Friday, June 22, 2018

Trip Report: Climbing Half Moon at Red River Gorge

View of Chimney Top rock from Half Moon

Sometimes great adventures are well-thought out and planned. This is not one of those adventures. Last Saturday we sat around the campfire sipping cider trying to decide what to do the next day. We had two requirements: it needed to be in the shade and it needed to be a trad climb.

Flipping through our guidebook, we noticed that Half Moon had routes and that they were in the shade. For the non-Red River Gorge initiated. Half Moon isn't really a climbing area, or at least it hasn't been since the 1970s. Nowadays it's populated by drunk tourists, who don't understand why you're not allowed to camp on a trail and  that shouldn't be following a trail on a sketchy ledge inebriated. We don't go there very often.

But there's a classic 5.7 multi-pitch trad route up the Half Moon, which sounded absolutely perfect. We did a little bit of quick research, Mountain Project makes the route sound crappy (it's not) but had good beta and Red River Climbing said it was good but didn't have useful information. We were intrigued.

The faint trail down to the base of Half Moon started at the arch and wasn't much of a trail. I did more "butt hiking" than feet hiking. The directions weren't great and the trail was more of a memory than a path, but we followed the cliff line until we found a likely crack. After comparing it to the guidebook we knew we were there. And we were alone in the woods under a classic easy route. That's hard to come-by at the gorge.

There are other routes at Half Moon, but the guidebook has few pictures. We bushwhacked around, identifying cracks that we might try to climb another day before heading back to our target, Full Moon.

The bottom of Full Moon is a little bit manky, but take a couple steps up the wide crack and it's dry, perfect stone. If you can't deal with a foot of moss on an otherwise excellent climb, then it's probably time to sell your trad rack. Even though it's wide, there are plenty of placements for horizontals along the way. If you're comfortable walking cams, you can manage with a standard rack, plus BD 5 & 6 cams.

feet wearing climb shoes and a crack in the rock

Pitch two and three are the money pitch, the perfect layback crack with jugs leads into a wide chimney with two cracks. After some analysis, and consulting with the spider guardian of the right crack, we chose the fist crack on the left wall of the chimney.

man looking up at a crackMan climbing a chimney in the rock


My boyfriend emerged from the chimney to the cheers of onlookers across the valley at Chimney Top. One of the perks of climbing in a tourist-heavy area, you become the entertainment. The day was perfect, the climb was perfect and the applause felt like the perfect end to a lovely summer day.


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