Natalie Grossman just had a hell of an adventure at the Red River Gorge (RRG) in Kentucky. She successfully sent not one but two 8c+ almost classic routes, Southern Smoke and Lucifer.
The future Team USA Olympian is enjoying her comp break period by exploring the depths of outdoor sport climbing and is already making plans for the next round on the rocks.
In her Instagram post about this trip, she described the whole experience as an inspiring couple of weeks with sketchy weather, but she managed to make the most of what Mother Nature had to offer. With bloody fingers and great times among new and old friends, it’s pretty clear that Natalia is also hooked on outdoor climbing, making a fast transition from her regular competition scene.
One of the most famous 8c+ climbs in the United States, Southern Smoke was established by Joe Kinder in 2008. Located at the Bob Marley crag, it is described as a super aggressive overhanging endurance route dotted about with sandstone pockets. This hard and sustained 28-meter climb features two crux areas with sculpted holds, and bad rest spots which don’t really give you a chance for a break throughout the entire process.
Being such a classic, Southern Smoke has been ascended by tons of hard climbers such as Jonathan Siegrist, Magnus Mitbø, Stefano Ghisolfi, Ashima Shiraishi, Daniel Woods, and Sean Bailey. Of course, the most notable climber on this iconic route is wunderkind Bayes Wilder who clipped the chain when he was only ten years old.
Natalie’s second route during this trip, Lucifer, is located in the Purgatory section of RRG, the 8c+ route is a testpiece established by Mike Doyle in 2006. Featuring a different style from Southen Smoke, this line is not as steep and involves more finesse due to the technical moves on crimps and small sandstone pockets. Although not as famous, Lucifer has had its fair share of world-class climbers, with Ashima Shiraishi, Daniel Woods, Sean Bailey, Drew Ruana, Stefano Ghisolfi, Angie Scarth-Johnson, Cameron Hörst, and Yannick Flohé redpointing it over the years.
Grossman had her breakout year in 2021 at the World Cup, winning two gold medals in bouldering in separate WC events and winning the overall season for three years in a row. Although she struggled with illness at the start of this comp year, she came out strong and earned her Paris Olympics boarding pass in Santiago at the Pan American Games this October.
Featured image: @natalia_grossman