muir Valley - one of the best routes for the grade in the gorge. 100 feet of intricate slab climbing with a beautiful view of the valley from the top. It's so good, you'll get to the anchors and want to keep climbing... PS you actually can keep climbing to a sit down rest above the anchors, but the down climb is sketchy. Runner-up: Oompa at the Chocolate Factory

5.10b -  Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky - Tectonic Wall, Muir Valley - a beautiful face climb with plates that look like massive jugs, but are turned the wrong way. Grip straight down on each plate and you'll pump yourself silly; but use them as side pulls and underclings and the holds are MASSIVE! A super classic route.

5.10c - Thunderclinger at Coyote Cliff, Muir Valley - a 5.10c that climbs like a 5.12! Make a tough cross over move off a bomber undercling to a huge jug. Continue up an amazing sloping flake feature be rewarded with a giant hueco from which you clip the anchors. Runner(s) Up - Loompa at the Chocolate Factory (just as classic as its neighbor Oompa, and Banjolero at the Crossroads, one of absolute funnest warm-ups / moderates for the grade!

The "Thunderclinger" move - an awesome cross over off a bomber undercling.

The "Thunderclinger" move - an awesome cross over off a bomber undercling.

5.10d - Breakfast Burrito at Drive By Crag - One of the most classic 5.10 routes in the country. Climb a pumpy, plate filled face to a no hands rest. Gather your nerves and climb out onto the super exposed arete where the crux move awaits. Don't worry - the fall is clean!

5.11a - Bathtub Mary at the Arsenal, Muir Valley - A classic favorite of many Elemental climbers, Bathtub climbs a difficult slab at the start to a no hands rest. What follows is a beautiful crimpy face up perfect orange and black stone, capped off by a rest in the 'bathtub' hueco, a GIGANTIC hueco 60 feet off the deck. From there, make a couple more difficult moves to the chains.

Jeremiah lowering off after a flash of Bathtub Mary, 5.11a

Jeremiah lowering off after a flash of Bathtub Mary, 5.11a

5.11b - Amarillo Sunset at North 40 - a striking line of huecos (that are slopers at the base and massive underclings at the top) mark this amazing moderate line. It's one of the most picturesque lines at the red, so be sure to get a photo. If the pump doesn't get you, the crux right at the top of the route just might! If Amarillo feels like a warm-up, be sure to check out it's neighbor Samurai and prepare to bow to a worthy adversary. Tied for first - King Me at Eastern Sky Bridge. Thanks to Boagrius for reminding us of an amazing old school classic!

5.11c - No Place Like Home at Lady Slipper - a total old school classic of the red river gorge, that is actually a shot multi-pitch climb! Climb an easy 5.8, anchor in with your partner, and set off for one of the rides of your life. The arete is super exposed high above the tree line, and tops out with a view overlooking the main road to Muir Valley and the PMRP. The holds are definitely all there, but it's the exposure that will get you. Legend has it, it was given the 5.11c grade to ward off weaker climbers from attempting it due to its heady nature. It's supposedly more like 5.11a! GET ON THIS RIG! Runner up - new school Crown of Thorns at the bright side, climbing on perfect pockets with good rests up into a gigantic arch!

5.11d - All Things Considered at Military Wall - for all the slab lovers out there, this is one of the purest lines in all the of the Red River Gorge. This techfest has just enough holds to get you to the top, and is extremely beta intensive. Bring your sticky shoes and the ability to levitate if you want to send this gem. Don't forget to usher in the sending temps for optimum friction, you're going to need it. Runner up - The Infidel (by popular demand) at Funk Rock City, an old school Porter classic that doesn't let up until the anchors

5.12a - Twinkie at Phantasia - one of the steepest, and most sought after lines in the Red River Gorge, Twinkie seems to haunt the dreams of every aspiring 5.12 climber at the red. A thoughtful slab leads you to a no hands rest beneath a giant roof where the jug hauling begins. Pull through big holds with a couple crux moves thrown in along the way to a final crux just before a lay down rest. Unless you're a mutant, you'll want to milk that rest for a while before polishing off the last, easy couple bolts to the chains. Clean this one on top rope, you will regret trying to rap off or lower. Runner up - Bare Metal Teen, the cruelest joke of a 12a at the red, but a super classic test piece for the grade.

