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[TR] Stone Mountain, NC - The Great Arch 3/15/2012

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Trip: Stone Mountain, NC - The Great Arch

 

Date: 3/15/2012

 

Trip Report:

I've been visiting my daughter in Asheville, North Carolina for her spring break, and its been a real treat. We've toured about, down towards Georgia and South Carolina, and seen some distinctly southern flavored things:

 

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free range gator

 

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fountains, spanish moss, & quaint architecture

 

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Reminders of cc.com regulars departed

 

We also went out for a day of climbing, hence the trip report. Nora has done a bit of climbing over the years, but isn't that driven by it and had never done a multi pitch route. I'd had a line at Stone Mountain in mind for a number of years, and this was the time to do it. Some of ya'll interested in that How to Introduce Your Girlfriend to Climbing thread awhile back might want to pay attention - different sort of relationship here but the principles are the same.

 

Now, bear in mind this is the Stone Mountain in North Carolina, not the one in Georgia with the carvings and laser light show. Its a state park in the north central part of the state featuring a 600' high granite dome. The area is known for its runout friction routes, but the crack we're here to climb offers all the protection you could want. The Great Arch is a 3 pitch dihedral that goes at 5.5 and is reputed to be one of the best routes of the grade in the country. Here's a pic from the base of the dihedral:

 

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Who could look at this and not want to climb it? The Great Arch starts from Tree Ledge, which advance research revealed is a full pitch off the deck. A number of routes provide access. While the Entrance Crack, a 5.4 offwidth (!!) given an R rating due to most folks not packing big bros or valley giants, and reviled by many, had a certain appeal (who wouldn't want to do a little 5.4 chicken winging?) I decided the more straight forward Block Route would be substantially more fun for my climbing partner.

 

The Block Route is rated 5.8-, but its mostly much easier with some low angle crack and runout friction knob climbing to a well protected one move wonder to step up over an overlap. I brought the 60 meter 8mil half rope so we could put this approach section down in one go and skip the belay station in the middle while still keep the weight and volume down in my one carry-on bag travel strategy. None of the upper pitches are longer than 150', so you could opt for a 50 meter rope, but I preferred to simplify the climbing for my partner's sake. She didn't get any help with the rope tangle though, making a good climbing experience doesn't mean everything is made easy.

 

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That first pitch went smoothly but didn't offer much in the way of photogenic opportunities. We'd arrived early to beat the afternoon thunderstorm pattern and had the crag to ourselves, but another party arrived after I'd topped out on the Block Route. No bother though, they were never on our heels and weren't much of a presence. No crowd pressure and avoiding weather worries is another great element for a fun intro to multi pitch adventure.

 

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Here's Nora following the first pitch. Solid rock, good lieback holds, great friction, and aesthetic position - it really doesn't get any better than this. Belay stations were newish 3/8" stainless bolts with rap rings on the left wall of the dihedral, much better than wads of old tat wearing on the occasional tree in the corner. All smiles at the belay suggest things are going well as the sun hits us and things warm up.

 

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The next pitch goes smoothly as well, occasional dishes on the slab providing comfortable placing positions and a couple more trees offer secure slings. Its all smiles motoring up the corner, and the party behind us has just reached Tree Ledge.

 

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The last pitch thins down to finger size and was wet courtesy of the recent weather pattern, but the angle kicks back and friction padding on the slab with only an occasional foray to the crack for a hold or a piece of pro keeps me dry and happy. Nora stuck closer to the crack, which apparently featured spiders large enough that she initially mistook them for frogs. Bummer, I missed out. The upper part turns to large exfoliation slabs and has the only protection bolt at the top of the pitch. The park replaced all the original dodgy 1/4 inchers for new stainless hardware, but added nothing else.

 

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From here its a great slab walk to the top of the formation and the trail down. One can rappel the route from here, but we didn't have a second rope and the walk was very pleasant. The upper slab was very reminiscent of Tuolomne Meadows without the glacier polish: orange veneer with patches through the patina.

 

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We topped out at the summit sign, a whopping 2600' above sea level. Grins all around suggest this was a very successful climbing foray and we discussed some summer possibilities on the walk down through the mixed pine and rhododendron forest.

 

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We were back to the car before things clouded over, and were laying on a smooth slab cooling our feet in a sweet pool below a waterfall as the sky darkened and the first lightning struck, feeling smug about our early start. An all around awesome day on a splendid everyman route, pure fun. That's the way to take someone out for their first multi pitch route.

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

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John Friehstyle rack photo

 

 

Approach Notes:

For most in the Northwest, the drive to Stone Mountain Park in North Carolina will be the crux. Park at the Hutchinson Homestead parking lot and a short trail jaunt through rhododendron forest leads to a clearing at the old homestead and a stroll across the field and up to the base. The Block route starts lightly up and left from the lowest point, an obvious slabby crack leading to anchors at a tree. The right facing dihedral above is obvious.

