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Stone Mountain South Face
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Unsorted Routes:

The Great Arch 

YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a

   
Type:  Trad, 3 pitches, 400'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a [details]
FA: Bill Chatfield, Fess Green - 1965
Page Views: 24,063
Submitted By: saxfiend on Nov 15, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (161)
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Ryan cruising up p-3.

Description 

The Great Arch is probably the most prominent and noticeable feature on the face of Stone Mountain. It's a huge right-facing dihedral that arches almost to the summit of the mountain from the Tree Ledge. It's also one of the earliest routes here, put up in the days before cams and sticky rubber climbing shoes.

Unlike the typical runout Stone Mountain friction climb, The Great Arch is one of the few climbs here that has plentiful protection. A real classic, it's very popular and guaranteed to be crowded on weekends -- so arrive early to avoid long waits.

P1 -- starting at the base of the arch, climb the dihedral using the hand/finger crack and good friction footwork to a bolted belay. 5.5, ~150'.
P2 -- continue up the crack and dihedral, slinging trees for pro if you like, to a bolted belay. 5.5, ~150'.
P3 -- follow the diminishing arch to its end on easy ground. Clip a single bolt and finish at the final bolted anchors. 5.3, ~120'.

Location 

To get to The Great Arch, gain the Tree Ledge using any of the approach routes. The start is easy to locate at the left end of the Tree Ledge. Rap off with double ropes or walk off the trail from the summit.

Protection 

As noted, this route is easy to protect with a standard rack (medium cams or passive pro) and some slings for the trees that grow out of the crack. Belays and anchors at the top are bolted.


Photos of The Great Arch Slideshow Add Photo
The Great Arch
BETA PHOTO: The Great Arch
Leading pitch 3 of the classic Great Arch at Stone...
Leading pitch 3 of the classic Great Arch at Stone...
Tobin Petty leading the 1st pitch, May 2006
Tobin Petty leading the 1st pitch, May 2006
A pair of climbers move out on the next pitch of G...
A pair of climbers move out on the next pitch of G...
Unknown climber on the great arch
Unknown climber on the great arch
Leading p1 Great Arch.
Leading p1 Great Arch.
Jenalyn Petty emerging out from final summit pitch...
Jenalyn Petty emerging out from final summit pitch...
The bolts at the first belay station as of June 20...
BETA PHOTO: The bolts at the first belay station as of June 20...
best... 5.5 ... EVER
best... 5.5 ... EVER
Looking up from the tree ledge at the top of pitch...
Looking up from the tree ledge at the top of pitch...
Two people at the second belay station gets pretty...
Two people at the second belay station gets pretty...
Looking down from the first belay station.
Looking down from the first belay station.
Photo of a climber on The Great Arch.
Photo of a climber on The Great Arch.
From the first belay.  The climber, Pat Howell, sh...
From the first belay. The climber, Pat Howell, sh...
Great view down the Arch
Great view down the Arch
Anchors at top of first pitch.
Anchors at top of first pitch.
Peering over from the top
Peering over from the top
View from the top of pitch 3 (the tree ledge) on t...
View from the top of pitch 3 (the tree ledge) on t...
Me leading up to the first belay ledge on the Grea...
Me leading up to the first belay ledge on the Grea...
Doesn't get much more aesthetic.  Spectacular view...
Doesn't get much more aesthetic. Spectacular view...

