J-Star establishes new climbing routes

Red River Gorge in Kentucky, with its multitude of sandstone and cliff-lines, is one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations and is home to the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition which maintains a 750-acre region owned and maintained by the coalition and known as the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP). This is the largest direct land acquisition ever made by climbers and permanently secures access to a significant amount of climbing in the region.

‘The Red’, as the area is known, has a vast number of bolted routes in overhanging, pocketed sandstone which attracts climbers from all over the world. Climbing in the region tends to be done at a large number of separate small cliffs. Most climbs are a single pitch and most cliffs are less than 200 feet (61 m) tall. There are numerous traditional and sport climbing routes in region, although sport climbing seems to be more dominant.

The Motherlode, Red River Gorge

One of the well-known faces to visit The Red is Jonathan “J-Star” Siegrist and he has just completed the first ascent of a long-standing project on the Gold Coast crag at The Red.

He knows the area well having dispatched almost every major climb in the area in a two week span last year. His list included Lucifer, Southern Smoke, and Fifty Words for Pump, all 5.14c; three 5.14a climbs; three 5.13c’s; 10 onsights of 5.13 and 5.13b, amongst numerous others less worthy of being mentioned but substantial climbs to us mere mortals!

He was extremely impressed with the area saying “The Red is my newfound favorite area. I can’t wait to get back. It has more potential for hard sport climbing than anywhere I’ve seen in the country. Next time I’m bringing a drill!”

But the big one… the unclimbed climb on Gold Coast crag had to wait for another session – and that happened on 18th November. He has named this fabulous wall Twenty-Four Carats and suggests it should be a 5.14c or 8c+.


© Keith Ladzinski

It is actually two climbs combined. He spent about 4 days planning a climbable sequence that begins on one climb and goes into the top of the other one. He added a middle bolt and began working out the moves.  From the photograph, although impressive, it looks like a fairly straighforward piece of rock with nice easy fissures for finger and toe holds, but looks are deceptive and it is actually full of subtleties such as deadpoints to non-holds and shallow monos to tiny finger tweaking edges.

Make no mikstake, Twenty-Four Carats is a challenging line composed of “powerful moves, deadpoints, sequence specific footwork, monos and thrilling runouts.” Very extreme.

This first ascent followed another he had just completed and named Pure Imagination. It’s a 75 ft climb at the Chocolate Factory (Red river Gorge) which was a route originally discovered and bolted by Kenny Barker, but Siegrist unlocked a difficult sequence to produce this new climb with a proposed grade of 5.14d.

About Pure Imagination he has this to say: “After some easy initial climbing, the route fires directly into a very serious boulder problem on thin, very sharp edges, finishing with a wild, all-points-off sideways dyno to a resting jug. From here the route carries on with difficult lock-offs on crimps and pockets to surprisingly frequent, albeit worsening rests. Towards the top lies the a longest section of uninterrupted hard climbing that finishes with a reachy, shouldery lock-off (redpoint crux). There is a solid rest at the final bolt before you climb a series of pockets and long moves guarding the chains.”

These first ascents follow his success at conquering Kryptonite, a 5.14d climb, last Fall. Kryptonite, at the Fortress of Solitude in Western Colorado, is still considered to be one of America’s hardest sport climbs.

“Kryptonite contains a very long stretch of consistently powerful climbing,” he blogged. “It’s one of the better climbs I’ve done, and it’s certainly the hardest.”

After five days of work on the route the final attempt went like a dream. “It went just like I wanted it to – perfectly,” he said on his blog. “Every movement, rest sequence, foot placement and clip was executed in the very same way that I had been dreaming about… A whisper of a goal from years ago, became realistic, and then was accomplished. I could not be more stoked!!”

Siegrist started bouldering at the age of 19 as a way of cross training for biking which was his first love. Now 24 and a graduate of Naropa University, Siegrist works as a route setter at the Boulder Rock Club, with a schedule that allows him to climb and travel.

We shall wait for his next success story… I’m sure it won’t be for long!


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