Table Rock - 4100 ft / 1250 m
Linville Gorge – North Carolina USA
Lat/Lon: 35.88600°N / 81.8845°W
November 24 - 25, 2006
Summited: November 25
For the last four years, my brother Steve and I have been trying to climb a multi-pitch route on Table Rock on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Until this year, we were consistently thwarted by weather. While it is usually raining or below freezing temperatures in the Linville Gorge Area this late in November, this year we had a lucky break. With no chance of precipitation and highs in the 60’s, we were going to get our shot.
We had never climbed anything more than 2 pitches together, and were never high enough that rapping to the ground was not an option. Steve did not have my mountaineering experience, so he’d never had to deal with the exposure factor of climbing 200 plus feet off the deck.
We left Memphis at 4AM on Friday the 24th. After listening to most of John Grisham’s The Last Juror on CD, we finally made it through the gap where I-40 winds through the Smokies into NC. We had ambitions of being able to climb this afternoon, but by the time we made it to Table Rock, it was less than a couple hours until dark. We opted to make the approach to the East Face and scope out the start of our route objective, Jim Dandy. We found the start, confirmed with some locals that we were in the right spot and returned to the car and back into Morganton to find a hotel and dinner. We thought about camping out, but opted for the nearest hotel to Table Rock, nearly an hour away back at the interstate.
We rolled out of bed at 6AM Eastern and were the first party onto the East Face. I led the first pitch and was setting up the belay when the next group showed up, but they were out of sight and mind very quickly. The first pitch got my attention. It is probably about 65’, with three bolts for protection. I have climbed more than one route where the top anchors were as high as the first bolt on this route.
Steve didn’t feel real keen on the exposure at the top of the first pitch. So, I ended up leading the next two pitches as well. The second pitch was great with great exposure, and the third is run-out on very easy ground.
Looking back down at Steve at the second belay.
Once we made it to the big ledge at the end of the third pitch of Jim Dandy, we took a little break and scoped out the routes above. My Route and the Cave route were obvious endings to a moderate day on the East Face. The Cave Route was obvious; My Route was not so much. We elected My Route and I left the ledge heading for the next belay.
It was again a little run out. I placed a few cams and utilized the few bolts. When I arrived at the top of a buttress below a small roof, I expected a two-bolt belay. It was not there and we were unsure of our precise location, and some idiot was shooting bottle rockets off the summit above. So we decided that a retreat was in order. I down climbed to a small stance about 25’ above the big ledge below. From here down was very steep and would have been difficult downclimbing. I was hell bent on not leaving any gear, so I tied off on the lowest bolt on the face. After a few minutes of consideration, I untied my longest cordolette, threaded it through the bolt hanger, and rapped down on it another 8 feet to a 4” sloping ledge still 15’ above my brother. Only one Cam was below me, so Steve stepped up and pulled it and I traversed 25’ left to Cave Route.
Looking up at Cave Route from the big ledge.
I was still at least 15’ above the ledge and had no pro, and it was pretty thin for the next 10’ to the second bolt (the first I must have missed or bypassed due to my traverse). I plugged two small cams in the same horizontal crack, and tool off for the small roof crux. It was a little tricky and had several sloping holds, but I was able to quickly push through to the belay at the end of “Lightning Ledge”. Steve followed, and as I had expected, pulling the move around the ledge with the pack was very awkward. He made it without incident.
Topping out Cave Route.
We snapped a few pics and elected to tie the rope in a mountaineers coil and stay tied in until we were sure there was no need to break it back out for the “walk off”. This seemed to be a popular method, as we passed at least 3 bolts on the “walk off”, two stepping over an exposed slab and one more on the 4th class climb just left of a cave like chimney to gain the trail to the summit above.
Jim Dandy marked. Then straight up to the right end of the next ledge. Followed this left and up to the summit trail.
A good day in the mountains was finished off with a short hike to the true summit, the typical questions from the tourists and a nice walk back to the parking lot down the trail on the west side of Table Rock.
Exploring the summit area after our great climb.