From Por­tu­gal with Love


Th­ese in­cluded Wil­liams’s four-star 5.10s Dragon­slayer, Crazyfin­gers, and A.W.O. L. Flach, Soud­ers, Greg Wil­liams—those who fol­lowed suit are too many to name, but no­body had yet de­vel­oped the eye for the fu­tur­is­tic su­per-steep walls. In fall 1990, Porter Jar­rard, a lo­qua­cious pow­er­house who earned his chops on the steep, grey quartzite walls of North Carolina’s Moore’s Wall, showed up. Armed with a power drill, he would be­come the trigem­i­nal nerve in­ner­vat­ing the new, over­hang­ing face of Red River Gorge climb­ing.

“Porter started look­ing at all the stuff we were just walk­ing past,” says Lo­ef­fler. Within three or four years, Jar­rard es­tab­lished over 150 routes. He sys­tem­at­i­cally worked through Hack­worth’s guide, vis­it­ing the cliffs, cher­ryp­ick­ing five-star over­hang­ing lines like Tis

sue Tiger and Gung Ho at Mil­i­tary Wall and Ta­ble of Colors at Left Flank. This mul­ti­col­ored beauty, es­tab­lished in 1990, would be­come the Red’s first 5.13.

But while sport climb­ing was get­ting its elec­tric start, the shop was still hold­ing on by a thread. You might call this the “Love Shack” era: Af­ter Miguel and Su­san moved up the hill, a se­ries of tran­sient climbers passed through the old farm­house. The Love Shack (per­haps named af­ter the B-52s’ song—no one seems to know) was with­out heat, hot wa­ter, or elec­tric­ity, but it was good enough for the climbers, al­low­ing them to form the core of new-route de­vel­op­ment. Here, they took to cook­ing on a wok over a kerosene heater (not rec­om­mended) that Miguel lent them. Jar­rard: “We would cook ev­ery­thing over that kerosene … poi­son­ing our­selves. That’s why I’m brain dam­aged right now.” Lo­ef­fler: “A con­tribut­ing fac­tor. We slept well, though.”

“Miguel was still just try­ing to make it work,” says Sny­der. “I re­mem­ber him say­ing, ‘ Buy my piz­zas or I’m go­ing to have to eat my goats.’” But soon, as word about the high qual­ity of the new climbs be­gan to leak out, out-of-state vis­i­tors be­gan trick­ling in. “Miguel’s wound up be­ing this cen­tral place where in­for­ma­tion was be­ing dis

sem­i­nated … that’s why I think a lot of the de­vel­op­ment took place,” says Bill Ramsey, at the time a phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor at Notre Dame

and to­day teach­ing at the Univer­sity of Las Ve­gas. In the early 1990s, Ramsey, who’d been Alan Watts’s reg­u­lar part­ner at Smith Rock, Ore­gon, dur­ing the early 1980s when Watts be­gan his pi­o­neer­ing sport-climb­ing ef­forts there, would drive 14 hours round-trip ev­ery week­end to the Red. In time, Ramsey put up en­dur­ing test­pieces like

Omaha Beach and Transworld De­prav­ity, both 5.14s at the Mother­lode, an OG Chris Sny­der-Porter Jar­rard area.

An al­most mag­i­cal evo­lu­tion took place. Miguel started charg­ing a cou­ple of dol­lars for camp­ing and made a few ren­o­va­tions. He up­graded the pizza oven to one that now held three 16-inch piz­zas at a time, set into the wall and propped up­right by a sturdy branch. Miguel’s 15-hour work­day would be­gin be­fore 4 a.m. when he would start the dough and then hand-shred the cheese. His hu­mil­ity, quiet

Daniel Woods on Transworld De­prav­ity (5.14a) at the Mad­ness Cave.

Son and fa­ther: Dario and Miguel Ven­tura.

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