Climbing Into The Unseen

Climbing Into The Unseen

In mid-October, for the second year, the Red River Gorge of Kentucky has welcomed a community of bad ass climbers to its sandstone sculptures and once again I was stoked for the Adaptive Climbers Fest. A gathering with inclusion, accessibility, barrier breaking, community led clinics, films, exploration of all senses, and a ton of laughs. This one was pretty special, as I was set in stone as a clinic leader after filling in last minute last year. My film “Blind Lead” would also screen about my journey to lead my first Trad climb in Vedauwoo, Wyoming. Trad climbing is a pretty big deal for someone blind which requires putting cams in cracks, inspecting crucial placements only with touch, clipping the rope and then moving upward. This was full circle because just a year had passed since sending my first ever lead sport climb of finding and clipping bolts already in the rock, surrounded by the same friends in the same magical location.

As my wife Mandy and I rolled into base camp at the Lago Linda Hideaway campground, a whole symphony of insects performed, the smell of fall was abundant, and could feel the good vibes running through camp. Before even setting foot on the textures of the land, I was already getting “what up’s” from those I hadn’t laughed with for a year. I could hear faint sounds of mobility devices on dirt and prosthetics moving about. Then a huge smile emerged as I thought, this is where I belong.

We set up our home for the next three nights with the Copper Spur HV UL 4, adding to the sea of colorful tents before grabbing a beer and swapping stories with others while relaxing in our trout Big 6 armchairs. After a few more sips of local bourbon and satisfying our bellies with gourmet eats prepared by rad volunteers, I decided to turn in and get horizontal in my sleeping bag. We sought comfort in our Sidewinder and Daisy Mae sleeping bags as the excitement began to build about going vertical the next day. Falling asleep became a simple task with the gentle pitter patter of rain and the vibrant serenade from the local Cicadas, Locusts, Crickets, and various other stellar sounding insects. The rhythm was spot on for our own little concert in the woods while we drifted off to dreamland.

Waking up dry to the delightful aromas rolling through camp from another tasty meal by the rad volunteers, the first day of climbing was here and I was totally stoked! The festival provided plenty of top ropes set up for open climb, or various clinics were available. I opted for the backcountry clinic at a fairly new crag called “Hazel Hollow”. The approach to the cliff is usually the hardest for those with mobility or sight barriers. With a festival like this, everyone is so eager to team up and collaborate strengths to elevate each other. With the jingle jangle of a bell to follow we were off, using my trekking poles more as giant leaf collectors this time, rather than stability or seeing devices. After inhaling some famous Miguels pizza delivered by festival staff at the base, the world class sport climbing of the red called to the others, but a crack of various sizes named “Ferrerrerrerro Rocher” Was my jam. Sometimes fitting my whole body in, this thing was dirty and didn’t see much action for its 1 out of 5-star rating. As my belayer took cover from showering silt, I climbed through 90 vertical feet of mud, spider webs, and the occasional thorn bush growing straight out of the crack. It was perfect! Thrashed and psyched for the night of community featured films, I descended with a smile frozen in time.

At base camp, tales of the day were told, the stoke grew, and the celebration continued with four rad films. My film “Blind Lead” was first, explaining how cracks are life and the independence found through Trad climbing. Something I was missing since entering darkness that I hoped to pass along at my clinic the next day. A bit bummed of news that my friend who planned to live describe the visuals, was stuck in the Kentucky mud after setting ropes for the following day. We made the best of it with stories around the campfire over some bourbon as it started to mist. With anticipation of how weather would affect my clinic, I was happy to crawl into a dry tent to try and get some shut eye.

Eureka! I awoke and no sounds of rain were present. Time to assemble the blind and vision impaired crushers to go jam some cracks. They are just perfect for those with low or no vision who seek independence. Providing a line to follow with no holds to seek out and just jam the crack with body parts. Everyone was enthusiastic about the three different sized cracks from finger width to wider known as off width demanding creative techniques like hand stacking, heel toeing, and the chicken wing. All giddy to teach while gearing up, it began to down pour. Lasting for a short while, we didn’t feel another drop the rest of the day. We all had a blast and the progress I witnessed was so rewarding, providing incentive to teach year after year.

The last night of the festival was for partying. Last year was a toga party. My good friend forgot his sheet, so we invented the twin toga and were joined with one. This year was a Kentucky wedding of two participants meeting there the year prior. I proceeded to get all gussied up in my duct tape suit for such a fancy event. My local friend Zane immediately informed me that I was head to toe in Kentucky chrome. Such a strange, but inviting ceremony with tacky attire, and even a pony ring bearer. We laughed around the campfire and danced into the night to a live bluegrass band with only the thoughts of returning next year. For those craving an epic time with empowerment, the Adaptive Climbers Fest is it!

About the Author: Trevor is a Dad, Artist, Big Agnes Ambassador, and adventurer on a journey reaching into the unknown with every sense except sight. When not chasing his 2½-year-old, climbing cracks are his jam or chillin' on a frozen waterfall or knee-deep in powder on a snowboard. Follow Trevor on Instagram @trevor_hahns_art_through_touch