Welcome to the Mack Attack Blog
This post was originally posted on Rock and Ice
This route is special. It was bolted back in the day by Kenny Barker and renowned as the Honeycomb Project. Jonathan Siegrist came to the Red River Gorge in the fall of 2010, climbing the first ascent and naming the route ‘Pure Imagination.’ At the time I was a 16 year old kid, living just 2 hours away from the Red. I was motivated beyond measure, often annoying and always dirty. I remember when J-Star did the route, news spread around Miguel’s quickly and it was the biggest thing of the fall. Later the video came out showcasing the incredible climbing. I was obsessed with climbing, but never thought this would be something attainable for me.
Through the years I’ve sent harder and harder routes in the Red, with massive breakthrough happening when I sent ‘Southern Smoke’ 5.14c. This was a MASSIVE project for me, taking a full year of efforts and countless tries. I learned so much from projecting just one route, but afterwards I decided I need to fill out my base. I wanted to do more climbs, hoping I would learn small things from each one. Through the next two years I climbed a ton of other hard routes in the Red, including some of my own first ascents and link ups.
Two years ago, I left my job as a head route setter to pursue my goals as a climber. It was time for sink or swim, could I make a career out of my passion or would I retreat back to the stability of a 40 hour per week job. Well, through that time I travelled to incredible areas like Spain and Rocklands and destinations in the United States like Utah and Colorado, honing my skills and just ALWAYS TRYING.
Going hard for the last couple years has left a toll though. I’ve battled multiple injuries and sometimes just hit a wall of fatigue. That happened at the end of this summer; after a poor performance at Psicocomp I was left feeling drained and exhausted, physically and mentally.
I decided I needed a break. Most climbers take breaks when they are forced to, not just on a whim. It’s scary, what if I get weaker or what if it takes me forever to get back in shape. These worries kept me from taking more than a week off of climbing in the last 6 years.
I decided now was time. I took 3 weeks off. I booked a week long trip to Florida to help a friend move, sink my toes in sand and take a break from climbing. We saw the Everglades, went skydiving, and went deep sea fishing- total bro trip.
When I returned to climbing, everything felt better. My fingers, my muscles, my mind, everything felt rejuvenated. I quickly got back to training to be prepared for my upcoming fall in the Red. I moved down and quickly got to work repeating some of my favorite routes, which has always been a fun way of rebuilding my fitness.
Around the first week of October I began trying Pure Imagination.
The bottom boulder problem has always been a big hurdle for me. There is a lot of different methods, but most tend to use a heinously sharp crimp. I wanted to find a different way, so I worked a different sequence finding a more powerful way that seem more consistent for me.
From there, continuous climbing leads you to a redpoint crux near the top. I fell there three times. On the third time falling so high in the route, I yelled down to my buddy Jordan Garvey (you might’ve read his recent basketball article) that I was going to sit there and dial that section to make sure the movement was ingrained and I was confident in each subtle position.
I took a rest day, and the following day SENT PURE IMAGINATION! I fought tooth and nail for the redpoint crux, barely clinging on as my body shrugged from the wall. I clipped the chains with a scream of overwhelming joy.
The last 5.14c I did ‘Southern Smoke’ took me a year of effort. ‘Pure Imagination’ is a harder route, yet only took me three weeks to climb. I was a good enough climber to send Smoke by full tenacity and drive. I climbed Pure as a more well rounded and more prepared athlete.
This route means a lot to me and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve also realized I have the potential for so much more. And that, is a damn good feeling.