Rumbling Bald - danger?


Original Post
Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 90

Hey everyone,

I wanted to open a thread about Rumbling Bald post-fire. A comment by Jeep Gaskin, on another forum, cited major and highly dangerous conditions throughout the roped climbing areas. Soil and ledge instability, huge rocks about to fall, etc. Like big time: Stay away was the adamant message.

The source (Jeep) could not be more credible.

Anyone else care to comment? Are people climbing? Also as a side note, how/why is this important info not spread around a little more? Perhaps Mountain Project is not an official place, but it's surprising no one has mentioned this here. (Not blaming, or judging, just hoping to increase the conversation because someone could get hurt, or worse).

Dustin Stotser · · Springfield, MO · Joined May 2014 · Points: 353

I was planning a trip to the general area when the weather forecast turned me away. While I was looking into the Rumbling Bald, I read warnings about dead burnt trees that had yet to fall as well as loose soil and pits from burnt out root balls/systems. The rest Jeep mentioned wouldn't surprise me and he is definitely a voice to listen to.

TomCaldwell · · Clemson, S.C. · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 2,443

The recent fire has left many of the areas unstable, but this is no different than many other climbing areas. A good climber should be able to assess the dangers of their surroundings. Loose rock, weak trees, and soft soil are normal. These conditions are especially common on new routes. Use backups to test uncertainties. Some of these areas will improve after a season of growth and rooting of the soil. If an issue exists that creates a no alternative escape, then it is prudent to create a new solution such as adding a bolted anchor. The park is aware of the added dangers from the fire and have given permission to some people to upgrade a problem with hardware. If a situation exists, contact someone from the CCC or post to Western Carolina Climbers group. Someone will get out there to inspect and fix. If it is an issue of loose rock, trundle safely during the weekday when less people will be there.

Sean Cobourn · · Gramling, SC · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 2,910

My partner and I climbed Bear Hunt and Gift Certificate yesterday. Those two routes were fine until we got to the Certificate belay. That is where you start to really see what is poised to launch. Then we kept going a couple more pitches to the actual top of the rock and hiked uphill beyond. The conditions up there are nightmarish. The soil holds nothing. Giant piles of rocks, formerly held in place by actual dirt are now sitting in ash and ready to complete their destiny to fall and turn into topsoil any second now. Hopefully they will not kill someone along the way. Every ledge is littered with rocks from hand to car door sized. I cannot stress enough how bad it is. I will advocate that certain popular areas be closed for a day to allow teams of trundlers to go up and safely toss all the death blocks off. At least in the popular areas like Cereal Buttress, Bear Hunt, Flakeview and Family Wall for starters. Have look outs posted below to prevent wanderers from getting crushed. Seriously. This needs to be done before someone is killed.

On a happier note, the spring plant life is starting to poke up from beneath the ashy soil. Trillium, White Irisette and many other pretty flowers will be blooming soon

Rick Carpenter · · Kenai, AK · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 410

DANGER DANGER DANGER!!! Hahaha its climbing. But for those who want to continue to the top above gunboat diplomacy you may want to tread carefully. There is the potential for significant rock fall hazard here due to loose soil and large detached blocks.

TomCaldwell · · Clemson, S.C. · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 2,443

These photos were taken at the topout of Snap, Crackle, Pop. If the route wasn't already exciting, all of the crux pitch eyebrows are covered with loose sand, dirt, and ash making gear placements spicy. When the wind blows it rains dirt on you. Hoping the moss pads grow back to reroot the soil. Not sure a hurricane would wash all the debris down. Lots of broken glass as well. With the amount of bail gear on the route, some other climbers may have got into the same mess. This area was the ignition point for the Party Rock Fire.

Top of Snap, Crackle, Pop after the Party Rock Fire.

Juniper Tree at ignition point of the Party Rock Fire.

Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 90

Rick Carpenter: That's cute. Giant death blocks falling on you, that's a normal climbing hazard? I didn't learn that in belay school. If someone is killed at Rumbling Bald it's not going to be funny.

TomCaldwell · · Clemson, S.C. · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 2,443

It looks like a mid-week trail day is in the works. There will be a signup soon for a small group to join the park and the CCC. Our goal will be to trundle what cannot be moved up to a safer spot and add an anchor above if the rappel trees are damaged or poorly rooted. I think we should avoid trundling everything to prevent damaging the climbs below and ledges.

It is likely that nobody has been talking about these dangers because few have topped out the cliff. I was guilty of it until last Friday when I saw the damage above the Cereal Wall. Fortunately, that area didn't have any rock fall hazards, just loose debris.

Russ,
Giant death blocks are a normal hazard. Go any where that has a serious freeze thaw period and you'll see these blocks on route. Ever notice the giant death block above the Mummy? Someone pulled off a huge block at Twall a few years ago on one of the most traveled routes there, In Pursuit of Excellence. Having been involved with many FA's, those climbing the developed routes don't ever see what gets cleared. My only goal with my original post was not to blow this out of proportion. Luckily, Chimney Rock has an awesome superintendent that is going to let us fix the problem instead of shutting the cliff down. Let's use this thread to cite specific issues that need to be addressed instead of worrying about a normal danger to rock climbing. We should change the title of the thread to make it an obvious place to report issues.

