In April 2010, the Red River Gorge climbing community experienced a fatal tragedy at the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP). When the accident happened, climbers had a difficult time contacting and communicating their location to the rescue personnel. While the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) cannot take the danger out of our beloved sport, we are making efforts to assist in communication between climbers and the emergency personnel who are tasked with saving us in unfortunate situations.
Climbing in the Red River Gorge spans over four different counties in eastern Kentucky: Lee, Powell, Wolfe and Menifee. In Lee County resides the PMRP, owned by the RRGCC and the nearby privately owned Mother Lode, both of which are popular destinations for climbers. Both areas boast over 20 different crags and hundreds of routes, including Red River classics such as Whip-Stocking (11a), Mosaic (12c) and B.O.H.I.C.A. (13b). Unfortunately most climbers are not aware of their whereabouts when they go climbing. They merely follow guidebook directions.
In late August, two RRGCC Board of Directors (BOD) members, Rick Bost, BOD President, and Stephanie Meadows, BOD Treasurer met with the Judge Executive of Lee County, Stephen M Hays, and Lee County Emergency Service personnel to exchange vital evacuation information for their jurisdiction. The RRGCC provided the EMS personnel with detailed laminated maps that included valuable information such as complete driving directions, trail head location, terrain difficulty, and detailed maps to crags and meeting locations. New editions of the Red River Gorge guidebook will soon be provided to each county, courtesy of Dave Pegg at Wolverine Publishing.
“Emergency” tubes are also being provided by the RRGCC and placed at the cliffs on the PMRP that provide climbers with instructions in case emergency assistance is need. Already, climbers are seeing such tubes in Muir Valley, an idea shared between the coalition and Rick and Liz Weber, the owners of Muir Valley. The tubes contain pertinent information for climbers to use when calling for help in an emergency. “Our goal is to cut down on time and streamline communication between climbers and the EMS in order to expedite response time to the location of the accident” says BOD member Stephanie Meadows. The information provided helps translating crags names such as “The Gallery”, into usable locations for the EMS. The officials of Lee County expressed their sympathies to the community for the fatality and were very receptive to this information.
By opening the lines of communication between Lee County officials and climbers, the RRGCC hopes to reduce the response time and decrease disorientation of all parties when accidents occur. The ultimate goal is to build a solid relationship for both parties, and to set the course for involving all four of the counties that cover climbing in the Red River Gorge.