Best of the Red. Red River Gorge Kentucky Rock Climbing. Brendan Leader. Author.

Brendan Leader

Simon Carter

Best of the Red. Red River Gorge Kentucky. Rock Climbing. Simon Carter Publisher. Onsight Photography.
Best of the Red. Red River Gorge Kentucky. Rock Climbing. Monique Forestier

Monique Forestier

How it all began - words from the author

Looking back now that the dust has settled and Best of the Red 2017 is on shelves, it seems hard to pinpoint just how this all started. There was no ‘ah hah moment’ but rather an evolution of a vague idea tossed around during a casual conversation at the crag between Monique Forestier and myself. Monique and I got to chatting while she was climbing in the Red River Gorge in the fall of 2015. Our conversation drifted toward guidebooks and the fact that the selection of guides for the Red is currently split into three books covering unique regions within this huge climbing destination. These three books total to over $100 and cover many lifetimes worth of climbing which led us to the big question: ‘What about the climbers that only have one lifetime?’ Don’t get me wrong, the availability of comprehensive information to a climbing area is essential. Yet what we came to realize is that even with three excellent guidebooks available, there was still a substantial niche within the market left unfulfilled. Thus we started brainstorming on what could satisfy the needs of that niche.

Simon Carter and Monique Forestier are accomplished guidebook producers and authors in Australia under their company Onsight Photography and Publishing, thus each of them had an enormous amount to bring to the table. And me? Well I guess I can claim a pretty deep pool of knowledge regarding climbing in the Red having lived in Lee County, smack dab in the center of the Red River Gorge, for close to a decade now. We each had a lot of ideas regarding what we could do to set ourselves apart and end up with a unique product that folks would be psyched on. The first thing we quickly and unanimously decided was to go with a ‘select’ format. The idea was to present the best of the best crags in the Red and enough of them to keep any climber busy for a lifetime, though I reckon we ended up with a number of lifetimes worth anyways. Every crag to be included would be comprehensive, meaning every climb at the crag would be detailed to eliminate confusion, even if the line is a zero star chosspile. We made the call to focus our efforts on crags featuring predominately sport climbs as we determined this to be the larger user group in the Red.  The overarching theme we established was to end up with a concise and easy to follow guidebook, and hence ‘Best of the Red’ was born.

With an idea in place of what our end product would be, each of us then began to bring our personal flair to the project. Simon’s design style couldn’t possibly have been better suited to our task. He elected to shoot all the route topo pictures as wide as possible, often showing both the ground and the sky, which makes identifying each line incredibly easy. The action pictures were to be kept small yet stunning and white space and unnecessary design elements would be at a minimum. With this layout, we allotted as much space as possible to useful information instead of random graphics and clutter, thereby making for a highly usable as well as small and compact book. Monique tackled the hiking and driving maps and, sticking with the theme, set out to include as much ground area as possible in each map without sacrificing detail. As for my role as author, my goal was for every word in the book to be necessary and avoid any superfluous information. I set out to keep the text informative, concise and to the point, a tall order if you’ve ever gotten stuck chatting with me. Most importantly, of course, was to ensure accuracy. I went into full obsession mode tracking down every last tid bit of information and spent an immeasurable amount of time slogging through the woods rain, snow or shine to make sure I had everything just right.

Fast forward a year and countless hours of work and I could not possibly be happier with how Best of the Red turned out. As I opened up the first box of books my first thought was, ‘wait did the printers leave out half the book?’ A frantic flip through revealed that no, nothing was missing, we just hit our mark spot on. We managed to pack 1271 routes and 46 crags into a mere 176 pages! Better yet, we did so at a price point of $30.00. What do you get for that price? Well I can tell you that I have lived here in the Red for close to a decade and there is only an extremely small handful of crags that I have visited that are not in this edition. So who should buy Best of the Red? Everyone! The book will be particularly appealing to those climbers travelling to the Red for anything from a short trip to a whole season, as the book covers more than one could possibly see in such a time and won’t break the bank. But even for the seasoned Red River climber, this guide offers not only the most up to date information seeing as it is the most recent publication, but also an amazingly easy to digest format and a size appropriate to leave in the pack for whatever the climbing day brings instead of making sure you have the right guide for the specific plans. Grab a copy. You will not be disappointed.

-Brendan Leader