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Pilot Mountain's Big Pinnacle - Petition to open for climbing access

Original Post
Jeremy Stotz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2019 · Points: 1

I have seen beauty beyond compare, a 150' quartzite Monadnock begging to be climbed yet imprisoned behind dishonest Eco-terrorists' legislation.

Jokes aside, this does seem to be a waste of what could be a mecca for southern climbing. Big Pinnacle, THE Pilot Mountain, has been closed to the public since the 1970's and climbers have been relegated to some dainty cliffs off to the side.

I don't believe big pinnacle is actually closed primarily for ecological concerns; I think it's closed because park staff in the 70's didn't feel like maintaining a staircase and were tired of people falling off.

I'm curious to see how much interest this topic generates. I know nothing about petitioning.

1. Where does the authority come from to keep Pilot Mountain closed to climbing and make violation of such a misdemeanor?

2. Is there a specific written law, or is it a park policy that just defines it as trespassing?

3. Who has the authority to overturn this decision?

4. How many climbers are interested in working toward this goal, and what can we do?


(picture from https://thedyrt.com/magazine/local/pilot-mountain-state-park-camping/)
Malachi Constant · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 5

There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.

If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

Keith Wood · · Elko, NV · Joined May 2019 · Points: 320

Get with the Carolina Climbers Coalition. They've been very successful opening other areas, including Chimney Rock State Park.They may even be working with Pilot Mountain already behind the scenes.

No reason to reinvent the wheel.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

If the internets are to be trusted, "Carolina Climber's Coalition" is well aware of this.
They even have entry on their website addressing the issue -  Pilot Mountain Big Pinnacle

The bottom line is that we see this as a particularly important ecological feature that is worthy of protection, and at only four acres, it is a small price to pay to ensure the protection of one of the Piedmont's most ecologically unique sites. I can only say that having climbed in other parts of the country where the relationship between land managers and the climbing community was not good, I think that we have enjoyed an enviable relationship as we have worked to resolve our issues. So, here's hoping that the climbing community will understand our position on this and will continue to work with us on conservation issues.
Carolina · · Front Range NC · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 70

Isn't rock climbing at pilot mountain already enough of a shitshow?  Why spread the chaos any further.   

Keith Wood · · Elko, NV · Joined May 2019 · Points: 320
amarius wrote: If the internets are to be trusted, Carolina Climber's Coalition is well aware of this.
They even have entry of their website addressing the issue -  Pilot Mountain Big Pinnacle

That's a well written, informative, and thoughtful piece. I agree with the standpoint of preserving it.

Mark Paulson · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 141

Day hikers probably outnumber climbers 10-to-1 at Pilot. Any climber who decides to reconnoiter the Pinnacle trail will likely return from the loop with tears in their eyes, as the quantity, quality, and variety of the rock is staggering (especially in contrast with the small amount of cliffline we’re currently allowed to climb). Add to that the 360° nature of the formation (meaning year-round sun/shade) and you’ll understand why Porter Jarrard once called it the best crag in the south.

But then, we all know there’s no way you could never successfully manage climbing on a geologically significant feature with sensitive access issues...

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 521
Jeremy Stotz wrote:
1. Where does the authority come from to keep Pilot Mountain closed to climbing and make violation of such a misdemeanor?

2. Is there a specific written law, or is it a park policy that just defines it as trespassing?

3. Who has the authority to overturn this decision?

4. How many climbers are interested in working toward this goal, and what can we do?

The prohibition on climbing the pinnacle is a regulatory decision made by the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural resources. The agency’s regulatory authority over the land in the parks is granted by statute, passed by the legislature. See generally, N.C. Gen. Stat. Ch. 143B, Art. 2, Part 38.

Midemeanors are crimes in North Carolina, and except for a few old common law crimes, are defined by statute. I’m not sure what provision specifically governs climbing on Pilot, but I suspect it’s a general provision that makes it a misdemeanor to violate a class of agency regulations. So the agency could change the regulation, and remove the conduct, without the legislature needing to amend the statute. But that’s just a hunch. If you have a copy of a citation, I could look up the provision that governs it.

