Stone Mountain Preschool

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 1, 2010
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Winter

The Eating

Stone MountainStone Mtn.
Stone MountainStone Mtn.
Great ArchThe Great Arch
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P4
The Great ArchThe Great Arch, P3

So there we were with some left over vacation days that needed a burning. We both felt as though we’ve had our fill of lonely Christmases somewhere in the deserts of the southwest sitting around some random Chinese buffet on Christmas Eve…and most especially those lonely Christmas trips where shitty weather had prohibited much (sometimes all) actual climbing. We checked the guidebooks and the forecasts, packed the presents, grabbed a rack and headed for my parents’ place in western New Jersey . A great family fun-filled Christmas followed with its usual heavy doses of overeating and oversleeping interrupted by much sofa surfing. Shirley kept herself in shape with the usual running regimen while I worked my liver extra hard. Though we all managed to get in a nice family hike a short distance up the Appalachian Trail , that apparently was not enough to keep me from growing an extra ass. The post Christmas week forecast to the north was calling for shitty weather while the forecasts to the south looked a little less shitty.

The Climbing

White Way DirectWhite Way Direct
Stone Mountain...failure
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P4
The Great ArchGreat Arch, P1
YardarmYardarm, P2
The Great ArchGreat Arch, P2
YardarmYardarm, P1
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P3
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P2
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P2
YardarmYardarm, P3
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P1
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P4
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P4
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P1
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P4

Following a quick 8 hour drive, Tuesday morning saw Shirley & me hiking up the iced over road to the base of Stone Mountain in North Carolina. Despite the guidebook’s enticing phrases:

Pitch 1: Tie into the rope and solo unprotected slab to the anchors. 5.10X, 70 feet….route was established by the slab masters at the height of their game…or their insanity
Ref.: Selected Climbs in North Carolina by Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull

…we picked Stone for its low altitude and southern exposure which we thought would make it climbable despite the freezing temps. It was also the first crag we’d hit on our drive down south. And I always wanted to see the place, esp. after seeing The Chief’s photo of the runout slab climbing there.

With an ambitious (very shortly, we would call it “naïve”) ticklist, I led the White Way Direct (5.9, 1 of 4 stars1 of 4 stars1 of 4 stars1 of 4 stars) pitch to the Tree Ledge. Other than a 40 foot runout on 5.easy to the first bolt, the line was reasonably well-protected where it counts. “Hey this shit is not bad!”, I recall exclaiming. Twenty minutes later I was wishing that I had curbed my enthusiasm and kept my mouth shut on the previous pitch. I was thirty feet above the last bolt on a water-polished slab. I was two moves away from the safety of the next clip but my left foot kept failing to find a smeary purchase. Every attempt to put weight on it would end with a minute skid that threatened to blow my right foot off of its very tenuous smear and send me into a 60 footer that would put me on a lower angle slab below. My mind screaming profanities in my skull, my right calf beginning to burn and tremble…”F**k!!!” I dug my fingernails into the microcrystals of the slab above and stepped onto my left foot then quickly moved my right foot onto the next smear….”Clipping!!!” I yelled with a trembling voice. Above me, lay a stretch of slab visible for 40 to 50 feet with no sign of the belay. I knew not to expect more pro based on the topo. I hung on the bolt craning my neck trying to see the belay bolts. No luck. They must be there above the slight bulge. My mind was failing me. I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t commit to the fright fest above despite being certain that the belay must be up there somewhere. If I could only see it – I could mentally chop up the slab above me into manageable sections. I knew the pitch was runout but I expected the difficulties to ease where the bolts were sparse. That wasn’t really the case. Defeated, I lowered off.

Defeated (& shaken!) we quickly climbed up the The Great Arch route (5.5, 4 of 4 stars4 of 4 stars4 of 4 stars4 of 4 stars). A very aesthetic, natural line that I’d guess is one of the best trad climbs of its grade (5.5) in the country. Afterwards, we also climbed the three pitch Yardarm (5.8, 3 of 4 stars3 of 4 stars3 of 4 stars3 of 4 stars) off the Tree Ledge…sparse bolting (P1: 2 bolts/~120 feet; P2: 2 bolts/ 140 feet; P3 150 feet, one cam...) but easier terrain.