Entering the final crux of Twinkie - Red River Gorge

Entering the final crux of Twinkie - Red River Gorge

5.12b - Abiyoyo, The Solarium in Muir Valley - one of the most beautiful lines on one of the most beautiful walls in the gorge. The line leads up through a powerful first four bolts to a no hands rest. Mentally prepare yourself for a few more bolts of endurance climbing to a well defined, V4 crux. Power through the crux using intermediates or raw lock off power, and cruise through 40 feet of 5.10 style jugs to the chains. Consensus (possible new top dog) for the 12b rating - Mercy the Huff at Left Flank, a sustained, pumpy, and extremely beautiful old school route.

 5.12c - Cell Block Six at the Midnight Surf - The name of the wall says it all, it looks like a massive wave rising up to crash down on you... except the only things that crash are your forearms. A pure power endurance line, complete with an optional dyno thrown in if you don't feel the need to execute a tecnical heel hook. This line has it all. Multiple cruxes, a steep angle, and a beautiful setting. If your forearms can take the punishment, you've got this one in the bag. Runner up - Orange Juice at Funk Rock City - a stunning line of pockets and crimps up a beautiful orange face. It's rare that you'll find anyone who gives it less than 5 stars.

5.12d - Jesus Wept at the Sanctuary, Muir Valley - The hyper classic line of the valley. Start with a steep bouldery section which leads into a vertical face with shallow pockets and a several cruxes along the way. Some people have called it soft, but no matter how you grade it, it's one of the most magnificent lines in the gorge. Runner up - 8 ball at the Motherlode - while Jesus Wept has been called soft, 8 ball has been pegged as hard for the grade, teetering on the edge of 12d and 13a

5.13a - Paradise Lost, Purgatory - Starting with a tough four bolt boulder problem, move right to a rest where you can either stand for a total no hands or hang out on big holds with good feet. After recharging, bust through tough moves up an overhanging arete slapping at slopey holds and crimping hard for 40 feet. Pass the crux at 2/3 height up the arete and you're there...unless you pump out gunning for the anchors. Runner up - Appalachian Spring at Funk Rock City, this classic Hugh Loeffler route has never been given less than 5 stars on Red River Climbing. It's THAT good.

The top section of Paradise Lost, a classic 5.13a at the Red River Gorge

The top section of Paradise Lost, a classic 5.13a at the Red River Gorge

5.13b - Cut Throat, the Motherlode - Begin by grabbing a jug about six feet up then make a big move to a ledge. Reach right to the business, then crank out a tough boulder problem to clip the 3rd bolt. The line continues through sustained and relentless moves to the anchors. This climb is thought to be hard for the grade, and is a proud send for a 5.13 climber! Runner-Up (possible number one even) - Golden Boy at the Gold Coast Wall (another true classic, hardman route).

5.13c - The Madness, The Motherlode - Walking up to the motherlode, and hearing someone's screams reverberating throughout the crag, you might ask... What's that? That, my friends, is The Madness. 120 feet of 50 degree overhanging crimping through the steepest part of the madness cave, this is one of the proudest lines in the entire gorge. Turn the lip of the madness cave, and let the fun begin, with the potential for one of the wildest whippers at the RRG. Runner up - Kaleidoscope at Drive By Crag -- It's been called soft, but no matter the grade it's one of the most beautiful pieces of stone in the red.

5.13d - Ultra-Perm, Bob Marley Crag - Possibly the best route in the entire southeast. Start by climbing a vertical face and move left onto a ridiculously overhanging headwall. Start with a few bolts of confidence building moves on jugs into the smackdown crux that starts and doesn't stop until you clip the chains. Super steep, super pumpy, and an absolute classic. For more super hardman fun, hop on Swingline and Nagypapa, another couple of burly classics just outside the 5.14 realm.

5.14a - Once you're climbing at this level, you really only have so many routes to choose from... because you are a beast. Omaha Beach, Thanatopsis, Pure Imagination, and the Golden ticket round out the best of the 5.14 grade.

Now that you know the classics of your grade, go forth and crush Louisville Climbers! Rock your Elemental shirts and share your sends and photos with the club so we can all celebrate your achievements.