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Great move, heading to the part of the US that is participating in this year's 'warm spring'.

 

And hoping my girl will be game for that type of father-daughter adventure when she hits that age.

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And hoping my girl will be game for that type of father-daughter adventure when she hits that age.

shit! hoping i'll still be in good-enough shape when she's that age to even think of it :)

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Love NC climbing and the locals always were and I suspect still are wildly creative bad asses with an interesting sense of humor.

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Sweet. Nothing like a multi pitch with some air under your heels to ramp up the fun factor. My first multi pitch was what got me hooked on rock climbing.

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Awesome! The Great Arch was the first multi-pitch I ever lead. A beautiful climb - and one of the best easy routes I've ever done!

 

Glad to see the park is allowing anchor replacement. Last time I was there (10 years ago) the park had said no to any bolt replacements - including anchors.

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Brings back memories! The Great Arch was my first experience on rock ever (outside of a gym) back in 1992. I've never been the same since.

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Excellent work, Doug and Nora!!! :rocken:

 

...While the Entrance Crack, a 5.4 offwidth (!!) given an R rating due to most folks not packing big bros or valley giants, and reviled by many, had a certain appeal (who wouldn't want to do a little 5.4 chicken winging?)...
Much like Billy Finley, the Great Arch was my first multi-pitch lead as well, having been schooled on the one-pitch wonders of the NRG the season before. The first time I went to Stone Mountain was with my first partner and mentor, Frank Gibson (RIP). That day, among other climbs, I led GA and Mercury's Lead (the adjacent, seriously run-out 5.9 friction-fest) on one of my greatest days on rock ever. It was that same evening, in late November after the sun had disappeared behind the dome and the chill of the dusk began, that I performed my first (and almost last) solo. Downclimbing the Entrance Crack unprotected in the gathering gloom and the growing cold, while being bull-horned by the ranger to hurry up cuz the park is closed, will always be a cherished memory of Stone Mountain for me. :)

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. The first time I went to Stone Mountain was with my first partner and mentor, Frank Gibson (RIP). That day, among other climbs, I led GA and Mercury's Lead (the adjacent, seriously run-out 5.9 friction-fest) on one of my greatest days on rock ever. It was that same evening, in late November after the sun had disappeared behind the dome and the chill of the dusk began, that I performed my first (and almost last) solo. Downclimbing the Entrance Crack unprotected in the gathering gloom and the growing cold, while being bull-horned by the ranger to hurry up cuz the park is closed, will always be a cherished memory of Stone Mountain for me. :)

So you lead the Great Arch as your first multi-pitch then you turned around & lead Mercury's Lead? That's nutso. That climb is freakin' run out with nasty fall potential!

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The first time I went to Stone Mountain was with my first partner and mentor, Frank Gibson (RIP). That day, among other climbs, I led GA and Mercury's Lead (the adjacent, seriously run-out 5.9 friction-fest) on one of my greatest days on rock ever. It was that same evening, in late November after the sun had disappeared behind the dome and the chill of the dusk began, that I performed my first (and almost last) solo. Downclimbing the Entrance Crack unprotected in the gathering gloom and the growing cold, while being bull-horned by the ranger to hurry up cuz the park is closed, will always be a cherished memory of Stone Mountain for me. :)

So you lead the Great Arch as your first multi-pitch then you turned around & lead Mercury's Lead? That's nutso. That climb is freakin' run out with nasty fall potential!

Eee-yup! You've met me, Billy. You've seen that I am not the most muscle-bound individual, so cracks and strenuous routes requiring upper body strength are not my forte'. However, I am strong-legged, sure of foot, and have an incredible sense of balance for an ancient simian... I am the Slab Master, which may explain my predilection and proclivity for returning time and again to such places as Lightning Dome, Looking Glass, Peshastin Pinnacles, Stone Mountain, Goat Dome, certain routes on SCW, etc... :whistle:

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NICE!

 

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But I must inquire, OW... Where is the fatherly love evident in the introduction of his progeny to climbing, yet not setting the example of safety by donning the skid lid? Surely, while you're not very likely to encounter falling debris at SM, a skid down the GA could lead to some pretty nasty cranial deformations... :o

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I performed my first (and almost last) solo. Downclimbing the Entrance Crack unprotected in the gathering gloom and the growing cold, while being bull-horned by the ranger to hurry up cuz the park is closed, will always be a cherished memory of Stone Mountain for me. :)

 

Did Frank not tell you that one can rap from Tree Ledge? Great story, thanks for posting it. I really liked that place, slabbing is my strong suit as well and I'd have loved to get out on some of those slabs, though perhaps not for my first day on real rock for the year.

