Inside Scoop: Red River Gorge

10/06/2014

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If you're like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly-both socially and environmentally. In this new Inside Scoop series, we'll connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country's top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues.

Destination: RED RIVER GORGE, KY

Local expert: BENTLEY BRACKETT, PRESIDENT OF RED RIVER GORGE CLIMBERS' COALITION

What challenges does the Red River Gorge climbing community face right now?

The Red River Gorge is unique in that there are so many different land owners that all have different rules and expectations. And the climbing at the Red is some of the best on the planet, so we see a tremendous amount of use-many areas are “loved to death". We encourage everyone to work as a team to mitigate overuse and abuse of our precious climbing resources.

What are your most pressing access issues?

We face many of the same issues that other climbing communities face, but two that are super prominent in the Red are human waste and overcrowding.

What is the best option for human waste disposal in the Red?

With the Red's climate and soil, if human waste is buried properly (in an 8" deep cathole), nature can take its course in a reasonable amount of time. But nothing beats packing it out.

And how do you address the overcrowding issue?

We try to educate climbers-if a crag is crowded, consider going to another one. There are many to choose from!

How is the relationship between climbers and local land owners and community members?

We've put a significant amount of effort into being seen as a respectful user group, so the relationships are generally very good. The locals have realized that rock climbers are in the area to stay, and they see that we contribute a lot to the local economy. We encourage climbers-visitors and locals-to express their appreciation to landowners and to tread lightly.

What would you describe as the local ethics at the Red?

The ethic is to respect your elders and run it to the chains. No, seriously, it 's simple: treat it like it's your own. Take pride in our climbing areas, and treat them like your own property. If you need guidance, check the rules in our land use waiver at rrgcc.org.

Any recent victories in the Red?

We just acquired the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP), with help from the Access Fund, which was a big milestone for us and an interesting model for other LCOs. There was very little route development and zero trail, parking, or other infrastructure-we essentially purchased a "future" climbing area. This gives us the opportunity to build things correctly from the beginning. We are also announcing joint membership with the Access Fund, which is an exciting opportunity for climbers to support both national access work and Red River Gorge access work with a single membership.

Any words of wisdom for folks visiting the Red for the first time?

Before you go climbing, do your research on where you are going, who owns it, and what their expectations are. And remember rock climbing is not free, so please consider donating to the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition as well as the private landowners that pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their property so that you can climb there.•

Photo courtesy of Peter McDermott ©