Stone Mountain, NC, is an amazing place and a wonderful climbing venue. Unfortunately, the two classic moderate climbs (Great Arch
and No Alternative
) don't start from ground level. Indeed many of the classic climbs in the center of the face start from the Tree Ledge one pitch off the deck. Getting there is the first part of the climb or the last part of the approach depending how you look at it.
Easy climbing at the start of the route.
There are two easy ways of getting to the Tree Ledge. The Entrance Crack is rated at 5.4 and is seemingly much easier than U-Slots (5.7). However, looks can be deceiving. Entrance Crack is a sustained offwidth with no protection unless you've lugged along a supply of big-bros and massive cams. You're unlikely to fall to your death, but you may become irrevocably wedged.
To approach Entrance Crack, walk through the historical park and meadow and approach the middle of the rock by the standard trail. Turn right and walk east along the rock until you reach a 20' tall, triangular crack system to a small ledge. Doesn't look so bad from down here.
Start at the triangular system of cracks climbing up to the small stance at their top by whatever way seems best to you. Place pro as high as you can because it's the last good gear you'll get!
[img:238741:alignleft:small:Easy climbing at the start of the route.]Shift left and start up the offwidth. It's about 8" wide and a couple body-lengths deep in places. The edge is reasonably good and can be laid back, but a fall will be a long one. Cowards like me opt for jamming their entire lower body into the crack and scootching upward. Scant face holds on either side may help you. About half way up there is an old 1/4" bolt (no hanger, stripped threads) on the right. Cinch a small nut around this psychological protection and hope you don't fall. The angle eases off as you approach the top and eventually you'll pull up to a tree and flat ledge (the east end of the Tree Ledge). Collapse, hyperventilate for a while, and then belay your partner.
You're now on the tree ledge and can access various other climbs.
Descent: presumably you didn't drive all the way here to climb Entrance Crack did you? Climb something else and walk off the west-side hiker trail. Should you need to bail from the ledge, you can rappel from the tree at the top of EC or from several other locations along the ledge. A single 50m rope may or may not do the trick.
A 50 meter rope will get you to the top comfortably but a 60 will give you more margin on higher pitches. The first few moves are protected well by medium cams or large hexes. Big Bros or huge cams are the only things that will work higher up. Bring at least one wired stopper to cinch off the manky bolt in the off-width.