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But I must inquire, OW... Where is the fatherly love evident in the introduction of his progeny to climbing, yet not setting the example of safety by donning the skid lid? Surely, while you're not very likely to encounter falling debris at SM, a skid down the GA could lead to some pretty nasty cranial deformations... :o

 

Well, I wanted to just do carry on luggage, so space was limited (hence the single 8 mil lead rope), and I figured if I got messed up falling down a slabby 5.5 I had it coming to me. The line was straight and the daughter person was not at (much) risk. Now, a helmet for walking might have been a good idea, since she stubbed her toe pretty good and created an impressive bruise on her thigh by trying to impale her leg on a stick...

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I performed my first (and almost last) solo. Downclimbing the Entrance Crack unprotected in the gathering gloom and the growing cold, while being bull-horned by the ranger to hurry up cuz the park is closed, will always be a cherished memory of Stone Mountain for me. :)

 

Did Frank not tell you that one can rap from Tree Ledge? Great story, thanks for posting it. I really liked that place, slabbing is my strong suit as well and I'd have loved to get out on some of those slabs, though perhaps not for my first day on real rock for the year.

As I recall the events of the day, we started to get the bullhorn treatment from the ranger about 4:30 or so that afternoon (week of Thanksgiving, so was getting dark early), and he was letting us know that if we didn't get the fuq down and out real quicklike, then Frank's rig was going to get locked in the parking lot for the night. Frank offerred to zip down real quick (no pack or gear) and make a run for the gate and move the Subie, then come back and me help drag all of our gear back aross the meadow. For whatever reason, he pulled the rope after his rap. :shock: I was too involved with gathering up/sorting the gear that we had lying around on Tree Ledge, and didn't realize that the rope was slithering away until it was too late.

 

We had a short "exchange" wherein I informed Frank that his act was not very intelligent, and he realized his mistake only after it was too late, and apologized profusely. We had had a very long day, were very tired, and both of our brains were probably not firing on all cylinders at this point. Ranger Bullhorn wasn't helping matters any, either... Anyway, I told Frank that I felt real good and not to worry about it, and that I would "just solo it" and be down shortly. I mean, I had been leading run-out 5.9s all day and felt pretty strong and good about myself, so WTF, right? Frank bolted for the parking lot at an all-out run while I hefted a ton-o'-shit upon my back, and started a very delicate downclimb in the gathering gloom...

 

The water grooves were full of pine needles and ball bearing-esque grit, which didn't help my traction much, and with the sun now well below the backside of the dome in late November, the evening chill settled in quickly. My breath was already fogging when I took my first slip. Scared the bejeezus outta me! Sucked it up a bit more, and worked my way down from Tree Ledge a little bit further, and took a much bigger slip that I barely arrested. I was really shitting my drawers now... I froze at this point, and so the ranger starts bullhorning me again to hurry up. This is when I lost my composure and yelled at him to STFU and to tell Frank to get back here quick.

 

This outburt of mine seemed to expose my anxiety, and imbued a modicum of sensitivity, to the ranger, and he quickly quieted down, and Frank returned to assist shortly thereafter. So I "clung" to my stance (no handholds, just podiatric friction), shivering in a sweat-soaked short-sleeved T-shirt and shorts (it had been a remarkably warm and sunny day for Thanksgiving break), confident in the knowledge that I would soon detach from my airy perch and die a hideous death in the moss-covered boulders lurking in the darkness nearly a ropelength below me.

 

Within a few minutes, Frank was free-soloing up to me with the rope on his back, superbly reassured by his many years of climbing experience (this trip was at the beginning of only my second season on rock). The promise of salvation, as indicated by the heavenly beacon of Frank's headlamp literally flowing up the slab toward me, was awe inspiring and would lead even the staunchest atheist to embrace religion. He climbed up to me, chirped our standard friendly greeting (Hey, Willlll-burrrrr! - think Mr. Ed), and moved past to set up a rappel above me, rapped back down to me, inserted a rap device on the ropes below himself, and attached it to my harness, all without me moving a finger from the rock. Once clipped in, I immediately relaxed and rapped uneventfully to the ground with the pile of gear on my back, quickly followed by Frank. Lastly, before we could leave the park, I had to endure "the lecture" from Ranger Bullhorn. :rolleyes:

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Now, a helmet for walking might have been a good idea, since she stubbed her toe pretty good and created an impressive bruise on her thigh by trying to impale her leg on a stick...
Dad needs to tell her to spit her gum out. I have to do this sometimes to protect my own self... :whistle:

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I have to say, this certainly adds a higher level of objective danger to the approach...

 

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Awesome tale of barely averted death, most of us have some of those from our early days. :tup:

 

 

We both thought the gator looked cute, and that the pelicans were nearly as prehistoric looking.

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