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Hardest Route at the Red?

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Adam Taylor on The Golden Ticket, Chocolate Factory, Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Photo by Kenneth Taylor

After months of effort Adam Taylor has redpointed The Golden Ticket (5.14d?) and it’s believed, by many, to now be the hardest sport climb in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

The route, bolted by the prolific Kenny Barker at the Red’s Chocolate Factory crag,had been tried by many climbers over the years, including Chris Sharma, but Taylor of Lexington, Kentucky, finally punched its “ticket” this fall as the conditions cooled down.

At Taylor posted this about the route:

Well first things first, I give my thanks to Kenny for bolting yet another perfect route here at the Red River Gorge! It still amazes me that routes that this can even exist, every hold seems as though it was sculpted and purposely placed. As for all of the effort and frustration I put into this route, it was totally worth every second, not sure this is true for Rachel though (my belayer). Most routes that take more than a couple weeks to complete usually bring boredom eventually leading to giving up, but not this one.

As for the route itself… it starts out nice and slow with maybe a 12c to the 4th bolt, wherein lies a massive jug slot, just enough to get one warmed up. The eight move sequence leading to the next bolt consists of thin moves and ends with a long desperate stab to a two finger pocket (the most frustrating move of the route). As a boulder problem it may be around V9. Three long moves will get you to the next bolt where you can obtain your final real rest in a 1 pad left hand slot and 1.5 pad right hand slot. Moving right leads to a long lunge to a perfect sloping hole which you match and make an even longer lunge/dyno to another 1.5 pad slot.

Taylor on The Golden Ticket.Photo by Niles Barnes /
Taylor on The Golden Ticket.Photo by Niles Barnes /

The route to this move would probably be around 14a, but instead of clipping some anchors you abruptly and ruthlessly trend left into a 9 move V10ish boulder problem. With a hand foot match, precise finger placement, a heel hook, and a desperate stab you will end up on two small crimps where you can get a few shakes so long as your forearms aren’t pumped more than a tank full of gas. From here you still have 8 or 9 more hard moves before you can grasp the finishing jug, with the final move being the hardest (I found this out by falling past the last bolt six time last spring). The options for the last move are to full out dyno or use a bad sloping crimp to awkwardly cross.

As for the grade, I do not know… It is definitely a step up from both versions of 50 Word for a Pump, Smoke, and Lucifer, but not enough to make the next grade at the red in my opinion. I expect to see some quick ascents in the near future, maybe by those who will be more enlightened than I about its rating.

For those asking about the name, I’m not sure what the ethics are surrounding this, but it seems like the name has already grounded itself.

—Adam Taylor

Below is a video by Niles Barnes of Taylor attempting The Golden Ticket in Spring 2009:

Date of Ascent: October 18, 2009

Sources: Niles Barnes, Adam Taylor,

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