Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Covering Ground at Linville Gorge

Since moving to North Carolina at the end of April, I have been wanting to spend a day doing nothing but moderate multipitch routes.  As a guide wanting to continue to advance in my certifications, I need to climb more multipitch routes for my resume.  Also, I need to learn to move fast in more committing but easier terrain.  This past Tuesday would be the day to do this.  I managed to find a partner.  Kartsen, one of the other guides at Fox Mountain Guides, decided to join me and came up with a plan for the day.  Our plan was to cover as much ground as fast as we could in the Linville Gorge.

A  Panorama from the hike to the Amphitheater

Linville Gorge sits northeast of Asheville.  It is a 14 mile canyon cut by the Linville River.  Normally, it stays cooler there than at Looking Glass since it sit in what is considered the "high country."  Unlike the routes at Looking Glass, the routes at Linville are steeper and have good positive holds.  Climbing in Linville is also much more adventurous. 

Normally, with a plan to cover a lot of ground, groups would start really early in the day or have what is called an alpine start.  We didn't do that.  I met up with Karsten at his house at 7 in the morning.  From there we drove the two plus hours up to Linville.  The road leading up to the parking lot at Table Rock is not fun.  It is a winding gravel road that is full of washouts at nearly every corner.  I guess that is nature's way of keeping you at a reasonable speed.  Once we arrived at the parking lot we noticed one thing, it was already getting hot. Despite the heat, we set off for the Amphitheater area.

Once we arrived at the top of the Amphitheater I had a chance to view some of the climbs we were about to do.  Also, I had the chance to take in the beauty of the area.  Then the realization hit when Karsten told me that we had to get down this gully to get to our climbs.  Gullies are never a fun experience.  Then normally involve steep and loose terrain.  On the way down, I managed to slip a few times and at one point Karsten stepped on a loose rock and it rolled on to his leg almost injuring his ankle and knee.  Thankfully it did nothing more than give us a quick scare.  After about 15 minutes of fighting gravity down the gully we made it to the base of The Daddy.

The Daddy (5.6) is a good route with some amazing pitches in it.  The only bad thing is that the good pitches are short.  This would be a phenominal route if it were more sustained and not so broken up with pitches of just walking up the rock.  To move faster on this route we linked pitches and did fast transitions at belays.  After 470 feet of climbing we were at the top.  One route down.  We quickly checked in with The Spot device so that friends could track our progress.  Then we headed down another gully to the base of The Mummy.

The Mummy (5.5) is an amazing route.  It offers great climbing on every pitch.  Even though it is easier than The Daddy, it was enjoyable to climb 5.5 all the way to the top.  On this climb we did a bit of simul-climbing to move faster.  That is where both the leader and follower are climbing at the same time.  This is only advisable on easier terrain for the experienced climber.  After 380 feet we were back at the top checking in a second time.  We then went down the same descent route as the Daddy then crossed the initial gully to head over to The Prow.

The Mummy (left) and The Daddy (right)

The Prow (5.4) is the preferred way to get out of the Amphitheater.  It is a very easy climb that ascends the buttress across from The Mummy buttress.  Once again we simul-climbed the beginning pitches.  Then Karsten had me lead the last bit.  Even thought it is only 5.4 there is some great exposure on what is normally the 3rd pitch.  Then once you come to a ledge you encounter some obscure moves to reach the final dihedral.  It was a great route and much better than hiking back up that hideous gully.  After that 360 feet we were finished climbing in the Amphitheater.  Our plan now was to head back to the car, refuel, get some more water then head to Table Rock.  At this point we had already climbed 1210 feet according to the guidebook.

The Prow viewed from The Daddy

On the way back to the car I began to realize that I was getting tired.  Not only did we just climb a lot but it was hot.  We had been in the shade most of the morning and I was still drenched with sweat.  Now we were hiking along the ridge line which was not shaded.  After spending a few minutes resting at the car and resupplying we headed up to Table Rock.  Luckily it was a shorter hike. If it had been a longer hike there was a chance that I would have set a rebellion in motion to stop the madness which Karsten had devised.  But that didn't happen and we did some more climbing.

Karsten hiking on our way back to the parking lot

Our first route was Jim Dandy (5.5).  I led the first pitch then we simul-climbed to the top of the climb.  The crazy thing is that it ended on a ledge half way up the wall.  There was another 295 feet.  We then descended down a gully and prepared to head up The Cave Route (5.5).  We simil-climbed the entire route.  Half way up the route I began to realized that my legs were not happy with me.  Since this was all easier terrain, it was lower angle.  This meant that I was using my legs a lot.  At this point they were starting to not function at their normal levels.  I managed to make my way to the same ledge that Jim Dandy ends on.  180 more feet down.  From here we only had two more routes to do.  Luckily, we were already at the base of one of them.

Karsten leading the second pitch of Jim Dandy with his trusty Deuter pack

The ledge where Jim Dandy and The Cave Route end is also the beginning of My Route (5.6).  We headed off to the summit of Table Rock via My Route.  We did it in two pitches.  When I reached the belay, I was so tired that I just plopped down on the ledge and didn't move.  Karsten then started up the next pitch.  While sitting there on the ledge I began noticing that not only was my body not functioning normally but my mind had started to function sub par.  Some how during this state of delirium I regained enough energy to climb the next pitch.  Once on belay, I began climbing as if I wasn't tired at all.  I was really happy to have a few moves that were slightly overhanging.  This allowed me to put more weight on my arms and use poor technique to get through the moves.  Once at the top we put all our gear in our packs then hiked down to the base of our final route, The North Ridge.

Karsten heading up our final climb of the day, The North Ridge

At The North Ridge (5.5), we encountered another group above us.  We had only seen three other people all day.  The three people we saw weren't even climbers.  We met them in the parking lot between crags.  They appeared to have been hiking and as we passed the asked Karsten to take a picture of them with their camera.  I had to laugh that when Karsten was given the camera he started to adjust the settings on the camera.  This amazed the three.  They had someone who knew what to do with a camera taking their picture.  As proof of this you should check out some of Karsten's work  Anyways, before I digress any further, this other group was about to finish the last pitch as we geared up at the base.  Once ready, Karsten took off up the first pitch.  He brought me up, raced up the last pitch, then brought me up as well.  When I reached the summit the other group was just beginning of coil their rope.  Finally, we were done climbing for the day.  We had just finished climbing 2200 feet of vertical rock.  We packed everything up and practically ran back to the car.  We made it back to the car at 4:30.  Only 7 hours after we initially set off for the Amphitheater.

Karsten checking in with the Spot device.

 After reflecting on it, we had a great day of climbing.  Today I have decided to recover from it though.  It was a blast seeing how fast we were able to move.  I have never been pushed so hard on easier terrain like that in my life.  I am currently starting to make a plan to have a similar day up at Looking Glass.  The one difference will be that we do routes that are a bit harder. 


Nate Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moore Climbing said...

Well done!

Kate said...

Great to read about your climbing!

Thorne said...

Just stumbled across your blog entry. I used to climb the three amphitheater routes as an early season warm-up, but I never considered what you achieved. Well done.