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Steele

Select Route:
(route to left of New Ideal, right of Rainbow Arch) 
(un-named) 5.7 arete 
5.8 Corner 
Aura 
B-52 
Banana Route 
Bird's Nest Crack 
Black Magic 
Butter D Licious 
Chimney Route 
City Of Worms 
Cloudy Day 
Copout 
Dance with the Devil 
Dead Reckoning 
Deborah 
dreadlock 
Easy Street 
Exit Stage Right 
Flight of the Swallows 
Full Moon Bar B Que 
Gaia 
Ginsu 
Golden Arch 
Golden Arches 
Graham's Crack 
Hob Knob 
Hot Steele 
Hot Wing 
Laser 
Lone Wolf On the Far Ridge 
Man Overboard 
Mean Lean 
Mean Lean (description to be deleted, earlier description previously entered) 
Meathooks 
Minnie Driver 
Modern Day Pirates 
Monopoly 
Mystery Slab 
New Ideal 
no name (on Wolf Wall) 
Oak (AKA Oak Tree Direct), The 
Papillon 
Penchant 
Petrified 
Polar Express 
project on Wolf Wall 
Psycho Killer 
Putting Out the Vibe 
Renegade Trad 
Resistoflex 
Rockwa 
Rustler 
Scooter Girl 
Song of the Cows 
Steele Head 
Stepping Out 
Sting  
Stories 
Sugar Magnolia 
Suspended Animation 
Three Pitch 
Tornado on your Birthday 
Triad 
Uncertain Return 
unnamed 5.10 left of Psycho Killer 
unnamed 5.9 (area left of Wolf Wall) 
Unnamed area below and left of Wrangler, etc. 
unnamed trad on wolf wall 
Vineland 
Walk the Line 
Welcome to Steele 
Wendy's Finger Crack 
Wolfe-Waites 
Wolverine 
Wrangler 

Rest Day:
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From MP's sister site: MTB Project

Steele 


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Location: 33.9346, -86.2331 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 16,278
Administrators: saxfiend, Brad "Stonyman" Killough, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: saxfiend on Mar 4, 2009
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Monopoly Arete...this climb is still off limits

Description 

For many years, climbers heading to Horse Pens 40 could only gaze longingly at the forbidden Steele cliffline above them as they wound their way up Chandler Mountain Road. Now at least part of that cliffline is no longer forbidden. In another triumph of climber-owned crags, a section of Steele has been purchased by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) and re-opened to climbing after more than 30 years of closure.

Located on the southeastern face of Chandler Mountain near its namesake town, Steele was a popular destination for Alabama climbers through much of the 1980s. Things came to a screeching halt in 1987, however, when a local landowner got fed up with climbers cutting through his tomato fields to access the crag. Steele was closed to the public, though a small number of locals continued to climb there under the radar.

Recently, after years of being rebuffed, the SCC finally located a willing landowner who would sell them a tract of the cliffline. In 2009, the SCC closed the deal on about 25 acres at Steele, including access and parking at the base of the cliff (in the past, climbers had approached the cliff from the top). Fund-raising for the $55,000 price tag on the SCC-owned land is ongoing, with about $5,000 left to pay it off.

Documentation of routes and climbing history at Steele is sparse; the crag was never included in any local guidebooks, and it became even more of a word-of-mouth destination after its closure in 1987. As a result, thereís little today in the way of topos and route descriptions, and there tends to be disagreement among Steele regulars about what little documentation does exist. Hopefully, this will change as the SCC and others do more research.

Itís known that climbing began at Steele sometime in the 1970s; old iron pitons dating from this period can still be seen. Early first ascents were established by well-known climbers like Gene Smith, Ken Pitts, Jamie Silliman, Curt Merchant and others. By the mid-1980s, a new wave of FAs were being put up by locals like David Hemphill, Adam Henry and Bernard Wolfe. Hemphillís efforts also include a hard-to-find mini-guide with route descriptions and topos; this is the only known written documentation of Steele.

