Thursday, April 11, 2013

Granite Domes

Over the last week we finally managed to tie into a rope and climb up some of the impressive granite domes of North Carolina.  First up was the 500-ish foot Stone Mountain.


Here I am on The Great Arch 5.5, which climbs an impressive continuous corner for several hundred feet.


We were told it was one of the best 5.5's in the country, and we can't really argue.  Here's Kristal approaching the top of it.


Aside from two large corner systems, the climbing at Stone Mountain mostly involves climbing friction slab, with very little in the way of anything to actually hold onto with your hands.  Here's Kristal on some nice runnout slab near the top.


And the few from the top.


After getting back into slab climbing shape we were psyched to go climb Laurel Knob, a huge dome (1000+ feet high!) hidden in Cashiers Valley and plagued by a long history of access issues.  The cliff is now owned by the Carolina Climbers Association, but is surrounded by private property.  It's a bit odd to have to hike for an hour and a half to access the cliff when there is a nice private road going right up to the base.  You also lose that remote climbing feel when you are surrounded by million dollar mansions, especially when construction crews are building a new one right below you.


Regardless, it turned out to be an excellent day.  We got an early start to try to beat the soon to be sweltering heat of the day.


We decided to climb one of the many classic routes up the cliff, Fathom 5.10a, which came highly recommended.  Thankfully the cliff is somewhat west facing, so we were able to stay mostly in the shade for the first 5 pitches, which climbs up along this obvious diagonal crack/seem for 600-ish feet before climbing over the steep headwall.


Here is Kristal coming up the spectacular 6th pitch.


And at the top of pitch 7, after sucking it up and climbing the fun, but full of running water, water groove.


Sadly the top of the cliff is also private property, so none of the routes officially climb to the top anymore.  After rappelling down in the heat of the sun, on what can best be described as a large granite frying pan, we were excited beyond words to find this beautiful waterfall/swimming hole on the long hike back to the car.


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