Carolina *Climbing* on my Mind…Part 1: Moore’s Wall

NORTH CAROLINA CLIMBING TRIP 2012

Robin and I are back from a week and a half in North Carolina. We spent a weekend at the Outer Banks, enjoying warmth, sunshine, and the ocean before turning westward and tackling a few of the myriad climbing areas the state offers.

I won’t bore you with the details of our first weekend, suffice to say we had a grand time on the Outer Banks. Most of you are interested in technical climbing, and there isn’t one iota of that out there.

For those climbers who plan to visit North Carolina, I will mention one caveat. Outdoor tourism-wise, the state can be divided into two regions: the coast, and the western Mountains. Between them lies a whole lot of driving past swamp, agriculture, and the occasional city. If you surf, it might be OK to combine both venues and deal with the 6 to 8 hours of driving in between. Otherwise, just head west. Asheville or Winston-Salem are good jumping-off points for vertically-minded travelers.

Gimme Moore!

 

Fully caffeinated, we drove from Durham to Moore’s Wall in about 2 hours. The weather was exceptional: cloudless blue sky, comfortably cool, and a scant breeze. Our directions were exemplary; with nary a hitch we wound around the access road, marveling at the view of the cliffs, and arrived at the climber’s parking lot.

 

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Apparently, early to bed is mandatory in North Carolina.

 The trail switchbacked upward, jogged left along a rutted service road, then cut off again, weaving its way to the base of the central wall, just left of Washboard. A leader had just anchored above the first pitch and was preparing to bring up the second, so after looking around briefly, we decided to follow them up this route.

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Heading up near the corner’s upper end

The start begins on the face eight feet right of a large chimneyish, right-facing corner. A few unprotected, delicate moves, first up, then traversing left to reach the corner and the first pro require a cool head. One could probably muscle directly up the corner and, with big cams, get decent pro to begin the route, but it seemed harder than 5.6 to do so.

The corner offers easy climbing for a short while, but ends at a stance below a steep face, with an overhang blocking the way above it. Routefinding is tricky here. I began by stepping around left and heading up, but the moves seemed harder than 5.6, so I downclimbed and went right instead, where the climbing seemed slightly easier. Up a bit of delicate face, step left over the initial overhang, achieving a pretty pas de deux around a second overhang, into a bunch of steep jughauling. Wow: the Gunks, Southern style!

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Safely at the top of the first pitch

I reached the belay ledge as the previous party’s second began heading up the last pitch. No anchors here, but it was easy enough rigging a good gear belay. I positioned myself beside a dwarf pine tree in hopes of getting some good shots of Ra coming up, but the view downward was blocked by those overhangs. She followed with little difficulty, but was more game for going down than continuing up. I lowered her, dragged up my approach shoes, and soloed the remainder of the route (easy fifth class).

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The second pitch lies above us. It is easy fifth class.

At the top, I faced my first bout of Southern Fear. A narrow ribbon of trail, covered in oak leaves and walled by catbrier, slithered slickly upward; and I wondered what camouflaged venom might also be slithering nearby. Hesitantly, I shuffled upward, awaiting the sudden pain that would indicate a copperhead’s greeting. None came, but I peered long and hard at each step all the same, striving never to touch any ledges along the way. A minute or so of tangled going and I reached a real trail. To my left, it descended, so I turned that way. As the main trail began to swing southward away from the cliff line, another path branched off left, heading steeply downward. I followed it as it shot down beside a steep cliff band, then twisted back and forth avoiding boulders and cliffs before finally leveling off at the base of the main wall. Five minutes more and I rejoined Robin. Climbing the final pitch and descending had taken a half hour; knowing the route and treading less trepidatiously, it could be done in fifteen.

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Moore’s Central Wall. Washboard lies approximately on the skyline.

We spent another half hour walking along the base westward, looking for another route option and watching a pair tackle the vicious start of a hard 5.8, before turning to the main item here on Moore’s, Zoo View. This route is hailed as a classic, perhaps the best 5.7 in the Southeast; it’s a must-do for visiting climbers capable of its grade.

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The Circus Wall, which lies above Sentinel Buttress’s 1st pitch

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Looking down at Sentinel Buttress, below the Circus Wall;
The Crow’s Nest is the broken ledge top-center of the photo.

To get to that route, you must first climb something to reach the Crow’s Nest, a large ledge 90’ up. The usual choice is Sentinel Buttress, a 5.5 with reasonably good protection and enjoyable moves of its own. Ra wasn’t looking to climb any more, but I would need a belay for the upper climb, so she volunteered her services and followed me up to the belay.

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Ra comes up Sentinel Buttress

Zoo View begins by traversing left about fifteen feet along a narrowing ledge below a bulging face. It’s a hairy walk, but not physically difficult, and one can get good gear in to start. A bolt lies above its end, a tad out of reach for short guys like me (cursed be the tall!), but one small jittery step wins it. A quick step left, reach for small but positive holds above a small overhang, and there you are, standing respectably far above that bolt on a pumpy face, wishing more metal was staring back at you. Never mind, just reach up and right for good holds and get going. There’s gear shortly, and a no-hands stance if your balance is good. Work up a vertical crack to another stance, then up left of a 5’ blank section below an overhang. Move right to a notch, where good gear (#2, 3, or 4 C4) requiring a full runner or more allows you to pop through another overhang. From here, it’s steep jug-hauling straight up or easier gully-weaving to reach the top.

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Approximately, the line of Zoo View

I had to set a fixed line to clean the pitch, which turned out to be trickier than expected, given the route overhangs six feet and shifts left fifteen over its course, but a bit of swinging and dangling got the job done.

Hauling back up, I walked climber’s right, over a forested clump, about 100’, then dropped down thirty or so on class 3 terrain to a large ledge at the brink. Four feet below me, on a left-facing corner, were the rap anchors, a pair of bolts closely spaced and sporting cable extensions. With nothing but lots of thin air below, this is not a place I would normally wander unroped, but in a moment I was clipped in and out of danger. A 70m rope is plenty long enough to regain the Crow’s Nest.

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I’m standing just above the crux of Zoo View, cleaning the pitch.
Note the green rope running toward the sole bolt on the route.

Robin was once again patiently awaiting my return in the waning light. It was getting chilly. I sorted gear and set up the second rappel as quickly as I could, belayed Ra down to the anchor (yet another sketchy approach to the rappel), then we both headed down.

Packing up in near-darkness, we were soon assisted by a rising moon. It certainly made the walkout easier. Back at the car, we mulled over what to do next. There aren’t a lot of beginner routes here, and the sign at the parking lot makes it clear that overnight parking is unwelcome. The local campground was closed, so we made the call to head on to

Stone Mountain. 

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Sunset from the Crow’s Nest

ON TO PART 2: STONE MOUNTAIN NC 

Getting There
Use the Mountainproject description for Moore’s Wall. We had no trouble using them to reach the area.

Moore’s Wall Links

Washboard

Sentinel Buttress

Zoo View

Climbing.com’s Description

Mountainproject

OntheSharpEnd’s Account 

LitanyAgainstFear’s Tale

ON TO PART 2: STONE MOUNTAIN NC 

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