A non-continuous cliffline, Steele is divided into several named areas, some of which are:

  • The Amphitheatre
  • Grahamís Crack Area
  • Penchant/Copout Area
  • Area 51
  • Wolfe Wall
  • Verde Wall
  • Campus Wall
  • Revelation Wall

According to the SCC website, only Area 51, Verde Wall and Wolfe Wall are included in the SCC purchase tract. Because the specific boundaries of the property have not been published by the SCC, and no signage has been put in place to note where the property ends, finding your way around at Steele is still problematical.

Climbing at Steele is a mix of sport and trad lines. The old-school ratings tend to be stiff for the grade, and thereís not much in the way of easy-to-moderate climbing. Standout trad routes in the moderate range include the classic Monopoly (5.9+) and Grahamís Crack (5.8). Because it's a south-facing crag, Steele is a good winter destination but miserably hot in summer months.

Camping is not permitted at Steele, but nearby HP40 does allow camping. For local amenities, head into the town of Steele, or Gadsden further to the north.


Getting There 

The Steele cliffline is located seven miles from the Horse Pens 40 bouldering area and less than an hour away from Birmingham.

Driving from Birmingham, take I-59 north for about 45 miles to the Steele exit (exit 174). Turn left from the exit onto Steele Station Road and follow it to where it dead-ends at US 11 (Main Street/Pope Avenue). Take a left and then take a right after .3 miles onto Chandler Mountain Road. Follow this road for just under two miles, watching for several chicken houses on the right. Pass the entrance to the chicken farm and take the next gravel driveway on the right; follow this, bearing right at a fork, to where it ends at a mobile home and shed. This is the parking area and trailhead for Steele.

Driving from Atlanta, the path of least resistance is to take I-20 west for about two hours to the Pell City exit (exit 158). After exiting, follow US 231 north for about 20 miles past Ashville, then get on I-59 north. Continue on I-59 about seven miles to the Steele exit and follow the directions above to get to the cliff.

After parking at the mobile home, take the trail up toward the cliff. When you come to an obvious split in the trail, the right fork leads to the Graham's Crack wall, Penchant/Copout and the Amphitheatre. The left fork leads to Wolfe Wall and other areas.


76 Total Routes


['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',33],['2 Stars',30],['1 Star',5],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',4],['5.7',5],['5.8',11],['5.9',16],['5.10',22],['5.11',13],['5.12',3],['5.13',2],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Steele:
Triad   5.6 4c 14 V S 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Three Pitch   5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 140'   
(un-named) 5.7 arete   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b     Trad, 100'   
Exit Stage Right   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 50'   
Stepping Out   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Graham's Crack   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   
Sugar Magnolia   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Trad, 170'   
Golden Arches   5.9- 5c 17 VI HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 120'   
Copout   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Bird's Nest Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   
Monopoly   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   
The Oak (AKA Oak Tree Direct)   5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Vineland   5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a     Trad, Sport, 120'   
Rustler   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b     Sport, 65'   
Black Magic   5.10 6b 20 VII- E2 5b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 75'   
dreadlock   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Trad, 100'   
Gaia   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII E2 5b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   
Dead Reckoning   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Sport, 60'   
Rockwa   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b PG13     Sport, 70'   
Papillon   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   
Browse More Classics in Steele

Featured Route For Steele
Modern

Modern Day Pirates 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c AL : Steele
Route begins on a vertical to slightly overhanging wall with maybe an old pin and an old bolt, quarter-incher w/Leeper hanger. I suggest that you be solid on moves through this opening sequence until this old fixed gear is upgraded. Stiff moves in this section lead up to a slabbish area with nice, unprotected moves (run out). Deliberately move up on this expansive section of wall to bolts....i think two, rather close together, pulling on edges up through a minor crux to a large hueco or hole-...[more]   Browse More Classics in AL

