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My 24 hour mini epic (AKA my ridiculous mini alpine epic)


Original Post
Sam Stephens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 1,020

Cliff notes:

My planned camping/climbing trip to a seldom traveled mountain consisted of hiking up a trail I’ve never been on at 1:00am with headlamps and a random dog, snow on a belay ledge at 300 feet, and 8 hours of driving in 24 hours.

My 24hr Mini Epic

So I’ve been jonesing to climb for at least a month. I went to Hueco early in January for a week and haven’t climbed much except for a small boulder session and a few sessions in the boulder gym here in town. Monday the 8th of February I got the bright idea to go south and get away from all the snow in Blacksburg VA that isn’t going to melt for a month.

I went and bought the “Selected Climbs in North Carolina” guidebook. I was planning a trip to Shortoff Mountain in Linville Gorge. I needed to get some height under me and the 300-500 foot moderates were what I was craving.

I started making calls looking for a partner that could leave Thursday night. I don’t have Friday classes and was trying to climb Friday and Saturday at this point. Well emails went out, forum posts were made, and several prospective partners later I finally got one to leave on Thursday night. He had no idea what we were in for and neither did I.

Thursday night rolls around, I have all my gear in my packed and ready to go. I went and picked up John and we got to rolling.

This is where the epic starts.

I’m leaving the Virginia Tech campus and I realize I forgot the directions. I had written some down for getting there off the interstate, but not which interstate. So a few phone calls later, I confirmed what I thought, 81 South, 77 South, 40 West. We get on 81 and start heading up. Yes, I said up. We made it to Roanoke before we realized we were going the wrong way and turned around. That added 60 miles to the trip.

The rest of the drive flew by and we arrived in Morganton NC around 1:00 am. Now we had to negotiate back streets. Not too big of a deal, but the sign for Wolf-Pit Rd was blown over. After driving by it twice we finally noticed it and turned up the road. The directions in the guide said to go all the way to the end at the cul-de-sac, so after scraping the bottom of my car along the ruts in the road we got to a fork and stopped.

I go to step out of the car and two big dogs, a rotweiller and a chocolate lab come strolling up to the car. Naturally, at 1:30 in the morning I was a little concerned. They turned out to be friendly and after figuring out where we were we continued on.

Half a mile later, we made it to the cul-de-sac and started to sort out gear for the hike to the top of the mountain. John has an extra 40 liter pack of mine and a duffel bag and my 65 liter Osprey is slam full at about 55 pounds of climbing and camping gear and I have to carry my sleeping bag under my arm. As we’re getting ready to start hiking up the lab walks up.

I tried to turn him away, but he just decided he really wanted to follow us.

So on we go, hiking up the mountain, on a trail we’ve never even seen, in the dark, at 2:00 am, with headlamps and someone’s dog. John is extremely out of shape and has to stop every tenth of a mile, for the first bit. Then we hit the switch backs. Every single turn I had to stop and wait for John. And then wait for John to rest. After about an hour of hiking to make it up a three quarter mile trail, we finally made it to the top and started to see the cliff drop off on our left.

We figured we had to be close so we found a spot for out tent and set up.

Side story: The entire mountain caught fire in 2007 and thus, there was shit everywhere. Also, it was the top of the mountain and there was nothing hardly close to flat.


Camp.

So we passed out around 3:30 am. The dog who followed us the whole way, fell asleep outside.

We awoke around 8:30 to find the dog gone, and a nice, albeit cool, morning outside. The forecast for the day, from both NOAA and weather.com, was a nice 45 and partly sunny.

By 10:30 we figure it’s time to get going and so we go check out the descent gulley to get to the cliff bottom. It was iced over. So back towards camp we go. I start scouting out a rappel into the cliff and think I spot a line that will work. We scramble down some fourth class stuff to a lonely pine tree. I think I can get to the next ledge from there, so I lower the rope and start to rap.

I make it to the next ledge and eyeball the next rappel. John comes down, we scramble over to another pine tree. We rap down, and then pendulum over to the next pine tree. I came up three feet short of the knots at the end. We pull that and rap again and once again, I’m within a couple feet of the end. Last rappel and we wind up stopping on a ledge about 8 feet off the ground with an easy scramble down. Success, we’ve made it to the bottom of the cliff after 4 almost full 100’ foot raps that I eyeballed.


The raps went down here.

We hike down a little ways, identify where we are and start looking for Maginot Line. Well we quickly find it and decide we should warm up on this. It’s easy, I haven’t climbed much multi pitch recently, and we just wanted to get moving.

At this point it’s still cold out, probably 35* and it’s around 12:00. I slowly take the first easy, but awkward pitch to a cramped belay in a corner under a chockstone.


First pitch.

I brought John up and started up the second pitch. I get about 30 feet up and haven’t gotten a single placement and can’t feel my hands. I’m grabbing big ledges and just flexing my hands to stay on. It was easy climbing, but scary when your fingers are totally numb and you have no gear under you besides the anchor and a slab to land on.

I get up to the second belay after a short second pitch and bring John up to the ledge. I start up the better vertical climbing of the route and enjoy nice holds on numb hands and bomber gear the whole way up.

Now the topo says the third belay is on a mossy ledge. Well I found a licheney sort of ledge with a decent horizontal crack to build an anchor in as I was running short on gear and was about 120 feet up from John. So that had to do.

The anchor I built consisted of two green aliens, a yellow alien, and a red tri cam in a slightly flaring horizontal crack. Bomber, but not really confidence inspiring.


The anchor

So I start to bring John up and it happens. It starts fucking snowing. Now it wasn’t a blizzard by any means but let me remind you, my toes are completely numb, I’m standing on a tiny little ledge 300 feet up, the wind has picked up, and I’m now freezing.


Me, pissed at 300 feet.

John gets up to the belay and we agreed that after this, we’re packing up and leaving. I take off after sorting the gear out and start up more fun vertical climbing on good holds. I start with a slightly spicy traverse after placing a piece right above the anchor. I go about 15 feet left and 10 feet up and can’t get any gear. Finally another 5 or 6 feet and I find a horizontal and plug in a .5 C4. A few more moves to get into the corner system and I plug a bomber #4. Life is good now. I cruise the easy corner system to the mossy ledge that I was supposed to be at to start with and go about 75 feet on two pieces on easy terrain all the while trying to watch out for ice that was appearing in inconspicuous and dangerous places.

Finally I get to a good tree and set up a quick anchor and bring John up. While I’m bringing John up I put my boots back on and I still can’t feel my toes. John gets up, we coil the rope, and hike out on easy terrain to the top.



We hike back to camp, pack up as fast as possible, dump our water, and make it back to the car in 25 minutes flat.


Camp after about an hour of snow.

We got back to the car around 5:00. After stopping for food and gas we made it back to Blacksburg at 8:30, 24 hours after we had set out the night before.
Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425

Sounds like a good time!!!!

Crisco Jackass · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2008 · Points: 0

Epic? Yes. Great story, thanks for sharing.

Ridiculous? No. This does not deserve ridicule IMO.

Good on 'ya.

Lee Smith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2003 · Points: 1,545

Sounds like an excellent adventure. Way to get after it!

I'll bet you remember this for a long time.

Bawls E. Climber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 35

I love those "mini" adventures! Soooooooo much fun!

Mike Pharris · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2007 · Points: 125

Fun read - thanks for sharing - sounds like an experience you'll never forget.

. · · The souf east · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 855

hell yea! 

PS go hokies

VT alum here.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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