ROUTE Southern Smoke (5.14c) LOCATION Red River Gorge, Kentucky
In late February and early March, over an eight-day window, 22-year-old Chicago native Michaela Kiersch doubled her number of 5.14c sends. The DePaul University science major ticked off her fourth, fifth, and sixth 5.14c’s with Twenty Four
Karats, Southern Smoke, and 50 Words for Pump, the first at the Gold Coast, the latter two at Bob Marley Crag. “It must have been these Starbucks drinks I’m into,” Kiersch said, referring to the Doubleshot Energy drinks she downs on the seven-hour drive to the cliffs. Finished with her rock goals for the season, Kiersch competed at USA Sport Climbing Nationals the weekend after her big sends, placing fifth. She’ll return to the Red where she’s hoping to climb a few projects before heading to Ceüse for the summer.