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Climbing the Gorge

The many sandstone cliff faces of Kentucky’s Red River Gorge have long attracted accomplished rock climbers seeking a new challenge. Now day-trippers without climbing expertise can also experience the thrill of scaling some of the gorge’s dramatic formations.

Torrent Falls Climbing Adventures of Campton has brought the nation’s first Via Ferrata to Red River Gorge. Translated as “iron way,” the Via Ferrata is a 3,000-foot course along a horseshoe-shaped canyon in the gorge. For safety, climbers wear a harness that clips into a steel cable that runs along the cliff. As they traverse the course, climbers use iron hand and foot holds anchored into the rock to ascend and descend the canyon.

“We offer a complete program, where somebody who’s never done this before can come in and do Via Ferrata.” says Daniel Wilkes. “They get the feel of being up off the ground and what it’s like to actually be climbing.”

For those who want to develop their rock skills, the company offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced training in climbing and rappelling. Wilkes says those classes are designed for people who have scaled indoor climbing walls and want to transition to outdoor routes.

“When you’re out on a guided rock climbing trip, the holds might be a little less obvious, smaller, or around a corner where you can’t see them,” Wilkes says. “So that’s part of the challenge of the guided rock climbing is really figuring out how to move your hands and feet up the rock to get you up to the top of the climbing route.”

Wilkes says the gorge has become a destination for sport climbers because so many routes already have anchors set into the cliffs here. Plus he says the sandstone geology of the area creates a unique experience for climbers.

“The rock here is just really fun,” Wilkes says. “The hand and footholds that you find in the rock are really different from what you would see indoors. The texture is really good, so you feel like you have really good grip on the rock.”

Climbing in Red River Gorge is a never-ending adventure, concludes Wilkes, an excellent way to stay active and healthy.

Learn more at Torrent Falls website

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2208, which originally aired on February 4, 2017. Watch the full episode.