Climbing Panic Story and Barn Bluff, Red Wing Again

We were going to go climbing in Southern Illinois from Chicago but again it was predicted to rain and the weather looked perfect in Minnesota, so off we went to Barn Bluff.  Six of us this time, mostly friends and friends of friends from the gym, all climbers and into it, but mostly indoors climbers looking to get outside.  They were all really pumped, some of them their first time climbing outdoors, ever.  Two of them had never lead before, which in rock climbing is a major deal, really taking you to the next level mentally, physically, and I’d say emotionally.  It can be really scary when you are ten feet above your last bolt and your arms are burning and the fall isn’t clean and you’re having a hard time hanging on to the rock, desperately trying to clip in to the next protection that’s just out of your reach so you put the draw back on your harness quickly, fumbling a little in your haste.  You start to breathe faster, your leg begins to go into minor spasms as the fear grips it.  Feeling around blindly on the rock over your head, running your hand back and forth across the rock feeling for a good hold.  Finally you feel a tiny crimper that MUST hold, you crank down on it with your right fingers, and ahhhh – it’s a little better than it felt.  The bolt is off to your right though so you grab a draw with your left hand and awkwardly reach over your head as you feel your right arm burning from the exertion, you swear you can only hold on another second…. barely get the draw clipped to the bolt, and brief relief.  You then reach down and grab the rope, panic rising in your chest and taking over your brain, pull the rope up, your belayer pays you out a bunch of slack and your hand is right by the carabiener, about to get it to go in YOUR RIGHT HAND SLIPS AND YOU FALL!  “FALLING!!!!” you yell and then the rock quickly becomes a blur in front of you and your mind goes blank, and you’re falling, then you feel the rope rapidly come tight, twenty feet later you swing into the wall hard but not painfully, heart pounding in your chest.  Breathing hard and deep for the first time in three minutes.   Look down at your belayer thirty feet below, say “Whoa!” with a grin slowly lighting up your face and then you begin to laugh, relief and joy washing over you as you feel the adrenaline begin to drain out of you.  After a moment you grab the rope and say – “I’m batmanning back up!” and horse yourself back up the rope to the last clip you had bolted to give it another go.

Good stuff! 

Below are some pics – three great guys and three great girls, was a really fun trip with a great vibe amongst us and a high level of excitement as we were all pumped to be on real rock, outside the plastic of the gym.

Intense Focus at Barn Bluff

Intense Focus at Barn Bluff

Drove up 380 miles from Chicago Friday night, stayed at the Best Western in town, then in the morning had the free continental breakfast there and headed to the crag, only five minutes from the hotel.  There we proceeded to get shut down by a 5.8 which was crazy as we were easily able to do 5.10s and gave an 11 a solid shot.  I swear the 8’s and 9’s were sometimes harder, maybe it was just me.  Got on probably 7 or 8 great climbs, got the girls leading for the first time, and generally had a blast as the weather was perfect for climbing, cool yet warm.  Then headed back that night, home at around 2 am after a nice dinner at a ratty bar – nice in terms of time together, not nice in terms of fancy food.

One minor yet major plus about Barn Bluff is there are carabieners or clips at the top of every climb – so at the top, you simply clip the rope in and zip down, it’s so convenient and saves so much time from clipping in at the top, going in direct with two draws, untying the rope, feeding it through, retying, and then belaying or even rapelling down.

Meredith heading up the rock on her first lead

Meredith heading up the rock on her first lead. Barn Bluff, Red Wing, MN


Alan and I climbing near "Into the Sun" at Barn Bluff

Alan and I climbing near "Into the Sun" at Barn Bluff


One Response to Climbing Panic Story and Barn Bluff, Red Wing Again

  1. Hi, folks. I just pulled up your excellent story and photos about the Barn Bluff climb. I’m writing a story for the Xcel Energy company newspaper/magazine Xtra, and yesterday I visited the Xcel Energy Steam Plant in Red Wing, whose 60th anniversary is the subject of the story.

    I wonder if you could give me permission to use one of your shots in our company news organ. It’s not for profit (although the company is), and it goes out to all 12,000 employees in seven states. The photo of the two climbers scaling the bluff (about 1/3 of the way up) would be great for our publication. Most of the photos we currently have are old company b/ws that only show parts of the bluff incidentally to shots of the plant.

    Please let me know if it would be OK for us to use this photo. Thanks, Paul Froiland

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