Comments on The Great Arch Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 27, 2015
By Brad "Stonyman" Killough
Administrator
From: Alabama
Nov 18, 2008

Awesome looking climb. Deffinatley do this climb when I get up that way.
By jay.kalamazoo
From: kalamazoo, mi
Oct 8, 2009

I would climb this route every day for the rest of my life. Absolutely essential climb at this grade in the south east. Tons of fun, easy to protect and the view is great.
By Will Copeland
Apr 13, 2010
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

This is some classic climbing. When you look up layback in the dictionary, this is the climb. Wish this route went forever, so much fun.
By Rodger Raubach
Jul 20, 2010
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

Great climb; hardest part is getting to Tree Ledge. The walk off the back is LONG!
By Shawn Heath
Administrator
From: Forchheim, Germany
Aug 18, 2010
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

Great climb! When rappelling off this climb, you should go to a different route's anchors. Walking on the slab at the top from these anchors to another like No Alternative is super easy and doesn't require a belay, but you can use one just to be on the safe side.
By Shawn Heath
Administrator
From: Forchheim, Germany
Aug 18, 2010
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

The second time I got on this route I let my friend lead it since he really wanted to do the climb. Then I practiced doing nothing but face climbing. Great way to get used to nothing but friction climbing and get your head into it for leading something like Mercury's Lead, which is right next door and pretty much the exact same angle and friction.
By wlashgraham
May 22, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

Great climb for the grade. Did not realize that you had to climb a committing pitch to even get there though. Adds some more fun. I would say try to stay off the tree at the second belay as much as possible. looks like it gets a ton of wear and tear and that would not be a fun spot to have a dead tree.
By Mike Holley
From: Boone, NC
Oct 18, 2011

Who Can say a bad thing about this climb?!! Classic Feature all the way up and it only gets better each and every time you do it, yes yes, climb it like six times in one winter and you will see what I mean!

A Stellar intro lead for the beginning trad climber and a wonderful moderate for the seasoned pro. Layback the firs two pitches and work your way up the slab/fingercrack on the third.

Be sure to wake up early for this classic because on crowded days this one can be a class A cluster Funk!
By Jake Jones
Administrator
From: Richmond, VA
Nov 28, 2011
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

The park gates don't open until 8. So if you stay in the park, get there about 7:30 and haul ass up to the tree ledge. Unless a bunch of other people have that same idea, then you should be ok and not have a line behind you when you get to the first belay station. Awesome route!

First pitch isn't 150 feet. Neither is the second. You can rap back to the tree ledge from the bolts on pitch 1 with a single 70. Second pitch is shorter than the first. I would estimate each pitch to be roughly 110 feet or so. No longer.
By Walt Barker
From: Reno NV
Apr 7, 2012
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

One of the most pleasurable climbs ever....medium to small gear with placements everywhere. We did plug one #3 Camalot at the top of the 3rd pitch. Decided not to rap and walked back to the base...figured we could do that faster than setting-up rappels. We were there one day after rain and the rock was mostly dry. The sun was out and temps in the 60's. Unbelievably, we had the whole mountain to ourselves. Truly a classic climb in a stellar setting.
By P. Sully
May 9, 2012

This climb is over-rated and a pain in the back in my opinion. I have climbed it many times and seem to enjoy it less as a climb every time.

It is a beautiful architectural feature on a mostly blank slab though.

No Alternative is a better climb at this grade, IMHO.

Luckily though, it keeps all the Noobs busy and leaves many other routes open.
By Joe Virtanen
From: Asheville, NC
Jul 29, 2012

If you're looking to save time on a busy day, link pitches 1 and 2 from the tree ledge. You'll BARELY be able to do it with a 60 and it's no problem with a 70. Have your belayer step up!

1's and 2's on the first, mostly .75 and smaller on the second, which makes linking convenient.
By cfuttner
Nov 9, 2012

Wow, what can I say that hasn't already been said. Well let's see. How about don't bother, tedious, monotonous, and how about back pain. Oh wait, Sully said that. Bending over to grab a corner at my feet for 3 or 400 continuous feet is not my definition of fun. This one makes it into the book of Classics only due to the fact that it is such a striking feature on the face. If your comfortable with harder stuff at Stone, this is one to skip. We had a much better time on Rice Crispies and Fleet Feet.
By Jonathan Dull
From: Boone, NC
Feb 18, 2013