Photos of Steele Slideshow Add Photo
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Juvenile Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is already in full form at the base of the Wolfe Wall and other areas as of mid May 2013.
Juvenile Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is already in full...
..
..
Thanks to the generosity of the SCC, the two steepest parts of the drive to Steele have been paved. Big thanks to Sammy and Bernard for coordinating this for all to enjoy.
Thanks to the generosity of the SCC, the two steep...
MONOPOLY
MONOPOLY
The parking lot.
The parking lot.
Birds Nest Crack
Birds Nest Crack
nearby homestead.
nearby homestead.
starting second pitch of Sugar Magnolia
starting second pitch of Sugar Magnolia
A view of the chicken houses from atop Monopoly. Hot as balls in June.
A view of the chicken houses from atop Monopoly. H...
The 5.7 crack in the Bird's Nest alcove with a sketchy traverse to the rap anchors. Circa 1985. Fred Knapp and Joe Endres
The 5.7 crack in the Bird's Nest alcove with a ske...
This little guy was guarding a perfect 0.75 placement.
This little guy was guarding a perfect 0.75 placem...
I believe this is Gene Smith on early attempts at the Chandler Roof. It could be Maurice Reed, as he also tried it that day (early 80s)
I believe this is Gene Smith on early attempts at ...
The Amphitheater.
The Amphitheater.
OK. It's a bad 1983 toprope pic of Graham's Crack.
OK. It's a bad 1983 toprope pic of Graham's Crack.
purple flower...?
purple flower...?
Scenic shot from the early 80s with rope and Boreal Fires in the foreground.
Scenic shot from the early 80s with rope and Borea...
Wild Iris.
Wild Iris.
Wolfe Wall left.
Wolfe Wall left.
Monopoly!!
Monopoly!!
Wolf Wall gully. Don't tread on me.
BETA PHOTO: Wolf Wall gully. Don't tread on me.
Yellow flower.
Yellow flower.
My first trad lead at Steele on Triad (5.6). This is the very beginning of this climb -- it trends left under the first visible roof and then climbs ~50' to a two bolt anchor.
BETA PHOTO: My first trad lead at Steele on Triad (5.6). This ...
Wolfe Wall lower patina and upper chasm. Many attractive and varied routes in this section of cliff.
Wolfe Wall lower patina and upper chasm. Many attr...
blackberries.
blackberries.
Alabama Sandstone.
Alabama Sandstone.
hydrangea.
hydrangea.
Big tree downed in early 2013.
Big tree downed in early 2013.
brown eyed susan.
brown eyed susan.
Spring is springing.
Spring is springing.
Comments on Steele Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 15, 2014
By gus
From: Alabama
Mar 5, 2009

The Southeastern Climbers Coalition has signed a contract to purchase what is roughly the "middle section" of Steele, to-wit, from the Walk down gulley near the Rinkles radio tower down to Relevation Wall, which is just shy of Graham's Crack area...

until we give the go ahead, this place is still off limits to climbing.

Although we have until June 26th to close, we will try and get it opened ahead of time to enjoy it before it gets too toasty...

if you have any questions, contact someone at the scc board at www.seclimbers.org or shoot me an email at guslf100@aol.com

ciao
gus
scc bd

By chris mcclendon
From: Gardendale, Alabama
Mar 10, 2009

im supa stoked..ready for a trail big enough for a bouldering pad haha.

By chris mcclendon
From: Gardendale, Alabama
Mar 11, 2009

haha, ben u must have a laid back job too. ur on here all day

By Fred Knapp
Mar 13, 2009

Wow, thanks for working to open this area. It was the hotbed of Southern climbing in the early to mid-80s with folks coming from Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, in addition to the nearer locations. I can't wait to revisit. I'll make a trip just to climb there.

By gus
From: Alabama
Sep 8, 2009

SCC closed the deal last Friday.

By bernard
From: birmingham, al
Sep 15, 2009

There are many routes on this portion of the cliff (left of Grahams Crack area all the way to the radio tower) that have never been documented. Most follow logical natural weaknesses that are visually appealing or invoke curiosity. Some are all naturally protected, some mixed, some sport, and some are unfinished projects where fixed protection has not fully been installed yet. There are also routes where you will find ring-angle pitons placed by those who came before.......These artifacts i hope will be respected and left in place....but certainly don't expect them to hold a fall. This evidence seems to suggest that rockclimbing was done at Steele many years ago, which gives the place a sense of heritage one might not expect.

regarding optimal seasons for visiting, chiggers are prevalent here in summer, especially when it has been dry. If you ever have the misfortune of suffering through what is just the average chigger experience this cliff can inflict, you will not forget it.

By sammy raviv
Jan 31, 2011

NOTE: PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING THE WOLF WALL GULLY. IT IS BEAUTIFUL FRAGILE EARTH!!