Next day’s forecast looked shaky even for Stone and so we got up early and drove further south to check out Looking Glass Rock. Snow-rain mix greeted us in Brevard , NC . The occasional pause in the precip made us drive up to the trailhead with an optimistic gleam in our eyes. Occasional views of the crag through the trees were bleak though: running water and largely socked in a thick fog. No luck.

We were back at Stone Mountain on the following day to find more rivulets running down the slabs. The classic Great Funk Railroad was running with water and so we finally zeroed in on a drier (and easier) Pulpit (5.8, 2 of 4 stars2 of 4 stars2 of 4 stars2 of 4 stars). After some sweating and cursing on the opener of pitch one (wet slab), five pitches of moderate fun followed with one interesting crossing of a running water groove high up on the face.

Just as we thought we’re finally beginning to find our “slab feet”, an arctic blast moved in over the area and so we headed back to New Jersey.

The Return

Looking Glass RockLooking Glass Rock
The PulpitThe Pulpit, P1
Stone MountainStone Mtn.
Stone MountainStone Mtn.

An interesting place. Perhaps an eye opener as to how much terrain can be covered with two or three bolts worth of protection. The routes we saw typically had their first bolt 25 to 40 feet up the slab with the second one usually being at twice that height and the third one (if present) at an even longer interval. I would guess in some cases the difficulty eases but in many it’s sustained from belay to belay. Possibility of decking from 70 feet up looked commonplace (a running belay from an attentive second is I’m sure assumed by the FA-ists) and in some cases decking due to a screw up near a very high third bolt was not out of the question I’d guess. A crazy place – perhaps…definitely unique. As I type this, I somehow find myself itching for more…a rematch with the mindf…k that sent me packing, a classic or two more…Don’t know if I’ll have the nerve. Shirley thinks that getting the preschool level taste of it was enough: possibility of a 60 foot slab slide onto your belay & belayer (not to mention the ground/ledge) is enough to keep your second well engaged too. I think we’ll come back.

Two days later we’re in Newark airport headed home. As we’re about to board our flight, TSA agents & cops come swarming in and clear the terminal. Mass exodus from Continental’s Newark hub on a super-busy holiday weekend – great fun! A security breach apparently. We spend most of the night camped out with thousands of other travelers before being rescreened and then informed that our flight was cancelled. A mad scramble to find alternative ways home begins. Two and a half days later – having spent an extra day at my folks’ – we finally find our way home via Philly and DC. Almost as stressful as Stone’s slabs but without the fun factor or the views.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 20

WoundedKnee - Jan 6, 2010 11:39 pm - Voted 10/10

I was wondering

when you would make it out this way. You were unlucky with the weather - the friction climbing is harder not only when wet but also when cold. It's amazing how much better the granite here grips with a bit of warmth. That said, Stone is way too f**king hot in the summer.


rpc - Jan 7, 2010 1:33 am - Hasn't voted

Re: I was wondering

Yeah, figures - we have a lot of that bad weather luck wherever we go :)
Fun stuff in a scary sort of way. Would love to go back. Thanks for the inspiring photos before. Cheers.


EricChu - Jan 7, 2010 11:03 am - Voted 10/10

Good report!

Well written and excellent images - the one I commented on specially I really found spectacular! Cheers,

Eric (MauriceRavel)


rpc - Jan 7, 2010 11:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good report!

Hi Eric - thank you very much for the nice word!


drjohnso1182 - Jan 7, 2010 11:54 pm - Voted 10/10

Sweaty palms

just from reading your description of White Way Direct P2. Good stuff. Too bad you got rained out of Looking Glass. Stone Mountain doesn't look like it has all those nice "eyebrow" features that Looking Glass has; is that the case?


rpc - Jan 8, 2010 1:27 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Sweaty palms

No eyebrow features there...wanted to see these things after reading about them but no luck on Looking Glass ...bad weather :(

Oh time. Thanks for visiting and the kind words!


rpc - Jan 10, 2010 2:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ahhhhh....