After numerous trips to Stone Mountain and many crowded weekends we finally had the entire place to ourselves and racked up for this state classic. For a brief moment I thought I was back in Yosemite (minus the very less than vertical grade), laying back a splitter corner for 100's of feet with an abundance of gear options. As far as gear is concerned, you only need a single rack up to three (although I never placed a #3; a #4 BD may help protect the first 25 ft or so), and C3's are really helpful. Also, bring a good set of buff calves and a good back!!
By Emil Briggs
Oct 15, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

I'm with P. Sully and cfuttner. The Great Arch is really boring. Worth doing once and for a new leader it's the safest way of topping out but not something I feel any desire to repeat.
By Jeff Gregory
From: Columbia, South Carolina
Dec 1, 2013

Look for a recently (and unintentionally) fixed a Size 8 Yellow BD Stopper on pitch 3. Finders keepers. :) Cool Climb.
By Russ Keane
Oct 7, 2014

A beautiful climb, and fairly fun. Slightly repetitive, same move over and over and over and over ... and again
By Will Bradford
From: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Feb 19, 2015

You can just link the first two pitches with a 70 m rope. Doubles of 0.5 through 2 BD camalot offer great protection the entire way up.
By Adam Paashaus
From: Greensboro, North Carolina
Feb 27, 2015

Fun as a simulclimb if you have the gear and the route to yourselves.
By Devin Farkas 1
From: Brunswick, Maine
Mar 30, 2015

Hey Y'all,

Potential loose rock on the Great Arch

P.2 of the Great arch. Within the first half of the pitch there is a large flake between the main slab that makes up the entire south face and the wall that meets it to form the crack of the arch. there is a crack that looks pretty recent that slices the flake down the middle. Before we started the arch we heard the party above us say something about the same feature. When I got there it made me feel pretty nervous just to touch it. Not wanting to risk knocking it off I did touch it...so I don't know how loose or hollow it is.

I'm not sure if this is a new feature since this was the first time I've been up the Arch.



Anyone else know what I'm talking about? is it new? if it is, be warned, there is a couch cushion sized chunk of rock on the great arch that may be moving towards detachment...
By Ross Purnell
From: Palmyra
Apr 6, 2015

I'd like to add to what Devin said (above). I've climbed this arch many times, the flake above the belay on p1 was always a solid and wonderful feature, but now there is a fresh split in the rock near where the flake attached to the mountain. My guess is that this unusually cold and icy winter resulted in expanding ice under the flake, which broke it.
This piece of rock is hundreds and hundreds of pounds, and would be fatal for the belayer directly below, and whoever may be waiting in line on tree ledge. it is possible to climb around it without touching it, but I predict someone will put a cam behind that thing and it will come off.
It needs to be trundled with a crow bar immediately but who would do it?
Anyone climbing there needs to be warned. When this things falls, the area at the bottom of U slot becomes a bombing range.
By Jake Jones
Administrator
From: Richmond, VA
Apr 6, 2015
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

I'll contact the State Park and see what they say. I would imagine they need to suspend access for a few hours and would want to oversee the trundling- in whatever way they deem necessary. If this is the block that I'm thinking of, that thing is gigantic and could very well change the character of a couple of routes below it when it comes off; to what degree- who knows.

Edit: Just sent an email to the .gov site of the state park. Will update if/when I hear anything. Please be careful and try to get the word out about this separating feature in the meantime. Thanks to everyone that has mentioned it.
By Ross Purnell
From: Palmyra
Apr 6, 2015

Jake,
Thank you. I'm sure you know the flake I'm talking about, it's really the only deviating feature on the whole route. I have left a voice mail with Ranger Jeffrey Jones. I guess he's the climbing ranger there.
By Ross Purnell
From: Palmyra
Apr 6, 2015