If you want the regulation changed, there are two possible authorities to approach. The first is the agency, and the CCC has experience working with them. You’d be best suited speaking to the CCC about how the process works.

You can also go over the heads of the agency, to your legislator. If you can persuade legislators to pass a law opening the pinnacle to climbing (and the governor doesn’t veto it), the agency‘s hands will be tied.

 

As to your last question, I’m not interested in changing this. There’s plenty of local climbing, and the pinnacle is a low priority. 


Edit: Here’s the agency rule: 07 NCAC 13B .0204  Here’s the permitting requirement for climbing: 07 NCAC 13B .0104 The enforcement mechanism is likely either a simple trespass charge, or a statutory charge related to violating the permitting requirement. I’m not sure.

Edit 2: It is a class 3 misdemeanor to violate the “rules governing the use by the public of State parks.” N.C.Gen. Stat. § 143B-135.6.
Sean Cobourn · · Gramling, SC · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 3,122

The state park's eloquent explanation for why Big Pinnacle is closed is simply an elaborate cover up of the truth.  A government conspiracy of the highest magnitude !  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explained it well in his 1912 non-fiction book The Lost World.  While Doyle set his story in Venezuela, those in the know realized the the real place is is actually rural NC !  The plot of the book revolves around the exploration of a plateau inhabited by cannibals, dinosaurs, carnivorous plants, and giant spiders. Climbers beware!   CCC do not get involved !!  Big Pinnacle is best left alone.  You have been warned....

Benandstuff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 570

Climbing in NC isn't at a point where we could responsibly open the big pinnacle. Just look at how Pilot ends up where it is currently open- the base and tops of climbs are both a mess, with numerous social trails, extremely compacted soil, and dead plants. I feel like every time I make it back out there another tree is missing or a new social trail (partially hiker's fault). And this isn't people not practicing LNT- Pilot is actually really clean. I rarely see trash or unburied shit or cheater stacks or whatever else. As the new climber crag, it just gets so much traffic it would be very hard to keep the base of the big pinnacle from eroding away.

To combat this we'd need to make efforts like they have elsewhere to keep erosion from happening- boardwalks or rock-protected bases of climbs, strict rules against topping out or top access, rules against dogs and hammocks, things like these. So it's not impossible! One day it could be open! But what the park would probably like to see is such changes made to the cliffline first, to see if climbers could actually obey these rules. Which would be hard. The CCC is really aggressive and proactive about opening access to places. If they see an opportunity to open big pinnacle long term, I'm sure they'll work toward it.

ALSO: it just isn't high priority! It really isn't a ton of climbing area when compared to Sauratown, Moore's Wall, and Cook's Wall, all of which have higher priority and easier to tackle access issues. And among those crags, you will always have a good aspect for whatever season you want. There are probably 10-20 good, solid climbs on the big pinnacle, and 10-20 more decent climbs. There's a lot of choss too, if you haven't noticed. It's not the end of the world.

Gumby King · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25
Carolina wrote: Isn't rock climbing at pilot mountain already enough of a shitshow?  

YES! and I agree with Benandstuff.  We're lucky to have Pilot as a climbing option.


Climbers are lucky to have Pilot as a local crag especially with the number of injuries happening there each year.  Its already a cluster fuck with hikers and climbers sharing the trail at the base of the cliff.  Hikers have to walk under belayers, belayers have to navigate around hikers, etc.

Climbing the Pilot would be sweet.  But even the state park doesnt have ample parking for All users (I think they are expanding the parking lot?).  If the Pilot was opened to climbing it probably would invite more climbers but it would like cause some form of conflict with other recreation users as well.

I can't believe I might be in support of keeping one climbing area closed...  but mostly I fear climbers could lose it all at Pilot.   

