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Selected Climbs in North Carolina

 Selected Climbs in North Carolina

by Sean Hudson

September 06, 2002

In Selected Climbs in North Carolina, experienced climber Yon Lambert and climber/adventure photographer Harrison Shull present the best routes the state has to offer. These 461 routes--plus more than 370 bonus routes shown on the topos--include major destinations such as the Linville Gorge ("the Grand Canyon of North Carolina"), the quartzite walls of the Piedmont, and steep Whiteside Mountain. Perfect for all ability levels, there are routes for beginners and challenging test peices for both sport and committed aid climbing in this new book.

"Here in the southern Appalachians, intimidating granite domes tower above lush mountain coves soaked in autumn colors," say Lambert and Shull. "In the Piedmont, steep quartzite walls yield powerful sport climbs. Boulderers have their choice of numerous, world-class destinations scattered across the state. And connoisseurs of remote backcountry routes--free or aid--can find something to suit them in every season and in every grade."

In Selected Climbs in North Carolina, Lambert and Shull provide a comprehensive list of the most popular climbs and new routes in the state, plus jaw dropping photographs by Shull. For every route and climbing area, climbers will find summary information and climbing history of the area, directions, detailed route descriptions with ratings, topographic maps, and stories of local climbers and first ascents. Lambert and Shull also include sections on ethics,weather, equipment, safety, and more in an informative introduction.

By documenting routes and advocating responsible use of the land, Lambert and Shull believe that this guidebook will help preserve local climbing. "There is no question that in North Carolina, a finite amount of rock calls for special vigilance." say the authors. "Access remains a particularly sensitive issue. However, our belief is that unless we're open about climbing--with everything from our history to first-ascent style--new climbers won't have any appreciation for what's happened here before."

Stories Behind Favorite Climbs in North Carolina:

Looking Glass Rock

Looking Glass Rock pioneer Jeep Gaskin had been deeply impressed by the 1976 visit of "Hot" Henry Barber who shattered all conceptions of what was possible on North Carolina granite with his back-to-back free ascents of Out To Lunch (5.11a) and Cornflake Crack (5.11a), both longstanding aid routes. Gaskin remembers "watching this otherwise ordinary guy launch himself at another chunk of The Glass. On Out To Lunch, Barber went up to the roof, hung off that rattly fist jam, and tried throwing a hex into the veritcal crack above. I could not believe what I was seeing! The hex finally stuck on the exact throw when Henry came off. So there he was hanging from a hand wrapped in perlon, his feet dangling. He pulled up the rope and made the clip, and finished the route."

After a wild night of partying in Asheville, the group went back out to the North Side, where Barber asked about freeing Cornflake. Gaskin continues: "freeing such a demanding aid route was beyone our comprehension but we had already witnessed things from Barber that we could not have imagined so why the hell not? Henry placed a tiny Crack-n'up above the flaring jam tat opens the route, and as soon as he stepped out onto the smears his feet blew. There was nothing else between hm and the ground, so we were sure he was going onto his head in the rhodos, but the Crack-n'up held. Henry became hysterical, lowered off, and took a solitary walk toward the hidden wall. He came back and blew the route away. After the first pitch it was hard to follow their progress but I remember the shouts of encouragement and crows of pleasure."

Taking confidence from his ascents of The Odyssey (5.11a) and The Womb (5.11c) and inspiration from Barber's whirlwind visit, Gaskin went on to establish classic hard testpeices like: Aerospace Cadet, Labia, Legendary Nuclear Bomb, Danger Dog, and The Glass Menagerie among others. Not to be undone, Rotert, Reagan, and Bayne were also hard at work - often with Gaskin - on establishing routes that, even by modern standards, are as difficult as they were audacious. Cuple the fiercely adhered-to ground-up ethic with rock that does not lend itself to 5.13's, and you end up with a climbing era that places a premium on your headspace over your brawn. Bayne, an active local who is still establishing cutting edge routes to this day, relates that the conditions dictated tha the "only logical way to push the limits was to see how far out you were willing to push the boat."

--Adapted from Selected Climbs in North Carolina by Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull, 2002. Published by The Mountaineers Books.

Whiteside Mountain

With a reputation for loose rock, steep routes, skimpy gear and wild weather, Whiteside Mountain remains among the most feared and revered climbing areas in the Southeast. Visible from as far away as Clemson, South Carolina, this mountain in Nantahala National Forest is atypical for the Cashiers Valley area because of its steepness and featured terrain. The mountain's 700-foot South Face sees most of the action, but in recent years climbers have developed routes on its North Face, too. Ice climbing is also popular at Whiteside during the winter, both on the North Face (which is also known as Devil's Courthouse) and in some lesser-known corners of the mountain. All the rock routes here have a serious aura about them for both the objective dangers and Whiteside's reputation as the local flight school. Whiteside's most popular routes - the Original Route and Traditions - are easily aided when the going gets tough and the relatively straightforward multi-pitch ticks for modern rock climbers. If you're willing to up the ante, you will find a host of long and committing routes perhaps unequaled on the East Coast for sheer ambiance.

Whiteside Mountain has a colorful climbing history. Note that we did not say "long." In fact, climbing at Whiteside is only about 30 years old and most of the action took place in the late 1980s and '90s. Although Piedmont climber George de Wolfe and two companions made an abbreviated (and aborted) attempt on the wall in 1964, a group of climbers based around the North Carolina Outward Bound School at Table Rock, NC first began climbing Whiteside in earnest. In 1968, English expatriate John Lawrence and John Wisenant began wandering their way up the cliff's obvious - but disconnected - line of weakness. Their chosen line began at the great gray slabs on the wall's far right and climbed through a series of corners and aretes. Lawrence and Wisenant started the route using polypropylene rope and would hand-over-hand to their high point on each subsequent attempt. The party turned back three times because Lawrence was unwilling to drill high on the face where most parties now pull through the bolt ladder. On one attempt, Lawrence and Wisenant were pinned for several nights by a snowstorm that plstered the wall in ice. Fortunately, the climbers were able to extricate their fixed lines and rap the route. When they returned to their base camp in the woods (which was then below the face) they arrived to find a search and resuce team ready to perform a body recovery. Once they explained how they had made it off alive, they gave the rescuers a lesson in rapelling!

Later, Peter Young and Jim Marshall took over from that high point and finally finished the route on a summer night in 1971. Young later recalled that on the advice of a non-climbing friend, the group had climbed much of the route barefoot because they though it might help overcome wet rock. "Oh it hurt," Young said. "Especially where we put that shitty bolt ladder in." Once named Gom Jabber, the route is now known simply as The Original Route (III, 5.11a).
--Adapted from Selected Climbs in North Carolina by Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull, 2002. Published by The Mountaineers Books

About the Authors

Yon Lambert has spent more than a decade climbing in the Appalachian Mountains and across the U.S. As a freelance writer, his articles have appeared in many publications including The Washington Post and Climbing magazine. He is also the assistant director of Palmetto Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit conservation group in South Carolina. Harrison Shull has climbed extensively in the U.S. and spent six years living and working at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia as a climbing guide. He moved to Ashevile in 1998 where his work as a freelance photographer specializing in outdoor adventure sports allows him plenty of time to be out in the North Carolina woods.

For more information, visit the Mountaineers Books website.

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