Kentucky Prime Time

How one Israeli climber came to the Red to push grades and learned how to just enjoy the moment in the process

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Inbal Katznelson, and I’m a climber from Israel. My climbing career started in May 2001, when I was eight years old. It was on my brother’s birthday, and we celebrated in a climbing gym near our home. Very quickly, the instructors in the gym approached my parents and suggested that I join the climbing team. They thought I had something. Pretty soon I started competing nationally and eventually internationally. In Israel, I won first place several times in different age categories. After competing for more than 10 years, I decided it wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted to focus more on the outdoor life and climbing at different crags in Israel and abroad.

My proudest accomplishments so far would probably be climbing my first 8b- (called “Blue Bear” and located in Isreal’s Nezer Cave). I was the first female in Israel to do this grade. I’ve also done 7c and 7c+ onsight.

In the Light (5.10c) | Photo: Alton Richardson

When did you first discover the Red and why did you decide to travel halfway around the world to climb there?

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw the RRG in a climbing movie, but I sure do remember being captivated by how stunning it looked. I’ve also heard many times about this place–it seems like all the known climbers from all over the world climb there at some point. I’ve climbed in Europe many times, mostly Spain, each time for a period of a couple of months. I decided that this year I wanted something bigger and to explore something new. The RRG was the answer. The climbing style of roofs and crimps is just the right thing for me!

How did you like the rock?

The rock is amazing. It’s a beautiful sandstone, and this place is spectacular. I think that the transition from a climbing gym to the real stuff would be fairly easy there compared to many other crags. Not because it’s not special but because the angels sometimes can be very similar to a gym and the style of holds as well—good crimps, shelves, and a perfect texture.

What was the culture like, especially compared to the climbing community in Israel?

When I first got there I was overwhelmed. It was on a busy weekend in the beginning of November. Who would have thought that so many people could be in one place? I got there on my own in the middle of the night and immediately went to sleep in the van. I woke up, opened my van doors and thought to myself how can I manage on my own? Then a few people came over to see my “cool” van and in no time, I joined two crazy guys who took care of me, acquainting me with all the “need to know” people, which was a great help. I climbed with them for a few days and then began meeting other climbers and eventually formed my own little group. Compared to Israel, I would say it’s very similar, really. The climbing community is family-like. Everyone knows everyone.

The Reliquary (5.12b) | Photo: Alton Richardson

Your trip took a little detour with an injury. How did that affect you?

I had some big goals for this trip–I wanted to climb 5.14. But sometimes planning is one thing and reality is another. After a week and a half of climbing at the Red, I sprained my ankle while hiking–to find a spot to go pee of all things. So stupid! It was a big bummer. I tried to stay positive, but everyday was a struggle when my friends went climbing, and I stayed in the camp site. It took me more than two weeks to be able to really climb again. I had tried several times, but I was still in pain. Eventually, I was able to climb but not at 1oo percent, so I did not achieve my goal. Today, after taking care of myself, I’m feeling better, climbing again, and getting back in shape. I’ve since had a few other injuries, but all climbers have continuous injuries so this is nothing special. These days, I’m back home in Israel, training and working full-time as a climbing trainer and route-setter until my big next trip, which might be the RRG again!

What are your favorite memories from the Red? Any recommendations for a climber’s first time there?

The atmosphere was unforgettable. The people there were friendly and welcoming, and the general vibe was really great! Especially when I was injured, so many people came over to comfort me and make me laugh. I appreciated that so much. Recommendations? Miguel’s Pizza, obviously, and the hot but short showers out back. The bowling ally that’s 20 minutes from the camp. Oh, the best cellular service is in the rest area next to the camp site! Go hike on a rest day in their beautiful Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

Lastly, what are your favorite pizza toppings at Miguel’s?

Feta cheese and sweet potato, of course!

Haha! Yes… Of course!

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