Aerial map of Robinson tract.
The Amphitheatre Wall at Steele.
Climber on Birds Nest 5.9
Click here for "Heart of Stone" video featuring Steele.
A climber on the airy arete Monopoly 5.9.
History and Access Information:
The SCC closed on a 25 acre tract on September 4, 2009 purchasing this tract and preserving it for future generations. The Steele climbing area has been closed to climbers since 1987 due to private land owner issues. The SCC portion of Steele cliffline is now open to climbers and the public. Improvements are ongoing.
Steele is comprised of over one mile of 80 to 100 foot tall sandstone climbing cliff located in northeastern Alabama. Situated above the town of Steele, this area has a long history of climbing dating back to the mid 1970's. Several old rings and angle pitons have been found scattered all along the cliff line.
Early pioneers and first ascentionist included Mark Cole, Rob Robinson, Gene Smith, Maurice Reed,Curt Merchant, Les Hutchinson, James Guidry, Ken Pitts, Mack McNease, Dean Elliot, Jamie Silliman and others. According to early climbers, many new routes were put up between 1984 and 1986. A second generation of climbers added new energy and lines to include Bernard Wolfe, Adam Henry, David Hemphill, Sammy Raviv, Gus Fontenot and others. Today the area boasts many superb lines and a large concentration of 2 and 3 star routes with nearly 50 on the SCC-owned section of cliffline.
Steele has been closed to the public since 1987 after a local landowner and farmer got angry after climbers traipsed across his tomato fields to access the crag.
Over the years, the cliff was used infrequently by a small handfull of climbers but never gained mass popularity again due to the sensitive private land owner access issues.
Over the years, Gus Fontenot of the SCC, spoke with the owner of the largest section of cliff to no avail. The owner repeatedly hung up or did not answer calls. In the summer of 2008, The SCC got the break it needed as Brad McLeod spoke and met with a local real estate broker who happened to know of a piece of land and cliff that was for sale but not listed. The SCC began negotiations with the Robinson family for a 25 acre tract and a portion of the coveted climbing cliff.
Steele is described as several cliff sections hosting both sport routes and traditional routes, with development occurring utilizing the same traditionalist ethics establighed years ago. There are samples of almost every grade in both sport and trad disciplines available at Steele.
The SCC closed on a 25.59 acre tract, 1,418 linear feet, on September 4, 2009. The cliff areas include The Verde Wall, the Wolfe Wall, the Campus Wall, and the Revelation Wall. Graham's Crack area is very close to the boundary but just outside SCC property. The 25 acre tract includes approximately 50 climbing routes, both sport and traditional along with a hillside strewn with sandstone boulders. The 25 tract also has been improved with modest but tidy facilities including: two parking areas, a metal shed (in case it rains!), good road access from the main highway, which is Chandler Mountain Road, and a deluxe solar composting outhouse. The distance from the parking area to the Wolfe Wall is a short 800 linear feet hike with only a few hundred feet in rise. For access to the Revelation Wall, a TWall-esque 10 minute hike up and right will deposit you between Revelation’s and Graham’s Crack areas.
The cost for the 25 acre tract was $55k. The SCC raised $42k toward the purchase of $55k. The Access Fund provided a $20k bridge loan to help close the project on time. The SCC worked hard to raise the remaining $13k and pay the Access Fund back the money for the $20k bridge loan.
Steele is a popular climbing destination for the southeastern climber but in particular those from Birmingham and Huntsville. Given the crags central location to several large cities and close access to Interstate 59, Steele sees considerable traffic and use.
1. Please keep the noise to a minimum and be respectful of homeowners on the cliff above and the valley below. This includes no loud music, partying or yelling from the top of the cliff. Note that the neighbors on top and below the cliff can hear activity at the left end of the crag. The city of Steele is sensitive to the climber presence and has been supportive so far.
2. No camping at the crag. There is plenty of camping at HorsePens 40 nearby and this will support a local climbing business.
4. Please keep dogs on a leash at all times. No dogs left of Wolfe Wall
5. No Trespassing beyond SCC owned property.
6. EMERGENCY. In case of emergency, you can call 911, but it may be a while before a response is generated. It would be advisable to not find yourself in a quandary to start with due to the rural nature of the area, the lack of local resources, and the fact that you are in something of a wilderness setting.
7. NO FIRES!!! The nearest fire hydrant is several miles away and there are several hundred acres of hardwoods along the side of the ridge to the NE and SW. An errant fire could be devastating in Fall or Winter and could destroy nearby homes.
1. NO BOLTING WITHOUT A PERMIT. Steele is both a traditional and sport climbing area. There are many old traditional and mixed routes with a long climbing history. Old routes may lay dormant for years with little traffic only to be resurrected later. For more information, contact the SCC at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
2. No leaving or fixing of quickdraws. “Fixed” and/or “project” quickdraws this will be considered litter and removed..
3. Do not top rope directly through fixed anchors. You should use the rings and draws to lower or rappel only. Top roping directly through the rings and draws wears the equipment out faster. Please also note that in many of the more obscure sections, one will need to find suitable rappel trees or a walk-off. Many areas have gullies and terraced trails if you can find them. Several sections, however, do not and may end at the top of freestanding pillars or large flakes.
- Leave No Trace:
- Keep this area beautiful and clean. Clean up after yourselves, your peers, and your pets. Lead by example and pick it up on the first pass.
- Please read our crag minimal impact flier
- Driving Directions:
- From Birmingham:
- From Chattanooga:
Take I-24 West towards Nashville. Go South at the I-59 split. Take the Steele exit 174. Take right onto Steele Station road and follow road over railroad tracks to a T. From here, see the directions above.
Head North on I-59. Take the Steele exit (exit 174). Take left over Interstate bridge onto Steele Station road and follow road over railroad tracks to a T.
Take a left onto Rail Road avenue, Hwy 11, and drive 300 yards and take right onto Chandler Mountain Road, Hwy 42. Drive about 2 miles as you get glimpses of the Steele cliff line on your right. Drive past the chicken coops and take the next gravel driveway on your right. If you start up Chandler mountain, you've gone too far. Drive a short way down the gravel road until the road forks and then take the right fork and drive up a steep hill to the Steele parking area. Do not turn left as that is a private landowners home.
- Partnering Organizations, Volunteers, & Donors:
- Access Fund
- Rock Creek
A Special Thanks goes out to these organizations who partnered with the SCC to make Steele possible:
What Climbers are saying about Steele:
Southern Sandstone legend Rob Robinson said of Steele "Steele is a fantastic niche area in the sandstone belt deserving of any visitors time. One of my favorite roof routes of 1986 was a beautiful Steele line dubbed "Challenger." Thanks to the SCC's ongoing efforts to get this area and many others reopened for the climbing community."
Author of the Dixie Craggers Atlas, Chris Watford explains "I've always thought it was a great place and a shame that it was closed, especially since it's so visible, right off of I-59. Like walking past a double chocolate cake and not being able to have a bite. I think it's so great that the SCC has made the leap to get it. It's high profile; it's highly visible; it's got a long history; it offers great rock and routes of all grades. Folks from all over are hearing about the great things the SCC is doing in terms of land acquisition, and now they're gonna get to visit yet another cliff that's been off limits for many years and get to climb on it. Pretty amazing community we have here in the Deep South."
Alabama native and early pioneer of Steele, Curt Merchant said "Well, Steele was the home of climbing in Alabama to me. We did not even use chalk in the early years. I am really happy to see that by working together we can open up crags that have been closed for so long. Thanks to the SCC for another classic crag."
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Published on: 2009-02-25 (15177 reads)
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