Stats: The Climbers that Have Sent Southern Smoke (5.14c)

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Whether it represents the quintessential style or is an area’s testpiece, certain routes become time capsules, with each new ascent adding a chapter to the story of the climb. Over the past eight years, Southern Smoke, a 5.14c in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, has become an archetype of power-endurance climbing in the infamously steep area. With a few dozen ascensionists, it’s proven to be a route that doesn’t discriminate based on height, weight, age, reach, or experience—it’s hard for everyone. Here’s a cross section of those who have ticked the notorious climb.

Joe Kinder


Date Sent: November 2008
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Years Climbing: 20
Age (at send/today): 28/36
Height: 5’9”
Weight (lbs.): 150
Ape Index (in.): +3.5
Time On Route: 2 weeks

Quote: The day I sent, it was raining and cold. The climb is perfect, and I am super proud of how it’s become a classic.

Brad Weaver


Date Sent: November 2008
Hometown: Bloomington, IL
Years Climbing: 12
Age (at send/today): 20/28
Height: 5’8″
Weight (lbs.): 130
Ape Index (in.): -2
Time On Route: 7 days

Quote: Joe and I spent a week trying it, and we both felt a bit rushed to finish the line before the weather turned sour at the end of the season.

Sasha DiGiulian


Date Sent: March 2011
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Years Climbing: 18
Age (at send/today): 19/24
Height: 5’2″
Weight (lbs.): 108
Ape Index (in.): +2
Time On Route: 6 attempts

Quote: It was my first of the grade, but also the first I tried. The first time, I did all the moves and thought, Oh wow, maybe I can do this! That was groundbreaking for me.

Ben Spannuth


Date Sent: November 2012
Hometown: Lafayette, LA
Years Climbing: 16
Age (at send/today): 23/28
Height: 5’7″
Weight (lbs.): 120
Ape Index (in.): +2
Time On Route: A few days

Quote: Right afterward, I did 50 Words For Pump (5.14a), then Omaha Beach (5.14a) with a headlamp—probably the best day I’ve ever had!

Jon Cardwell


Date Sent: October 2012
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Years Climbing: 16
Age (at send/today): 23/27
Height: 5’6″
Weight (lbs.): 135
Ape Index (in.): +3
Time On Route: 6 attempts

Quote: I was climbing with a fun contingent of French, Swiss, and Italian climbers; just about every attempt, someone would get closer and closer until eventually we all did it.

Melissa Le Nevé


Date Sent: November 2012
Hometown: Fontainebleau, France
Years Climbing: 11
Age (at send/today): 23/27
Height: 5’5″
Weight (lbs.): 115
Ape Index (in.): +2.75
Time On Route: About 10 attempts over 4 days

Quote: The most memorable part was fighting the lactic acid where it’s not so steep anymore. It was my second 8c+/5.14c in a week, and I was very happy about it!

Kai Lightner


Date Sent: April 2013
Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
Years Climbing: 10
Age (at send/today): 13/17
Height: 5’4″ (at send) 
Weight (lbs.): 95 (at send)
Ape Index (in.): +4.5
Time On Route: 6 attempts over 3 days

Quote: Staying focused for such a long period so I could remember the sequences and which holds to use was my personal crux. I had climbed my first 5.14a one or two weeks before.

Brooke Raboutou


Date Sent: March 2016
Hometown: Boulder, CO
Years Climbing: 10
Age (at send/today): 13/14
Height: 5’0″
Weight (lbs.): Not provided
Ape Index (in.): +1
Time On Route: 3 days

Quote: The best part for me was getting the send on the exact same day as Dru Mack!

Dru Mack


Date Sent: March 2016
Hometown: Louisville, KY
Years Climbing: 10
Age (at send/today): 21/22
Height: 5’9″
Weight (lbs.): 140
Ape Index (in.): 0
Time On Route: A year of solid effort; 50+ attempts

Quote: I learned so much about dedication and hard work to accomplish a big goal. The send was very gratifying to me, but only because of the blood, sweat, and tears I had invested.

Anna Laitinen


Date Sent: November 2016
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Years Climbing: 8
Age (at send/today): 26/26
Height: 5’3″
Weight (lbs.): 108
Ape Index (in.): +3
Time On Route: About a week

Quote: I’ll never forget the people cheering and applauding in that canyon when I sent. People are the main factor in the Red, and they are what makes the place so unique, warm, and amazing.

First Ascensionist Joe Kinder says: 

“I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been bolted. To me, the direct line [a start to the already-established Ultra-Perm (5.13d)] was the most profound thing I had seen in the Red at the time. I was really drawn to the steep angle and the sculpted holds that the Red yields. Through the process of cleaning, bolting, and working the project [in November 2008], my psych verged on the point of manic. I remember leaving Miguel’s Pizza at 10 p.m. one night to bolt. There were bats flying around and spooky noises in the woods. I was alone and totally losing it. I finished and ran back to my car, looking in my rearview mirror to see if there was anything behind me or psycho killers hunting me. To go through the process of a first ascent with someone else is awesome as you share ideas, beta, theories, and fight through the unknown together. [Brad Weaver and I] were toe to toe for the FA, and it just happened to be me to climb it first.”