NC Climbing Trip Part 3b: Around Table Rock

Robin and I had just finished a 5 pitch line of unknown affiliation somewhere in the vicinity of the North Ridge. Or maybe My Route. We weren’t sure, but we had had a blast doing it. There was plenty of daylight left for exploration.

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The summit of Table Rock Mountain.

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Looking across Linville Gorge.

 We wandered from the north end to the south end of the summit, mixing with flocks of hikers along the way. This is a popular destination; unsurprisingly, since the summit entails only a mile of easy hiking to reach. And the view is magnificent. In one direction, the forest rolls away toward Morganton to the south. Turn around and the deep cleft of the Linville Gorge lies thousands of feet below, framed by cliffs on each side.

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Looking down at the Devil’s Cellar. The descent gully is to the left.

After meandering across the summit, Robin mentioned a geocache that her GPS unit indicated was nearby. She searched for it awhile, while I snoozed on beside the trail and chatted with passersby. After awhile, she returned, unsuccessful, so together we headed along the signal in hopes of finding her quarry. We took a side path that leads to the Devil’s Cellar, a large chunk of cliff cloven from the mountainside by a deep gash. Not-quite technical scrambling leads downward to the base; I descended while Robin kept looking around at the top. Clues indicated it would be below, but my searching was in vain, if the stash is down there, it is well-hidden.

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Dangling down to my solo-TR

Geocaching is Robin’s passion, after awhile the thrill wears off for me. I turned to the surrounding walls, deciding to solo-TR a line inside the crevice while Robin continued treasure hunting. This turned out to be pretty hard, pumpy climbing with one go-for-it crux move of, I would guess, about 5.9-; not sure if the gear potential makes it a sensible lead or not.

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After another hour or so, we gave up on the geocache and headed down off the mountain. It was too late to begin the long, long drive home to New York, so we ate dinner and went to bed. Tomorrow morning we would leave bright and early.

Or would we?

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The next morning, while stashing items in the back of the car, we chatted with some passing climbers, who told us the Chimneys were a short, easy walk and should not be missed. Robin’s GPS unit indicated another cache out there, which was all it took to delay our departure. I grabbed a rope and harness and headed back toward Table Rock while she headed south.

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Probably should’ve heeded this warning.

No pictures from my adventure, which thankfully was not a solo for long. I climbed what turned out to be a very sparsely protected 5.8. Robin came up not long after I’d climbed myself into a jam, having looked the region southward over and deciding to request my company. She quickly assessed the situation, manned the belay, and I finagled a single piece – the only piece I had – into the only possible placement in sight. With that reassurance, I continued wandering around the face, creatively managing another point with a threaded runner before reaching a 2-bolt anchor. Whew.

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Looking south to the Chimneys.

We returned to the car, then continued along the trail southward. The Chimneys were only about ten minutes’ walk and, as suggested, a must-do. And a lot of climbers were doing it. A herd of boy scouts were perched on a large ledge on one side, while a pack of friends were draping ropes along the sides of a small amphitheater hidden among the outcrops. I decided to solo along the verge of the latter while Robin continued searching for her cache.

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I inspected a line to the left of my neighbors. Easy scambling to an alcove below a large overhang allowed me to walk left around the block, leaving the amphitheater and moving out onto a steep, juggy face. It was exhilarating but easy climbing, lots of exposure but plenty of secure holds. Reaching the top, I joined a small crowd of climbers who were busily setting anchors and tossing more lines downward, already belaying someone, or rappelling themselves to the base. I’d expected to see Robin up here, but she was nowhere to be found.

I headed along the ridge to a chimney and downclimbed it. At the base, one of the group greeted me and we began talking about (what else?) climbing. Chad had just taken up the sport a year ago. He was thoroughly hooked on it, wanted to learn more, improve his ability every day. Who can blame him?

After awhile, he got called away to other business. With most of the area taken up by ropes, I returned to my original line and considered the direct line again. The main overhang looked not so much difficult as committing: it would require a high pull-and-reach with a dash of dynamic thrust to make it good; I doubted the move was reversible. The going farther up looked equally questionable, but once again, a weakness led left that would almost certainly offer an escape. I could make a stab at the initial moves without committing to it. So I rehearsed those for awhile before getting a good feel for how to pull all the way through, stay secure on my locked arm, and perhaps even manage to downclimb if needed. One final shakeout and I went for it. As I reached to the key handhold with my right, it felt loose. Cranking on my left arm to lock it tight, I gave the hold a tug, and sure enough, it popped off. Fortunately, the loss created a great jam, so, trickling a flake of rock, I gained my feet above the overhang.

The loose rock unsettled me enough to give the last obstacle a pass. I shifted left again, this time higher than last, but no harder. I reached the top and looked around for Robin. She was still not in sight. I looked around a bit, and found her quarry just as she found her way up to me. Hah! I’m not a mad geocacher, but it does feel good to scoop a find. She began pawing through the treasure; I headed back down for another look at things.

Chad asked if it were possible to set a TR on the line I’d just climbed, so together, we gathered a bundle of equipment and headed back up the chimney to set one up. By this time, I knew Ra would be ready to go – and our time was running short – so I asked for and got the first run on the rope. Sure enough, those last few moves are tricky; I was glad for the rope. It was that one quick lap, a quick good-bye, then I had to speed down the trail to catch up with Robin. We would begin a long, grueling drive northward at 1p.m. Sunday afternoon, chased by a vicious tropical storm and all the necessities of “regular” life back home.

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One Response to “NC Climbing Trip Part 3b: Around Table Rock”

  1. Climber Jones says:

    Hi Jay!

    Thanks for mentioning me in your blog. It was great meeting you and your wife. Thanks again for helping with the anchor at the top of that climb.

    Kind of funny how small a world it is. I met Jeff P. at our climbing gym here in Charlotte. He was down here on work and as we struck up a conversation, it turns out he knows you!

    He forwarded me a link to your blog and told me you mentioned me in it.

    Hope your doing well and that you and your family have a Merry Christmas!

    Cj

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