Chief - many thanks for stoking the fire for us to get out there...saw that photo of yours on the 10+ slab years ago & wanted to see stone mtn. since. Scary & humbling (5.8 was the best I could manage on this outing & was still scared shitless most of the time) but I would like to go back. Every route feels like a big achievement there. Best regards & cheers.

Joe White

Joe White - Jan 10, 2010 9:25 pm - Voted 10/10

I love reading

your trip reports!

Thanks brotha!


rpc - Jan 11, 2010 11:23 am - Hasn't voted

Re: I love reading

Joe, thanks for the good word man!


graham - Jan 11, 2010 11:06 am - Voted 10/10


Excellent read & photos, thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your trip reports and love how you two are getting things done 24x7x365!


rpc - Jan 11, 2010 11:23 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Bravo!

Graham, thank you much for the kind words!


EverydayExplorer - Jan 11, 2010 11:42 am - Hasn't voted

Oh Stone

I used to hate Stone Mtn when I was in NC. Luckily my partner dragged me up it a few times because now I really miss the mindf*ck of committing to an invisible smear. If you want some phenomenal friction climbing head over to Laurel Knob. It will blow your mind.


rpc - Jan 11, 2010 12:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Oh Stone

Mindf..k is right on! wanted to check out Laurel & LG but the weather was no cooperating. Hopefully can go back some day. cheers.

Dave Daly

Dave Daly - Jan 11, 2010 5:51 pm - Voted 10/10

5.5 Opinion

If you wanna get down to some fairly humbling slab climbing, get down to Tollhouse or Courtright Reservoir. Tollhouse brags of the very fine Tollhouse Traverse (5.5) and some will debate that this route is the best route for its grade in the country. Here are a few routes that provide a one or two bolts more, so the pucker factor is a grade less but challenging nonetheless: Balls (5.9) and Wandering Taoist (5.9). Courtright has a few routes that I nearly messed my trousers on.....Welcome To Courtright (.10a) and The Paraclete (5.10 scary.....I NEVER wanna go back to that one! EVER!! Talk about men crying like babies!)


rpc - Jan 11, 2010 5:57 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: 5.5 Opinion

Hey Dave, the term "mind f..k" keeps coming up with these trad bolted slab routes...think it's highly accurate. Those things are humbling - I was scared shitless on the 5.8's at stone so I do understand the notion of respecting these old school grades... yet I keep thinking about going back. Hopefully someday. thanks for the visit Dave.

Dave Daly

Dave Daly - Jan 13, 2010 12:27 am - Voted 10/10

Re: 5.5 Opinion

The same can be said about Enchanted Rock State Park in Texas, I think. I was in the middle of one of the 5.9 routes there a few months back (3 bolts in 130'!)....frozen at the crux and making the chickensh*t decision to back off, downclimbing 5.9 friction moves to a bolt. Said bolt was at the edge of a mantle I just barely pulled off (an ugly ankle breaking slab below). And wwouldn't cha know started to rain! I LOVE SLAB CLIMBING!!


DarylAllan - Jan 12, 2010 3:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Great report!

I've decided you're a bad influence on me. Your reports make me want to leave straight from work and go climb! (not that that takes allot) Thanks for the great pictures. Btw, glad to hear you and Shirley made it back out to Endgame post the shoulder mishap.

Can't wait to see more reports,
Happy climbing!


rpc - Jan 12, 2010 4:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great report!

Thank you very much for kind feedback Daryl - I got same sorts of issues after a (weekday) morning round up of the climbing sites...sp, cc, supertopo,....most of me wants to say "f.. it!" & run out the door!

Sierra Ledge Rat

Sierra Ledge Rat - Jan 12, 2010 6:39 pm - Voted 10/10


Great report, I gotta get out there, only about 6 hours from here!


rpc - Jan 13, 2010 11:25 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Cool

Thank you Sir!

Viewing: 1-20 of 20



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