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(route to left of New Ideal, right of Rainbow Arch) T 
(Stories) 5.7 arete T 
. T 
5.8 Corner T 
Aura T,S 
B-52 T 
Banana Route T 
Bird's Nest Crack T 
Black Magic T 
Butter D Licious S 
Chimney Route T 
City Of Worms S 
Cloudy Day T 
Copout T 
Dance with the Devil S 
Dead Reckoning S 
Deborah T 
dreadlock T 
Easy Street TR 
Exit Stage Right T 
Flight of the Swallows T 
Full Moon Bar B Que S 
Gaia T 
Ginsu T,S 
Golden Arch T 
Golden Arches T 
Graham's Crack T 
Hob Knob T 
Hot Steele S 
Hot Wing S 
Laser T 
Left of Wolfe Wall T 
Lone Wolf On the Far Ridge T 
Man Overboard T,S 
Mantis, The T 
Mean Lean S 
Meathooks S 
Minnie Driver S 
Modern Day Pirates T 
Monopoly T 
Mystery Slab S 
New Ideal T 
no name (on Wolf Wall) T,S 
Oak (AKA Oak Tree Direct), The T 
Papillon T,S 
Petrified T 
Pinch-It (Penchant) T 
Polar Express T,S 
project on Wolf Wall S 
Psycho Killer S 
Putting Out the Vibe T 
Reckoning Day T 
Renegade Trad S 
Resistoflex T 
Rockwa S 
Rustler S 
Scooter Girl T 
Song of the Cows S 
Steele Head T 
Stepping Out T 
Sting  T 
Stories T 
Sugar Magnolia T 
Suspended Animation T 
Tech Noir S 
Three Pitch T 
Tornado on your Birthday T 
Triad T 
unnamed 5.10 left of Psycho Killer T 
unnamed 5.9 (area left of Wolf Wall) T 
unnamed trad on wolf wall T 
Vineland T,S 
Walk the Line T 
Welcome to Steele T 
Wendy's Finger Crack T 
Wolfe-Waites T 
Wolverine T 
Wrangler T 
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Administrators: saxfiend, Brad "Stonyman" Killough, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: saxfiend on Mar 4, 2009
You & This Area
Best routes for YOU in this area
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Monopoly Arete...this climb is still off limits

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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.

Climbing Season

Weather station 7.2 miles from here

78 Total Routes

['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',33],['2 Stars',31],['1 Star',6],['Bomb',1]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Steele:
Triad   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Three Pitch   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 140'   
(Stories) 5.7 arete   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 100'   
Exit Stage Right   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 50'   
Graham's Crack   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   
Sugar Magnolia   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 170'   
Stepping Out   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Golden Arches   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 120'   
Monopoly   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   
Copout   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Bird's Nest Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   
The Oak (AKA Oak Tree Direct)   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Vineland   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, Sport, 120'   
Rustler   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 65'   
Black Magic   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 75'   
dreadlock   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, 100'   
Lone Wolf On the Far Ridge   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 75'   
Papillon   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   
Rockwa   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13     Sport, 70'   
Man Overboard   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, Sport, 80'   
Browse More Classics in Steele

Featured Route For Steele
Sweet Stone Alabama!!

Monopoly 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a  AL : Steele
This route is outside the boundaries of the SCC property and is currently off-limits to climbing. Please do not trespass on private property by climbing this route....[more]   Browse More Classics in AL

Photos of Steele Slideshow Add Photo
Juvenile Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is already in full...
Juvenile Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is already in full...
Thanks to the generosity of the SCC, the two steep...
Thanks to the generosity of the SCC, the two steep...
Hand/fist-jam problem.
Hand/fist-jam problem.
The parking lot.
The parking lot.
Birds Nest Crack
Birds Nest Crack
starting second pitch of Sugar Magnolia
starting second pitch of Sugar Magnolia
A view of the chicken houses from atop Monopoly. H...
A view of the chicken houses from atop Monopoly. H...
The 5.7 crack in the Bird's Nest alcove with a ske...
The 5.7 crack in the Bird's Nest alcove with a ske...
This little guy was guarding a perfect 0.75 placem...
This little guy was guarding a perfect 0.75 placem...
I believe this is Gene Smith on early attempts at ...
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.
Red flower.
Red flower.
Scenic shot from the early 80s with rope and Borea...
Scenic shot from the early 80s with rope and Borea...
Wild Iris.
Wild Iris.
Wolfe Wall left.
Wolfe Wall left.
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 ...
BETA PHOTO: My first trad lead at Steele on Triad (5.6). This ...
Wolfe Wall lower patina and upper chasm. Many attr...
Wolfe Wall lower patina and upper chasm. Many attr...

Show All 34 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Steele Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Dec 2, 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 seclimbers.org or shoot me an email at guslf100@aol.com

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
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?
From: The Briar Patch
May 14, 2013

If you can lead solo the 5.8 on the right end of the Wolfe Wall, or scramble up the chimney behind (loose/dangerous) you'll be able to rig something. Wolfe Wall anchors are challenging to access without a lead to access the top.