By Rhett Burroughs
From: Valdosta, GA
Mar 29, 2013

Best crag in the SE!

By Brannen
From: Flowery Branch, GA
May 13, 2013

Going to birmingham for a little while this week... Was hoping to do some TR soloing, does Steele have accessible TR anchors?

Or am I better off grabbing my beanie and going to horsepens?

By BHMBen
From: The Deeper South
May 14, 2013

Brannen....If you can lead solo the 5.8 on the right end of the Wolfe Wall, Graham's Crack at 5.7, or 4th class up the gully in the vicinity of Dreadlock et al, you'll be able to rig something nearby that will be more challenging and fun. Wolfe Wall is the best spot to get a burn, solo. Generally, anchors are challenging to access without a lead and much more so if you are unfamiliar with the intermittent nature of the cliffline.

By BHMBen
From: The Deeper South
Feb 15, 2014

Some updates concerning Steele....

PROPERTY

~ The SCC property has long been paid for with several traildays since SCC inception. Typically, help is needed in the Spring and the Fall with good turn outs commonplace....usually food and drink and/or climbing follow. Check the Southeastern Climber's Coallition site for updates and the next trailday.

~ Most of the road has been paved and, while a bit rough at the moment, I have seen as many as four Priuses (Prii?) parked on the lot at once, within the last two weeks....\\

~ The trailer has been removed and efforts are underway to level the site and expand parking and other amenities.

~ Additionally, efforts are underway to construct a solar composting toilet which should be complete Spring of this year. In the meantime, use the port-a-john next to the shed and do not "go" in the tall grass downhill of the parking area.

TRAILS

~ There is now a well established trail leading from the parking lot into the woods, past he kiosk. Take the left fork, up a well designed and structured trail, to the Wolfe Wall or right to the Graham's Crack Area. Either are a TWall-esque steep/terraced hike that should take 15 minutes or less to get to the crag. Points left and right of these two areas get a little more 'rugged' and are off of SCC property(Area 51 to the Copout/Penchant wall).

~ Bring some hand-clippers and address any briars you might find en route. Fighting the brambles is a full time job in AL!

GUIDEBOOKS

~ In Chris Watford's new and updated 'Dixie Cragger's', there has been much information included concerning Steele. The new book is generally quite accurate and with good pictures. I suggest the new Steele climber pick up a guide as the cliff if hard to navigate. Secondly, MtnProj is the next most concise collection of information. Beyond these two sources, it is best to connect with one of the locals.

DEVELOPMENT/BOLTING

~ There has been much development activity at Steele, past and present. Old routes may lay dormant for years with little traffic only to be resurrected later. Climbing history at Steele rivals most any spot in the SE and the traditionalist mindset is being maintained here. I.E. Retro-bolting or otherwise silly shenanigans will not be tolerated.

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.

ANCHORS/RAPPELS

~ The SCC has been donating lots of FIXE ring-anchors and most major portions of cliffline now have one or more rap stations. Still, in many of the more obscure sections, one will need to find suitable trees or walk-off. Many areas have gullies and terraced trails if you can find them. Several section, however, do not and may be the top of freestanding pillars or large flakes as the case may be.

CAMPING

~ Camping is still not allowed at Steele on SCC property. HP40 is nearby and offers a variety of amenities. If other options are preferred, PM me through the site and I will suggest alternatives.

FIRES

~ All but the smallest and most well-tended fires are highly frowned upon at Steele. The nearest fire hydrant is several miles away and there are several hundred acres of hardwoods along the side of the ridge to the N and S. An errant fire could be devastating in Fall or Winter.

DOGS

~ It is advisable to keep your dogs on a leash while at Steele. Many of the Steele regulars travel with dogs and will observe the same practices. The farms below maintain a variety of different animals and have loose dogs, as do the neighbors.

NOISE

~ Please continue to keep noise to a minimum. No iPod speakers, no excessive screaming. Steele is a quiet, natural place with pastoral views and a Earthy tone. Let's keep it that way and try to maintain positive image in the area. 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 supportive so far.

Steele is a great venue with climbs of all grades...beginner to super hard. Steele is a great place to learn "TRAD" technique as much as it is a great place to try test pieces and hone one's craft on steep, usually well-consolidated, Southern sandstone.