Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Ground at Laurel

A while back, Ron was telling me about a line that he wanted to do with some clients that was easier climbing at Laurel Knob. This past week, we went there to equip the route with proper protection.  Ron had previously done the route without these permanent anchors.  Without the bolts though, it would not be very safe for climbers looking for routes that are easier.  The whole thought of the route was to get an introduction route for people looking to slowly break into the climbs at Laurel Knob.  Before this, 5.8 was the easiest route.  So when Ron asked me if I wanted to go to Laurel to equip the route I was stoked.

On Tuesday we headed out there.  Once we hiked to the base of the route, called Biopsy (5.7), Ron described the route from the ground.  After that he took off with drill in tow and began the process of making this climb safe for the 5.7 climber.  Ron would climb up to a stance, drill a hole, hammer the bolt in, and then tighten down the nut.  This process happened a few times, then he belayed me up to the top of the first pitch.  The first pitch starts off with an easy slab, past one bolt then hits a vertical bulge that you must navigate.  A high bolt on this section can be reached from the slab to offer protection from breaking your ankles on the slab while pulling one of the hardest moves on the route.  After the bulge, you have another section of easier slab protected with one bolt half way to the belay.
Ron on the crux move of the first pitch of Biopsy
The second pitch continues up this slab.  It offers one bolt, a less than ideal gear nest, and a whole for a cam to protect the pitch.  It is easier climbing (5.5) but still fun.  From there the third pitch passes two bolts and heads for a brushy ledge called Three Way Ledge.  This pitch goes at 5.4.

From this ledge you have some options.  Above you, there are two distinct water grooves and just to the right is an obvious line of weakness.  This day, Ron offered for me to do the middle line.  He said that it had not been done before.  He offered me the first ascent of the pitch.  I was stoked.  I went up with just trad gear.  After some slab climbing, I came to the base of the water groove.  I got a piece of gear, then started up the groove.  It had some interesting moves and protected fairly well.  After I got through it, I set a belay part way up the last pitch and brought Ron up.  This pitch is rated 5.8 and called Socket Rocket.  If you were to do the line to the right, it is the original line for Biopsy and goes at 5.7.  It has two bolts protecting the pitch and can take natural gear as well.  The line to the left is a bit harder and is protected by two bolts right at the crux.  This line is called Yes Ma'am and goes at 5.9.  Each line is really fun and offers different styles of climbing from the other lines.  My suggestion would be to lead up to the ledge, then climb each line before continuing on to the  top.
Me getting the FA on the Socket Rocket pitch

The last pitch goes right of the water groove and hits a small vertical section which has a very well protected 5.6 move.  From there you pass two bolts to a rappel station on a tree.  It is a very fun climb and will probably have the 5.7 thinking on a few of the moves.  

After we got off of this route, Ron and I headed towards the main area of Laurel to get a few more pitches in. After passing Seconds (5.8) we saw a line that looked fun.  I recognized it as Stemming Laurel.  I was stoked to get on it because it looked really fun.  Ron led the first pitch.  It has some sections that have potential for long falls.  But Ron, as usual, completed the pitch with style.  I led the second pitch.  It was a bit harder but followed a very obvious crack up the face.  The climbing at first was super fun and protected well.  Higher up though, the climbing became a bit trickier and I was not able to protect it like I wanted since we only brought a single rack with us that day.  After making some committing moves well above a poorly placed purple C3 I made it to the anchors.  From here we rappelled back to the ground since we had to get back home.

The next day, Ron, Karsten, and I headed back to Laurel.  This time to finish equipping Biopsy and put up some new stuff.  I led up all of Biopsy while Ron and Karsten put in the remaining bolts.  From the top, we traversed to the right and rappelled to a huge terrace with tons of trees.  There Ron and Karsten each put up some new single pitch lines that went on natural gear.  These routes were 5.9 and 5.10a.  After this, Ron and I top roped a line to the left.  It may go near 5.12.  It has some super fun moves with good holds.  While we were at this wall, I eyed some lines that I am thinking about putting some time into as well.  After we were done playing here, we went back near Biopsy and possibly put up another two pitch line that hits the Three Way Ledge.  We are still trying to verify its virgin status as a route.
Karsten climbing into the unknown on a new route.

Overall, it was a great two days.  I learned a bit about route development.  We each had a chance for some first ascents and have looked at more virgin terrain for the future.  I highly suggest checking out Biopsy.  Though it doesn't have the stigma of some of the other routes at Laurel, it is a great climb for those looking for a challenge at that grade.  You can find information about the climb here on the Carolina Climbers Coalition's website.

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