Miles, Bryan, Hannah, Mike, and I decided to check out the Red River Gorge (RRG) in Kentucky for a week of climbing! We coordinated our trip to include Rocktoberfest.

Rocktoberfest is an annual fundraiser for the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC). Held October 9-11, 2015 in Slade, KY, Rocktoberfest included a showing of the 2015 Reel Rock Tour, a climbing competition at the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, vendors, and climbing clinics.


After an 8 hour drive, Miles, Bryan, and I arrived at the Natural Bridge Campground around 3:30 pm. The RRGCC volunteers were still getting organized and trying to figure out the parking, camping, and registration processes. We set up our tents in the rain and Miles and Bryan threw a frisbee in the soggy open field.

Bryan's and my lonely tents

Bryan’s and my lonely tents

Once Hannah and Mike arrived we walked around the vendor booths. Most of the companies donated products and the proceeds were donated back to the RRGCC. We watched a preview of “Ascending India: Bringing Rock Climbing Home.” This documentary is about Sujay Kawale who was born in India, discovered rocking climbing in the US, and wants to bring awareness of rock climbing back to India and also features the RRG. Reel Rock 10 was a collection of short films and had us laughing at Alex Honnold’s humor and white knuckling at the high ball bouldering.


Evin and Danielle joined us late Friday night so it was a nice surprise to wake up next to their tricked out dirtbag van. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns, the seven of us headed to The Gallery in the PMRP. We got a late start but there were still some routes open for us to try.

We climbed DaVinci’s Left Ear (5.10b), 27 Years of Climbing (5.8), and Murano (5.10b). Bryan and Evin also tried Clair Obscur (5.11a) which they mistakenly thought was a 5.10. They got pretty far, but Bryan couldn’t quite get past the last bolt to the anchors. The rock up there looked totally featureless. Rather than bailing and leaving behind a sacrificial carabiner, another pair of climbers volunteered to get our gear down and try finishing the climb. Despite looking stronger than Bryan and Evin, these two couldn’t get to the anchor either and were forced to bail near the top. One of the duo had snagged a leaver ‘biner earlier in the day and used it on this route: easy come, easy go.

Climbing DaVinci's Left Ear

Climbing DaVinci’s Left Ear

After a day of climbing we headed back to the campsite. Rocktoberfest was in full swing with the crate stacking competition, live music, and food trucks. Evin and Miles participated in the water balloon launch where they chucked balloons using a sling across the pond and tried to hit targets. Evin got lucky and won a sweet chalk bag from So Ill.


The Solid Rock Climbers for Christ cooked a pancake and sausage breakfast early Sunday morning before the clinics. Miles, Bryan, Hannah, and I signed up for the Introduction to Traditional Climbing. The class was held at Solar Collector in the PMRP and taught by Shingo Ohkawa. Shingo is an awesome instructor and made everything as simple as possible. He reiterated that the course was not nearly enough time to learn everything about trad climbing but simply an overview of the principles and tools. We all learned a lot about how to place gear, and Shingo gave us the confidence to explore trad climbing in the future.

We had to say goodbye to Evin and Danielle after our clinic as they needed to return to work for the week. After our goodbyes we headed over to the Land of the Arches Campground to set up our base camp for the next week.

Danielle, me, Miles, and Evin

Danielle, me, Miles, and Evin

Overall I had a great time at Rocktoberfest. Everyone was friendly and nerding out about climbing.


Summer in San Diego: Places to Eat

Places to Eat

There are top 10 and top 20 restaurant lists all over the place for San Diego. Here are my top picks for food in no particular order.

First things first- the California burrito. I had never heard of a California burrito before. They are life changing as the tortillas are stuffed with carne asada, salsa, cheese, guacamole, and french fries.

La Perla: Based on my extensive California burrito research (which was a lot), this Pacific Beach restaurant has the best. Their french fries are always crispy and the burritos are huge. I only ever ordered the California burrito but Miles tried the King Kong (filled with carne asada and chile relleno) and Oaxacacalifornia (California burrito wrapped with a quesadilla) burritos. The owner is very friendly and the food is always delicious.

Tacos El Paisa: This was the best authentic Mexican food we found. I was happy with my usual order of beef tongue and tripe tacos. As always, Miles was more adventurous and tried the surf and turf burritos (carne asada and shrimp), adobada (marinated pork) burritos, and Al Pastor (slow cooked pork on a spit) burritos. I would also recommend the fruit waters.

