Posted on Friday, March 19|
I meet up with Anthony Love, one of the prime developers and local hardmen of the area. Anthony, along with Dean Milton, Toby Beard and a large crew of young mutants, knocked the town of Boone off it's cheater stone this past year as they found and developed a multitude of outstanding bouldering. Turns out, the rhododendron covered slopes had been hiding a lifetime of bouldering only minutes from downtown. Sure, there had been some development over the years, but these boys had really hit the mother lode and it was time to pull down. When talk turned to guidebooks and videos, they found themselves on the outside looking in. Many of the old time climbers did not want the area promoted and part of the uproar and reaction led to the formation of The Boone Climbers Coalition (BCC). The BCC was formed to help address potential access issues that may arise from more climbers visiting this mountain paradise. Heated meetings were held with access issues debated, but the group held firm with their main goal being to work as a community to preserve access and protect climbing resources.
I met several of Anthony's friends, Bif and Laura for breakfast and talk quickly jumped to the long list of areas that are closed and threatened. Places like Howard’s Knob, where climbers at one point chained themselves to large trees as a last ditch effort to save the area. The local climbers have been working for years, trying to save this area from encroaching development. From the restaurant, we looked up towards the mist covered face of Grandfather Mountain, which is owned by a private developer and listed at a top tourist attraction in the state. Unfortunately, conservative lawyers have thwarted local climbing access to Grandfather with liability concerns and insurance reasons. To top it all off, the area is a haven for rare plant communities, which all but sealed the climbers fate of no access. But there was a silver lining to all of the access doom and gloom as Bif mentioned the Asheboro boulders and Grandmother Mountain. At Asheboro there have been efforts to open the area with a lease agreement. Recently, over 200 acres of land at Grandmother was protected as the North Carolina Department of Transportation worked with local conservation groups to save this area and protect it long-term. We had heard a lot about Grandmother and of course wanted to check it out up close.
Loaded up with a big breakfast, we eagerly headed up into the mountains, driving through high-dollar residential neighborhoods before meeting up with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Much of the climbing is within a stones throw of the Parkway and there is not a better setting for breaking out the climbing shoes and boulderpad and pulling down. Rhodendron thickets, mighty spruce trees and brilliant wild azaleas surround you as you climb in this fairy tale world. I must admit that I thought bouldering in Boone would be all about crimping credit card edges on scaly slabby granite (which I must admit that in my sick mind, I like). Boy was I wrong. Not only was the rock steep but it had a a great texture with even some slopers thrown in for fun. It turns out that Anthony works at the local university, Appalachian State, as a Geologist and quickly corrected my assumption on the rock types by pointing out that the rock is dense sandstone and metamorphic rock. This stuff looks good and it time to do some climbing.
We get the quick tour of the expansive Grandmother Mountain, through the In-cut jugs of the Long Wall to the dicey top-outs of "Against the Grain" and the steep gymnastic Mighty Mouse wall. This tour was only a fraction of the rock as we passed many a boulder loaded to the gills with tasty looking holds. Just one question, does everyone in Boone climb super hard? I have never seen so many people pull down that hard in one place. It was if everyone was a distant relative of John Gill and had drank their gallon of creatine that morning.
Later that afternoon, with fingertips rubbed raw, heels bruised and ego's dashed, we headed down to check out the Lost Cove area. We were all blasted for the day, but this place was almost enough to bring the boulderpad back out of the car. We settled for the walking tour and checked out many classic lines to include "Witness This" a steep wall with a slopey topout and the namesake of the video that stirred up a hornet's nest of access controversy within the small college town of Boone.
Later that night after a filling meal of cheap Mexican we heading back over to Anthony and Toby's house to relax, drink a beer and watch some video's. After watching a really raunchy skateboarding video with puking and lots of foul language; we were really ready for the prime time showing of "Witness This". The locally shot climbing video was an attempt to show the energy and passion these young lads have for putting up new school boulder problems throughout the mountains around Boone. Splice in a few shots of high-speed SUV chases, launching of boulder pads and frisbees into the woods, and delirious monologues by Dean and Toby and you had nothing short of something a few notches up from the skate video. The big difference was that their music was better (and homemade, I later found out), there was less profanity and, oh yeah, it was great climbing. With running commentary by Toby Beard, we got the full run down on all the boulder problems and all the brew-ha-ha from the old school versus new school issue. One camp wants to have fun and promote the area. The other camp believes in locals only and no publicity. The video was rad nonetheless and I promptly bought a copy.
The next day we headed up to Blowing Rock to sample some more of the great bouldering. After popping a few ibuprofen's and chugging some dark coffee we hit the road. We were in no real shape to pull down after Anthony's big tour the day before really beat us up. But it is hard to turn down such stellar bouldering and I figured I could recover next week at work. Anthony began to show us every problem in the boulderfield and send them just as fast. The highlight was his quick send of "Raw Terror" which displayed his cat like reflexes on a slopey mantle top out. This climb epitomized the Boone climbing experience. Great rock, movement and a high-ball top move.
As the weekend drew to a close, we drove out along the Parkway spotting several small isolated chains of boulders that would all need to be checked out on our next trip. As we said our farewells and headed back down the mountain I began to think more about this area and some of the access issues they face. As the mist cleared, and the winding roads began to mellow as I made my way down into the valley's below, I couldnt help but try to find some answers. It was interesting how a group of young upstarts had shaken up the establishment and made everyone think (or react) hard about what climbing means to them. This is not a new predicament as it plays itself out in many climbing scenario's and in life itself. The end result was that this group of energetic boulderer's really just wanted to have fun and maybe push the envelope a little. The provocative video was a statement of who they were and how they defined themselves. Seems like a lot of folks were woken from there everyday lives and are now left with more questions than answers. The bottom line is that by answering these questions we solve more than just climbing access. We solve how we co-exist with others that have different views and make the world a little better along the way.
Climbing in the Boone area is a privilege, not a right. Local climbers in this area have worked long and hard to maintain access so please take the time to abide by their rules. Here are some rules that the Boone Climbers Coalition have put together to help preserve access. Please help them keep the crags open to all.
When Climbing on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
|Carpool whenever possible|
|Never park on the grass|
|Do not have alcohol in your possession.|
|Keep dogs on a leash. It's a law for a good reason.|
|We suggest you park in the Sandy Flats Church parking lot. (It's right across the street) except on Wednesday nights and Sunday before 10:00 or if there is a wedding or funeral in progress.|
|When parking in the Rest Area only do so directly in front of the trail head. Do not park in front of the restrooms.|
|Try and minimize your impacts in the area as there is fragile plant life adjacent to the trails.|
|If the Grandfather Overlook is crowded please park at the Grandmother Overlook (approx. 1 mile south). The walk is not any longer to the boulders.|
|If you're within view of a house you are trespassing!|
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News by Robert
Metro Atlanta Climbing