posted by dpm on 11/18/2011
Adam Taylor has broken the 5.15 barrier at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky with today’s first ascent of Southern Smoke Direct. The start of the original Southern Smoke begins by climbing an easy slab to the right of the overhanging wall, then traversing into the business. Southern Smoke with the regular, easier start weighs in at 5.14c. The direct start begins from the ground, adding a hard boulder problem that leads directly into the meat of the route.
Adam Taylor at the Red River Gorge.
The initial boulder problem is hard, likely in the V13 or V14 range, though Adam comments that he is “confused about grades.” Nick Duttle, who witnessed the ascent, has tried the boulder problem and estimates it in the V14 range. It’s hard for most of us to understand how power-sapping a hard boulder problem can be at the start of a route and how it can affect the grade of endurance climbing above.
Case in point: the other day, after multiple attempts trying to link the boulder problem, Adam was able to climb the 5.14c version of Southern Smoke to a jug at the top where he cranked off 60 pull-ups. No, that is not a typo…60 pull-ups after climbing 5.14c! Yet on one redpoint burn, after linking through the boulder problem he fell off high on the route at the final pump crux.
Adam’s been working on the route for a few seasons now, somewhere in the range of two years. It was this season that he set his sights on ‘kill mode’ and focused on the project. In a brief phone call with Adam he sounded low-key as usual. “It’s definitely a solid step up from Golden Ticket.” (the 5.14d he established in the fall of ’09. At the time, Adam had graded the Golden Ticket 5.14c but subsequent attempts put it in the 5.14d range. Understandably, Adam was uncertain about dropping the 5.15 grade on this route but feels it may warrant the number. He added, “It could be 13a.”
Regardless of the difficulty, the route has now been straightened out as much as possible and is a beautiful journey up a massive wall. When asked what he will focus on next, Taylor mentioned a mega line that he’s been bolting and sporadically working on in the Pendergrass Murray Recreation Preserve, a climber owned and operated sector at the Red River Gorge. The pitch is about 50-meters long and so far, Adam has guessed that it is 5.14a to about 1/3rd of the way up, then a V12 boulder problem, and a ton more complex climbing. “It will probably be a step up from this one,” he noted. The difficulty of rock climbs at the Red seems to be only limited by the strength of the climbers attempting them. Good job taking it to the next level Adam!
Keep an eye on this post as we’ll post some pictures as soon as we get them.