Saturday, September 10, 2011


The other day, Lindsay and I headed up to Shortoff Mountain to get some climbing and training in.  In October we are both enrolled in either a course or exam for the American Mountain Guides Association’s rock discipline.  She is taking her Rock Guide Exam and I am taking the Rock Instructor Course.  Even though I am only taking a course, I want to be in good shape and be prepared for it as much as possible.  I remember feeling very out of shape when I took the Single Pitch Instructors course and exam.  That was mostly because I had to keep up with Ron while hiking.  Since Lindsay is gearing up to take the exam for the highest certification for the rock discipline, she has reason to be training and working on her technical skills.

When deciding on where to go, we decided to go to Shortoff.  First off, it has an approach that will wear you out before you even get to the top.  It is about a mile up hill.  It isn’t so steep that you have to slow down or take big steps but it is steep enough that it can get you tired fast.  Secondly, once at the top, you have to scramble down a gully.  Lindsay used this gully to practice her short roping skills.  Short roping is a technique used by guides where they use of a small section of rope to aid in the clients ascent or descent of tricky 3rd or 4th class terrain.  The guide uses this to help prevent slips and falls.  Another reason we chose Shortoff was that the climbing there is normally really fun.  It would have to be my favorite crag in North Carolina.

While planning our day, we decided to check out Julia, Little Corner, and maybe Ecumenical Serenade.  Since neither of us had done these routes we were excited to get on something new.  We had agreed that Lindsay would basically mock guide me up the routes.  The next morning we met at the office around 7 then began our trek to the Linville Gorge area.  

Upon arriving at the parking lot we were a little disappointed.  The weather forecast for the day had said that we would have mostly sunny skies with a high of 75.  Instead we were greeted with overcast/foggy skies.  The top of Shortoff appeared to be in a cloud.  We knew that things would be wet since it had been raining the past couple of days but this guaranteed that it would not be dry.  Still we got ready then headed up the hill.  I managed to set a pace that I was able to keep the entire approach but still moving quickly.  Once at the gully we got geared up and Lindsay stashed her pack.  She then practiced her short roping skills as we went down the gully.  It was a little weird being short roped here.  I had been short roped once before and didn’t mind it.  That day though I felt like one of those kids whose parents keep them on a leash so that they can’t run away.  Surprisingly, the rocks weren’t too wet.  The only thing that was really wet were the plants.  Even before we started down the gully, my pants were soaked from contact with the brush along the trail.

Near the bottom of the gully, there is a section that has a fixed line on it to aid in getting through the 10 feet of blocky, overhanging terrain.  This rope was in sad shape.  But we had brought a line in which we could replace it.  Now you don’t have to hold on to this tattered rope while going down this section.  After replacing that rope, we continued on to our climbs.   
Lindsay putting in the new rope in the decent gully.

At the base we studied the routes and the topo map to make sure we had the right route.  After figuring out that we were at the chosen routes, we decided to head up Julia first.  It looked fun and dry.  Lindsay headed up the first pitch which is partially shared with Little Corner.  It is a really fun crack but at a moss patch you head left into this overhanging dihedral which is the crux of the route.  She ended up having massive rope drag while leading this pitch.  Eventually she got to the belay ledge and brought me up.  The climbing was fun but there were a few questionable holds once you cut left to the dihedral.

The second pitch is a series of dihedrals with a roof or two that you must navigate around.  The first part had some questionable rock as well.  Luckily, all the rock held while we climbed that pitch.  During the lead, Lindsay once again had trouble with rope drag and had to expend more energy than normal to get to the belay which was positioned under a roof/ flake system that goes out to the right.

Lindsay then took off to the right working with the flakes.  She was able to get some good gear soon off the belay which always makes me happy.  Then while she was starting to pull up out of the flake/ roof system, her movement looked a little weird.  The next thing I know, she is no longer attached to the rock and a chunk of rock is plummeting down the face.  Once again, we had entered into the less than quality rock.  She was fine except for getting a nasty flapper on one of her fingers.  She then climbed back up, trying not to bleed all over the rock, and finished out the pitch.  From the belay, we had an easy 5th class romp up some jugs to the top.  Even on this pitch there were blocks that were frightenly loose.  At one point my knee touched the rock and I heard it move. It confused me because I didn’t see anything that appeared to be loose.  I did it again and I saw this flake that was lying horizontally move ever so slightly.  It was about 2 inches thick and four feet wide.  Luckily, we were done with that route.  We topped out around 1 and from there decided that we were no longer motivated.  It was still overcast and the adventurous nature of the climb left us fulfilled enough for the day.  From there we packed up our gear and headed back to the car.

It was a good day even though the route was of lesser quality than we had hoped.  We did what we came to do.  That was get a workout in, practice some skills, and climb.  Expect to hear more of our training days in the following weeks.

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