More suitable would be the Revelations Wall to the climber's right of Wolfe Wall and the Hot Wing Buttress....left of Graham's Crack area, which is not on SCC land. There is a perfect gully behind and to the left which you can scramble up to rig a TR off of any of the numerous trees. This section of cliffline has not been splattered with ring anchors. Odd, since this is the biggest portion of SCC-owned land, but will likely occur soon enough.
From: The Briar Patch
Feb 15, 2014
Some updates concerning Steele....


The boundaries of Southeastern Climber's Coalition property lie, roughly, as follows:

Climber's left: 50 yards past the Wolfe Wall. The boundary lies just right of the route, Hob Nob. Area 51 is not owned by the SCC.

Climber's right: 100' left of Graham's Crack. 20 yards right of the Revelations Wall.

Meaning, the legally climbable portion of the cliffline encompasses the Wolfe Wall, Hot Wing Buttress, discontinuous cliffline, and then the Revelation Wall and terraces above.

Note that the Wolfe Wall and Hot Wing Buttress routes all have ring anchors, while the Revelation Wall tops out into pinetrees with a cool, safe, descent corridor behind and to climber's left.

~ 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 Coalition site for updates and the next trailday.

~ Most of the road has been paved.

~ 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.


~ 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 Revelation Wall. Either are a TWall-esque steep/terraced hike that should take 15 minutes or less to get to the crag.

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


~ 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.


~ 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 other silly shenanigans will not be tolerated.


~ 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.


~ The SCC has been donating lots of FIXE ring-anchors. Still, in many of the more obscure sections, one will need to find suitable trees or a gear belay, and often a walk-off. The walk-off behind Revelation Wall is obvious. Lower or rappel all routes on Wolfe Wall or Hot Wing Buttress.


~ Camping is still not allowed at Steele on SCC property. HP40 is nearby and offers a variety of amenities.

NOTE: If other options are preferred, PM me through the site and I will suggest local alternatives.


~ 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.


~ Preferably, keep your crag dog away from Steele. This is not the TWall. If absolutely necessary to bring a dog, keep it on a leash at all times.

NOTE: Dogs are not welcome to the climber's left of the Wolfe Wall due to proximity to the house below. Dogs have gotten loose from the parking lot and bothered the chicken farm below in the past, as well. Exciting either situation threatens good relations with the locals.


~ 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 has been 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.
From: The Briar Patch
May 8, 2014

As of May 2014, the SCC has had the rest of the road paved - almost to the parking lot. Virtually any vehicle should be able to access Steele, now.

The trail to Wolfe Wall has been completely updated with new steps installed by the Access Fund and the Jeep Conservation Team.
Click here.

The SCC has installed a luxurious, weatherproof composting outhouse near the parking lot. Please use this and add a scoop of sawdust as required. Pee in the woods. This will help keep Steele clean and your dogs out of terrible messes.
By jonestyler22
From: Eau Claire
Nov 13, 2014
Hey guys,

Does anyone know if you can toprope these routes? They are all listed as TRAD, so I didn't know if the layout of the area prevented you from hiking to the top and setting up TR anchors and climbing that way.

From: The Briar Patch
Nov 14, 2014
The Revelation Wall is perfect for top roping. You have to rig from trees, but there are many firm pine trees in the vicinity. There is an easy walk up via a corridor behind and left of the wall.

Otherwise, it's sort of difficult to set TRs on many of the routes. Wolfe Wall can be scrambled up to, but it's challenging and better to lead a route first.

Other walls are broken by terraces or gullies, in some cases. Several of these spots allow access to the top of the cliff. That said, these instances are somewhat hard to decipher if you don't have pretty good knowledge of the area.

Nearby Palisades is also very friendly for TRing.
By Lyle Dean
Dec 2, 2014
Climbing actually began at Steele in the late 1960's with Tommy Taylor, Graham Wilson (Graham Crack) and Jack Pierce as the main developers. Basically all of the old soft ring pitons and the majority of the button head Rawl bolts were installed by these guys up until about 1973. Dr. Joseph Sherrill climbed extensively with Graham and Tommy and was an important player in the early and mid 1970's because he became a link between the old and what would be the new generation climbers of that time. Joe drew topos of many of the early routes and even wrote an article for a magazine but decided not to submit it. He also made a panoramic photo of the cliff that covered routes from Oak Tree Direct all the way to Coming Attractions on the Cloudy Day ledge. The photo was posted in his climbing shop Blue Water Outdoor Equipment until he sold the shop to Alabama Outdoors in the early 1980's. Around 1975 I met Todd Gregory who made important contributions to new routes at Steele, The Sting and The Wisdom come to mind. Todd wrote a brief summary and submitted some photos of Steele to Mountain magazine. This would be the first published documentation of climbing at Steele that I'm aware of. Traditionally climbers in the south were reluctant to publicize areas as a preemptive attempt to avoid the problems caused by unregulated use which is what happened at Steele by the late 1980's.
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