Blue Water Seafood: I tried Blue Water Seafood the day before I left San Diego. The tacos were amazing, but not Mexican style. I tried the tuna and shark tacos while Miles ordered tuna and swordfish. The shark was the best hands down. Two tacos are very filling as each one has at least 4 oz of meat.

Oscar’s: Get the fish tacos and the ceviche! Oscar’s has one dollar fish tacos happy hour Monday – Thursday from 2:30pm – 5:30pm. Sometimes they only let you buy two happy hour tacos per person, other times you can get as many as you want. I only visited the PB location right across the street from La Perla.

Slater’s 50/50: Do you love bacon? Slater’s 50/50 makes 50% beef, 50% bacon burgers and they are mindblowing. Their $10 lunch special is a great size because you get a ¼ lb burger and a side of fries.

Baked Bear: The Baked Bear lets you create your own ice cream sandwiches. Pick from 10 different cookies, brownies, and/or donuts as the top and bottom of your sandwich. Then choose from over 10 ice cream flavors. My favorite was chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream!

Summer in San Diego: Climbing

I had an amazing opportunity to spend my summer in San Diego with Miles. We really tried to take advantage of all the activities San Diego offers. One of the first things we did was rock climb. Here are the local places we checked out.

Grotto Climbing & Yoga
Grotto is a boulder-only gym in the Mission Gorge/Grantville area. We only bouldered there so I can’t comment on their yoga classes. We both purchased a one-month membership on Groupon for $29. The walls are between 12-16 feet tall and have about 2 feet of padding. The setters put up new problems on a regular schedule. Since I had only returned to climbing three months prior, I wasn’t super confident on the slick holds. We didn’t go back after our memberships ended.

Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center

Mesa Rim, located in Mira Mesa, offers top roping, lead climbing, bouldering, yoga classes, and a fitness area. We purchased a 10 visit day pass. We only took the top roping test but there were a lot of fun climbs. Most of the walls are 55 feet high which had me pumping out quickly. The gym fills up quickly in both the bouldering and rope area during the evening weekdays.

Mission Gorge

Mission Gorge is the local crag. Two great resources for Mission Gorge are Mission Gorge Topos and Mountain Project. The walls are shaded until about 11am so get there early to beat the sun. You can walk around most routes to set up a top rope anchor or lead climb.

Knob Job (5.8), Main Wall Far Left- Traverse right, traverse left, and then scramble over the knob. Miles onsighted and loved this climb. I redpointed and came down with bruised knees.

The Blocks (5.4), Main Wall Far Left- This route is directly to the right of Knob Job and is great for beginners. I think it’s harder than a 5.4, but not as hard as a 5.8 as suggested by other climbers on MP. I fell in love with cracks on this climb.

The Chimney (5.4), Main Wall Far Left- Located to the right of Knob Job and The Blocks. Take everything off your harness. If you fall you will swing into the wall behind you and get some nice bruises on your back and butt. For a harder challenge, try climbing one face- I heard it’s a 5.10.

Skyline Arete (5.7+), Lunch Rock- We set up a top rope anchor by walking around the backside. Miles onsighted and found the holds easily, but I had a tougher time.

Skyline Face (5.7+), Lunch Rock- A variation on Skyline Arete, I had more fun on this. It was nice to get a second climb out of one anchor.

Empathy (5.10b), Main Wall- One of our coworkers showed us this pretty technical route. The wall felt polished and I had difficulty finding my feet.


Sending Empathy

As the Crow Flies (5.8), Limbo Area- Miles walked around and set a top rope anchor. The first bolt is pretty high up so I would recommend using a stick clip if leading. This was one of my favorite climbs in Mission Gorge.

The Ramp (5.7), Lunch Rock- Fun crack climb with a dihedral. We got two outdoor newbies up this route.


Getting my jam on The Ramp

Easy Rider, Middle Earth (5.7)- This is the first bolted climb at the end of the approach from the south Climbers Loop trail. Miles sport climbed this route, Nick and I followed on top rope. I’m really glad I didn’t lead this as it’s quite slippery and I had to really reach for some of the moves. Not a fan.

PSA: The REI Outdoor School typically climbs in Mission Gorge every Sunday from 7am – 1pm and they set up on Main Wall Far Left.

More to come on other activities in San Diego!