CommunitySpotlight Series


Enjoy rock climbing along Muir Valley's majestic cliffs at the Red River Gorge

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jun 08, 2022

RED RIVER GORGE, Ky. (LEX 18) — As LEX 18 continues our "Spotlight on the Red River Gorge" series, we take a look at rock climbing in the area. The cliffs in and around The Red draw climbers from around the world.

"There's something magical about this place," said Chris Chaney, a guide with Red River Gorge Guides.

"You know, it's just this amazing outdoor playground,"

Chaney grew up on the trails here.

"I was always out in the woods and one day I stumbled upon Military Wall and saw some people climbing and thought, 'That would be a lot of fun!'," he said.

That's when his lifelong climbing passion began.

"As I was learning to do it, was having to recruit other people to go with me. I'd say, 'Hey, let's go rock climbing, and I was having to learn and teach," he said. "I don't recommend that. That's a stressful way to learn to rock climb, but it's what I had at the time,"

Chaney grew up and moved away, eventually getting an office job in Colorado. Now, though, he's back home, making a living from that passion he discovered on this rock.

"I want to help people do this safely and have fun and be part of that. I want to share the experience with them," he said.

Chaney took an LEX 18 crew to Recess Rock, a beginner crag in Muir Valley. He led up to the anchors to set a top rope on the slabby route. Chaney said the climbing here is one of the most famous in the country.

"It ends up being on people's bucket lists. They see the pictures and, like I said, this rock is unique in its visual aspects. It's stunning to look at. Even, just for the hiking. If you just go out and hike trails and see the rock, it's amazing," Chaney said. "It’s not uncommon to be at some of the more popular crags and hear different languages, European languages, people from all over the world,"

Some of the most well-known climbers on the planet come here. A signed poster of Nathaniel Coleman, an American who won silver in climbing at the Tokyo Olympics, hangs at the trailhead. Chaney said he's seen plenty of notable climbers including one of the world's most famous mountaineers.

"I was in the store one day and Conrad Anker walked in and I knew it and I was like, 'This is the most famous person I've ever met!'

All those visitors bring a lot of business to the area.

"There's a benefit. You can see it. You can see in the parking lot at Kroger, there are a lot of campervans. There are a lot of out-of-state plates," Chaney said.

While the LEX 18 crew was at the trailhead, they saw license plates from Ontario, Quebec, North Carolina, and Texas.

You don't have to be experienced to get on the wall.

"I've had everything from complete, total beginners who have no experience whatsoever, no background with climbing, to people who are basically looking for a belay partner," Chaney said. "Getting them to the top of the route's not the important thing. It's that they had fun. If they get on the route and they're not having fun, it's okay for them to come down and we move on to something else,"

For a kid who grew up to live his passion every day on these walls, it's hard to imagine anything better.

"I feel like I've done something good, but something positive into the world. I feel like, in the end, if we're not putting positive things in the world, we're not doing it right," he said.