▶ OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
in the High Country
Famous around the US for the challenging yet accessible rock cliffs and boulders. Established routes are well known and documented.
Man-Made Climbing Walls
Rock Dimensions Climbing Tower
Want an introduction to climbing before hitting the rock cliffs or boulders? Check out the 40-foot climbing tower at Footsloggers in downtown Boone. The tower has over 4,000 square feet of varying degrees of climbing terrain with color-coded routes on the slabs, vertical faces, and steep overhangs to challenge climbers from novices to seasoned vets who can pull down!
The tower, which is operated by Rock Dimensions, also offers classes for all group sizes on climbing technique, belaying, tying knots, gear use and more. Footsloggers rents harnesses, shoes, helmets and belay gear to use at the tower. The tower, which is also a blast for birthday parties, is open in 11am to 5:30pm on weekends and holidays, 12 to 5pm on Sundays and is open on some Fridays and Mondays. Call 828-265-3544 for weekday hours. The climbing tower is located at 131 South Depot Street.
Climbing Center at ASU
If you are a student or faculty member, you can climb at the climbing wall on the campus of Appalachian State University for free. If you are affiliated with someone who is a student or faculty member, then you can climb at the ASU climbing center for a $5 daily pass. A climbing cave for bouldering and wall for roped climbing exists – plus training tools are available as well.
around the High Country
The Boone area is one the finest places to boulder year round – from a sunny afternoon spot at Lost Cove in the winter to a shaded boulder towards dusk at Grandmother Mountain. Most of the boulderfields are hidden in the forest behind thickets of rhododendron. There are no published guidebooks to the boulders, and it is through word of mouth that you find them. Below are the most popular, well-known bouldering areas in the Boone area that are located on public land.
Boulders at Grandmother Mountain
Almost lost to bulldozers in the late ‘90s, Grandmother Mountain is among one of the best bouldering spots in the country. It has hundreds of problems including the classic Mighty Mouse. It’s easy to access to with just a short walk from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Directions: Park on the Grandfather Mountain parking overlook at Mile Marker 306.6. Walk south for about 100 yards before looking for a trail up into the woods. It shouldn’t take but several minutes to find the first lobby of boulders. From there explore until your heart’s content. Do not park on the shoulder of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stay on the well-maintained trail for the least amount of impact on the terrain as possible.
Blowing Rock Boulders
Immortalized in John Sherman’s 1994 Stone Crusade book on bouldering areas throughout the nation, Blowing Rock Boulders offer the closest cluster of boulders to Boone – and boulders with nice, flat landings.
Directions: To get to the boulders from Boone, take US 321 towards Blowing Rock. Travel past the Shoppes on the Parkway and drive on Main Street into Downtown Blowing Rock before taking a right at the first stop light onto US 221. After a brief drive, you will see the US 221 rest area. Two trails exist into the boulderfields – one is at the far end of the parking area and the other actually starts a short walk down along US 221. Again don’t park on the shoulder of US 221. Parking is an issue with National Park Service, so carpool if you can.
Boulders at Lost Cove
For the drive from Boone, the quantity of boulders isn’t worth the effort – but the quality of problems that exist makes it all worthwhile. The problems here all fairly difficult – not an ideal place for beginners. Lost Cove is the sunniest of the bouldering areas in Boone, so the rock can be slimy in the summer. However, the sunshine means it is a perfect place to climb in the winter or after a rain because it dries quickly.
Directions: To access the Lost Cove boulders, drive NC 105 from Boone passed the stoplight at Tynecastle Highway and just passed the stoplight at NC 221 and NC 105. Once you come to the four-way stop, take a left on Roseboro Road. Drive along Roseboro Road, passed the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection for about one mile. The boulders are below. As most climbing areas, parking is limited, so carpool if you are able.
The 221 Circuit is comprised of several well-known bouldering spots – The Dump, M1, Graffiti Overhang, The Cube, and the Dungeon – along US 221 below the paralleling Blue Ridge Parkway, and by some accounts, includes more than 50 clusters of boulders featuring some of the best stone around.
Directions: No map exists, so you will have to ask a local climber. But if you drive US 221 from Linville to Blowing Rock, look for pulloffs and huge boulders off the highway.
This isn’t necessarily a bouldering hotspot, but it is a fun and easy place to climb that include a perfect wall with huge jugs for young children or beginners. A few boulders are located off of the Beacon Heights Trail after about a five-minute hike from the parking area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beyond the boulders is a huge, flat rock outcropping that offers a gorgeous view and a cool place to hangout and watch the sunset.
Directions: From Boone, take NC 105 South until you come to Linville and turn left on US 221. Once you arrive to the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection, make a left until you hit Mile Post 305.2. Park you car and you will notice the trail. Have fun!
in the High Country
The High Country has stellar stone to rope climb in all seasons of the year, and since the public has access to many acres of public land because of the national and state forests nearby, the rope climbing opportunities are essentially endless if you are willing to exert the energy to find the routes.
Below is a rundown of a few of the popular rope-climbing destinations in the area. For more details, consider purchasing High Country Cragger, a guide book authored by local Mike Grimm, who has been climbing in the Boone area since the early ‘80s.
Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is a paradise in the mountains with numerous climbing sections that include Table Rock, Devil’s Cellar, Little Table Rock, Chimneys, North Carolina Wall, Amphitheatre, Shortoff Mountain, Hawksbill and Sitting Bear. The 12-mile length of the Linville Gorge, which is in the Pisgah National Forest, is studded with solid climbing opportunities.
For more details, directions, climbing routes and safety information, go to SoutheastClimbing.com. Also check out the official National Forests in North Carolina website for more info on the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
Holloway Mountain is beginners top-roping site that is located off of – you guessed it – Holloway Mountain Road, which is just a short drive from the gas station in the middle of Foscoe.
Directions: From Boone, take NC 105 to Foscoe and take a left on Church Road. Drive a short distance and then take another left on Holloway Mountain Road. As you drive look up and over your left shoulder to see the Holloway Mountain cliffs. The road is tiny but some small pull-offs exist just past the cliffs.
Shiprock is considered a classic climbing area in the High Country with lines such as “Boardwalk,” “Edge of a Dream,” and “Welcome to Watauga.” Shiprock offers single and multi-pitch trad climbing for beginners and experts alike.
Directions: The rock face is easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the climbing area can be reached by parking at the area for Rough Ridge Trail, which is located at Milepost 302.9. Once parked, walked south on the parkway for about ½ mile.
Little Lost Cove Cliffs
The Little Lost Cove Cliffs are located in the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Area that is a part of the Pisgah National Forest. See the official National Forests in North Carolina website for info about bolts and anchors.
Hidden in the Rhodos – Bouldering in the High Country
BY JESSE WOOD
Fall 2011. Climbers from all over the country are in Boone right now. They arrived in October before the Hound Ears bouldering competition. Once the weather gets too cold, most will leave.
"Climbers follow the cool weather," Joey Henson, a local boulderer, said. "They will stay here until the weather breaks like a surfer follows the endless summer."
Although, Boone is among the best places to climb year round, fall is the best season to climb because the dry, crisp air makes for exceptional friction between the hands of a climber and the textured rock.
The High Country bouldering scene is globally known within the climbing culture, yet it has a mystic underground history.
Most of the boulderfields are hidden in the forest behind thickets of rhododendron. There are no published guidebooks to the boulders, and it is through word of mouth that you find them.
Mike Grimm, co-owner of Misty Mountain Threadworks, a climbing gear company in Banner Elk, has been climbing in Boone longer than most. He offered his perspective on the hush-hush nature of Boone bouldering:
"A lot of it is because of access," Grimm said. "We had the rug jerked out from under us with Howard's Knob. I don't think it's a selfish thing like, 'I don't want you to climb here,' and they want to keep climbing there. They just don't want anything to happen to the boulders."
Henson, who was among Boone's first generation of climbers to take bouldering seriously, acknowledged access and parking as main, prevalent concerns and suggested another reason for being low key.
"It's just like fishing," he said with a smile. "You don't want everybody to know about your great fishing holes. They will come and catch all the fish."
Access issues dominate much of Boone's bouldering history.
The High Country's first bouldering spots - Hound Ears, Mildred Boulders on Grandfather Mountain and Howard's Knob - are all closed to climbing, although Hound Ears is open one day a year for the first leg of the Triple Crown Bouldering series.
These losses have been a bummer for the climbing community, but it caused exploration and development of other areas.
Climbers have extensively developed boulder fields at Blowing Rock, Grandmother Mountain and Lost Cove. There is even a lifetime of bouldering along the riverbed at the bottom of the Linville Gorge.
In the '70s, local climbing legends Doug Reed and the late Ralph Fickle viewed bouldering as a means to an end. They were practicing for roped climbs.
"They were [messing] around. It was something they did if they didn't have much time," said Dean Melton, a Boone boulderer since the late '80s. "Linville Gorge, Grandfather Mountain was open. There was so much route potential. Generally, that was what people were climbing."
Boone experienced its first bouldering boom in the late '80s and early '90s. In the beginning, Henson said, "We were looked down upon, laughed at, scoffed at for just bouldering and not getting on the big roped routes."
Bouldering is different from route climbing because there are no ropes - only chalk, shoes and a crash pad. A boulder problem may only be 10 feet tall, while other high-off-the-deck problems, often called highballs, merge closer into the realm of soloing.
For a boulder problem to be sought after and considered classic, such as the "Roof of Death" at Blowing Rock or "Mighty Mouse" at Grandmother Mountain, many things must align.
"It takes a perfect setup of environment, rock grain and texture, the set up of handholds and footholds, the height, what type of landing," Henson said. "It takes so much to have the perfect boulder problem or classic line."
These classic or splitter lines involve a series of stand alone holds, often highlighted and "brought to life," as Melton said, by chalk from the climbers' hands.
More than just upper body strength is required for these problems. Graceful and dynamic movement, delicate footwork and poise, both mental and physical, are all prerequisites for adept bouldering.
Bouldering is hard, and as the sport evolves, the difficulty increases and boulder problems are slapped with numbers and ratings. But, it is not the point to Melton.
"We like to search for difficult things for the physical challenge, and the mental problem solving, but the easy ones are good, too," he said. "It's all rock climbing. I respect people who rock climb for what it is. It's something fun to do in the woods."