This is the flake above the pitch 1 belay station....
This is the flake above the pitch 1 belay station. The vertical crack is new, and shows how a large chunk of granite has essentially broken from the mountain and is currently maintaining position due to friction. If you put a large camming unit behind this flake and fall on it, the force could easily send this slab crashing onto the belayer below, tree ledge, then the base of several other climbs.
By Jake Jones
Administrator
From: Richmond, VA
Apr 6, 2015
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

Awesome Ross. Friends of mine were there last weekend. They are Stone veterans and were telling me about it yesterday. They said didn't touch it or place under it.
By Brian Payst
Apr 7, 2015

The arch is temporarily closed as of 4/7/2015 due to this potential loose block. The Carolina Climbers Coalition is working with the rangers to assess it and trundle if necessary.
By Jake Jones
Administrator
From: Richmond, VA
Apr 7, 2015
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

***NOTICE***

This is the response that I received to the email that I sent to the State Park yesterday:

"Hi Jake

I am the mountain region biologist for NC state parks (and a long time Stone climber), and your email got forwarded to me. First off many thanks for reaching out to the park on this. I know that flake very well, and I really appreciate the heads up. Ive told the guys at the park to post notices that the Arch is closed for the time being due to unsafe conditions, and Ive also asked Brian Payst at the Carolina Climbers Coalition to get something posted on the CCC website. In the meantime, I think that this spell of wet weather is in our favor, as it ought to keep traffic down, and allow us to get up there and take a look. Id like to get this handled before the nice weather returns this weekend.

Im working on getting someone up there in the next 24 hours to rap down to that flake and take a look, with an eye toward trundling it off. Weve done that with other broken slabs at Stone, and I will keep you posted.

Thanks again for the heads up, and stay tuned for an update. Any questions, give me a holler.

Best

Marshall Ellis"

Looks like they're on top of it! Expect a large portion (if not the whole Southern face) to be off limits until they get this thing trundled/removed.
By Brian Payst
Apr 8, 2015

Only the Great Arch route was ever closed, but it is now open again. Marshall took care of the flake today

"It was a whopper, but surprisingly easy to push off with a pry bar. Gave it a couple of nudges, and whoosh - away it went. It was about 6-8 feet long and also took the small pine above the first belay. Made a hell of a noise! Looks solid now above where it popped off, so I think that everybody ought to be good to go, and we've reopened the route. There's a little bit of a sharp edge now at the top end where it popped off, so folks ought to be on the lookout for that."
By Marshall Ellis
Apr 9, 2015

Hey Everybody -

Many thanks for the heads-up and patience while we got that loose slab solved on the Great Arch. A particularly big thanks goes to Jake Jones for notifying the park so that we knew there was a problem and to Brian Payst for helping to spread the news that the route was temporarily closed.

The Arch is now open for business as usual, but there is a lot of new loose rock at the base of the route now, and watch out for the sharp edge at the top of the fracture. Bummed that the little pine bit the dust after hanging on for so many years.

Glad to help, stay safe, and have fun.

Thanks -

Marshall Ellis
By Ross Purnell
From: Palmyra
Apr 9, 2015

Thanks to everyone involved! I think lives were potentially saved with this. I know rock climbing is inherently dangerous, and we need to deal with loose rock all the time, but on such a popular and easy climb, this was a ticking time bomb. I'm sorry to see the flake and the tree go, but there was too much else at risk here.
By RMS
5 days ago

Climbed this a few days ago with my son, cool and sobering to see where the split flake was pried off and sent down the mountain. Thanks to those who reported it and to those who removed it; it was easy to imagine what might have happened to a belayer at P1.

Not much to add that hasn't already been said, but I want to mention that I found the second pitch the hardest and the most run-out, and it was the area around the removed block that seemed the most so. Maybe that pitch used to be easier to protect, maybe not. And maybe I just completely missed good placements.

Still, a fun route. And the walk back down is not long as someone mentioned earlier. It took my 44-year-old butt and my 10-year-old son less then 30 minutes to walk back to the car.
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