Brian Payst · · Carrboro,NC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0

We've actually got a google form you can fill out to report specific issues:

Find that here

Collecting that info will help us target the trail day efforts. Also, if you've chimed in here, how about coming out for the trail day? Keep an eye on the CCC website and Facebook page for info on the date when it's scheduled.

Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 90

Tom, with all due respect, I hear you. Let's not be alarmists. And yes, awareness of your surroundings is always called for in climbing. Loose rocks are part of the game.

I must disagree though, that this is the same as a loose block here or there on our climbing routes. The cliff just underwent a significant physical/natural change that is well beyond the typical seasonal cycle. Regular awareness may not be sufficient.

You are obviously aware of the experience level and judgment of Jeep Gaskin and Sean Coburn. Their comments are clear and precise. Your sentiment stands in contrast to theirs. Which is fine. I respect that, and I hope you are right in projecting no problems or danger for the roped climbers.

nbrown · · western NC · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 5,289

These types of fires were commonplace before aggressive fire suppression started about a hundred or so years ago. And my guess is that many of those rocks lying around on the ledges have been there a lot longer than that (the rumbling event notwithstanding), meaning that the fire alone probably didn't destabilize them as much as one would think. Of course there are other variables involved. Yes there is a lot of loose debris, and yes we should be very careful if climbing through these areas, but I agree with Tom on this; just be cognizant of your surrounds like you would in a more untamed area, like Linville (a place that's seen at least 4 fairly catastrophic fires in nearly a decade).

That said, I'm all for an (organized) trundle day...

Mike Reardon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 910

CCC is currently coordinating a day with the State Park to help BEGIN clearing some of the hot spots that people had mentioned using on the CCC google form. (please use this form as B.Payst had mentioned above). Initial work will be assessing the Flakeview Area.

Stay tuned on the CCC website for the volunteer opportunity coming in the next week. There will be a one day closure of the areas being worked on. Stay tuned for that as well.

Special thanks to Chimney Rock State Park officials for offering support to the coordination and to CCC Board members Tom Caldwell, Corey Winstead, and arborist Caleb Hiemlich for stepping up and leading the first "vertical clean up".

JohnnyRemein · · Asheville · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 25

I was on Preying Mantis today and found the rappel trees atop pitch 2 to be too loose for me to feel comfortable rappelling off them, the soil surrounding them didn't show much evidence of support. There is a tree located to climbers left that you can stem over to that is more robust and wasn't nearly as effected by the fire, not the most convenient positioning though.

Brian Payst · · Carrboro,NC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0

Can you add that to the list using the link I posted? Having everything in one place makes it a whole lot easier to manage. Thanks.

Mike Reardon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 910

A volunteer opp for those able. This will help tremendously in clearing some of the post fire issues.
carolinaclimbers.org/civicr...;id=24

TomCaldwell · · Clemson, S.C. · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 2,443

Just a heads up that the Flakeview Buttress and Jack London Amphitheater will be closed tomorrow (3/23) to do some cleanup. Signs will be posted and areas taped off.

beatrix · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

Russ Keane- thank you for posting this warning. I'm fairly new to climbing and recently went to RB with a group of seasoned climbers. I was worried about safety when I saw how soft the ground was; it's hard to hike in without losing footing! If the top of the cliff is anything like the base, then it's definitely in rough shape. I was the only one in my group who had these concerns, and doubted my own assessment because, after all, these climbers have been doing this much longer than I have. Yes, we climbers we all need to be aware of the risks involved, but new/young climbers tend to defer to those who have more experience-- after all, this is how many of us were introduced to climbing and started learning about it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

I know this won't be a popular opinion, but if the area needs a period of re-growth in order to be safe for climbers again, wouldn't closure of the area be a decent idea? I can't be the only one who felt guilty traipsing around on soft ground, watching some serious erosion happen due to the volume of climbers exploring the area. This is definitely a convenient spot for many of us to get some climbing in, but does this beautiful area (home, certainly, to some of our rare Appalachian wildflowers, etc.) exist solely for our entertainment?

Brian Payst · · Carrboro,NC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0
beatrix wrote:. I know this won't be a popular opinion, but if the area needs a period of re-growth in order to be safe for climbers again, wouldn't closure of the area be a decent idea? I can't be the only one who felt guilty traipsing around on soft ground, watching some serious erosion happen due to the volume of climbers exploring the area. This is definitely a convenient spot for many of us to get some climbing in, but does this beautiful area (home, certainly, to some of our rare Appalachian wildflowers, etc.) exist solely for our entertainment?
Although I see your point, the state park determined that there was not a need for a long term closure of the area after assessing the fire impacts. As the land managers they ultimately make the call. Once Spring and Summer kick in climbers will move on to other areas and the forest will get to regrowing again, so there's a built-in period during the plant growth season when climber (and hiker and others) impacts are minimal. That should get things in good shape for next Fall and the return of good conditions at Rumbling Bald for climbers.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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