So this one may be one of my favorite adventures. And I am not exaggerating. On Oaks Day aka the first Friday in May aka essentially a holiday in Louisville aka a day of horse racing leading up to the Kentucky Derby, when the rest of Louisville was celebrating, I took myself to the Red River Gorge for a day of adventuring. I had signed up with South East Mountain Guides to try rappelling and their Via Ferrata course and it was an amazing day!
So lets start with rappelling. For their rappelling “add on” to the Via Ferrata course, the have 2 options for rappelling – a 50 foot drop and a 120 foot drop and you get to do 2 rappels down the course. So, as a good adventurer should, I decided since I only have 2 runs at the rappelling I need to try it from the 120 foot drop. I mean how could I do anything else?!
But let me tell you, I don’t know of anything much more terrifying than taking that first step off the side of a cliff, with only a couple ropes and a man I outweigh to keep me from plummeting 120 feet. It was absolutely, completely, and utterly terrifying. But once you get over the edge, things get a little better and by the time you are half way down, it became a hell of a lot of fun! A hell of a lot of fun! By the end of the second run, I actually felt comfortable enough to do the fancy push-off off the wall and come back to the rock wall without smashing my face into the wall!
Some pics for your viewing pleasure, and just so you know these were taken by my guide while he was belaying … talk about some skill! 🙂
If you look closely, you can pick up on the fear in the eyes!
After rappelling, I took to the Via Ferrata course. What is Via Ferrata you ask? Well, per Wikipedia (and irrefutable source … 😉 ) here is an overview of Via Ferrata:
The essence of a modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 1 to 10 metres (3.3 to 32.8 ft)) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable can also be used as aid to climbing, and additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps and even ladders and bridges are often provided. Thus via ferratas allow otherwise dangerous routes to be undertaken without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing or the need for climbing equipment such as ropes. They offer the relatively inexperienced a means of enjoying dramatic positions and accessing difficult peaks, normally the preserve of the serious mountaineer; although, as there is a need for some equipment, a good head for heights and basic technique, the via ferrata can be seen as a distinct step up from ordinary mountain walking. Conversely, the modest equipment requirements, ability to do them solo, and potential to cover a lot of ground, mean that via ferratas can also appeal to more experienced climbers.
You got it? If not, how I looked at it at least, Via Feratta, is basically an assisted rock climbing course that makes the trip easier by allowing hooking you in via a cable/harness system and providing ribar to grab on to / step on to help the climbing process.
At some time in the past, I can no longer remember when, the owners at South East Mountain Guides learned about Via Feratta and decided to build one on the property they already owned with in the Red River Gorge that had apparently the perfect semi-circle of rock to support the ribar and allow for a climbing experience. The course is broken into 6 sections, 2 introductory, 1 intermediate, 2 advanced, and 1 super advanced (they used different terminology 🙂 ).
Thankfully on the day I was there, the course was essentially empty (the guides still showed me how to do everything and oversaw my climb) so I could take my time on the course. It’s a good thing too, because I was pretty slow and the course was more challenging than I anticipated it would have been! For me at least, the first basic course was hard! I am either too out of shape or too short or too timid for it to be fully introductory … there were times on this course, where I had to reach and stretch farther than was totally comfortable for me!
As I traversed the course, I encountered some good challenges and AMAZING views! And I ended up tired enough, that as I approached the intermediate course I decided I needed a break! And besides, the sign at the start of the intermediate was a tad intimidating! After my break, I headed back up on the course for an advanced section, sadly, I was too wooped to make it through the entire section and I turned back half way through the course! Especially once the rain started!
While, I was a bit bummed to not have completed the course, I had an amazing day and would highly reccomend anyone and everyone who can to participate! Got to love the Red River Gorge for a good adventure!
Until next time,