Joshua McDaniel · · Fayetteville, NC · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 35
Sean Cobourn wrote: The state park's eloquent explanation for why Big Pinnacle is closed is simply an elaborate cover up of the truth.  A government conspiracy of the highest magnitude !  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explained it well in his 1912 non-fiction book The Lost World.  While Doyle set his story in Venezuela, those in the know realized the the real place is is actually rural NC !  The plot of the book revolves around the exploration of a plateau inhabited by cannibals, dinosaurs, carnivorous plants, and giant spiders. Climbers beware!   CCC do not get involved !!  Big Pinnacle is best left alone.  You have been warned....
This is fantastic.
Andrew AJ Jackson · · Greensboro · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 1

Good timing for this thread, here's a little Pilot PSA. The old Grindstone Trail has been moved several hundred feet away from the climbing area to help prevent the far too common problem of people throwing rocks, sticks and small trees off of the cliff. In addition they are trying to re-establish rare plant life along the cliff's edge by reducing climber/ hiking impact there. Good news is, climbers will be the only user group allowed access to the cliff's edge by way of new access trail that will connect the new Grindstone Trail to the cliff line. In the coming weeks, you will have to be a permitted climber to access that area for top rope access only. Lead climbers  will be able to hike the new Grindstone Trail down to a newly  created climber access trail that will connect us to  the Three Bears Gully, that has been rough cut and will likely be improved during  an upcoming December Trail day. We will also be helping the park brush in the large network of social trails along the top of the cliff, seeding the old Grindstone Trail and installing fencing to prevent access to the most eroded areas. The park is very committed to having a good balance of climbing access and strong stewardship of the lands they manage. The rarest plant life in the park exists on top of the Pinnacle and along the top of the climbing cliffs, they're hope in making these changes is that the seed bank in the soil will reestablish more of the rare plant life that once existed. A couple of months ago they reached out to the CCC for help in designing the access trails and to ensure that the climbing community would have continued top rope access to the ever so popular Pilot Mountain cliffs. There is a lot that needs to be done on the upcoming Trail day, so good turnout is imperative, a date will be announced in the coming days.

In other local news, a recent Access Fund Grant will fund 70 stainless power bolts, 15 anchors, 50 or so hangers and drill bits for continued rebolting at Sauratown and Cooks wall. Send them lots of  $$Love$$!! Sauratown opens December 1st, my batteries are being charged.

Austin Goff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 98

Pilot and North Carolina are not in the Midwest and Porter wasnt talking about the pinnacle at this pilot mountain.....

Jeremy Stotz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2019 · Points: 1
Austin Goff wrote: Pilot and North Carolina are not in the Midwest and Porter wasnt talking about the pinnacle at this pilot mountain.....

You're right. Forgot which part of the country I was in. Corrected post.

Jeremy Stotz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2019 · Points: 1
Carolina wrote: Isn't rock climbing at pilot mountain already enough of a shitshow?  Why spread the chaos any further.   

The number of likes for your comment surprises me; I had figured that climbers, however few, would overwhelmingly support opening Pilot. However, I don't exactly know how to counter your argument because, I admit, I don't actually know what you mean by 'shitshow' nor its ensuing chaos. I've only been to Pilot twice as I recall (though both experiences left a strong impression).

Are you referring to Benandstuff's, "social trails, extremely compacted soil, and dead plants"?

My response is that trails are inherently social structures, and they are, nearly by definition, compacted soil and dead plants. These aren't necessarily climbing issues as much as hiking and overuse issues, if indeed these effects are so widespread to be considered 'issues' at all. Again, in my limited visits I didn't see anything at Pilot's lower cliff that struck me as out of the ordinary.

Perhaps you were referring to the dangers of "people throwing rocks, sticks and small trees off of the cliff", as Andrew AJ Jackson point out?
My response would be that these are concerns wherever amateur hikers have easy access to the top-side cliffs, and that this would be far less of a concern on the big pinnacle.(I'm not advocating for the restoration of a staircase)

My best guess is that by 'shitshow', you were referring to the degree of intermingling between hikers and climbers. This definitely WOULD happen if big pinnacle were to be opened to climbing, probably even more than it happens at the dainty side cliffs. My response is, the more the merrier. Put up a sign that warns the hikers, "climbers above and falling rocks". It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. -Bilbo Baggins

A girl last weekend took 3 steps toward the rock wall, stepped on a rock wrong and broke her foot. Had to be hoisted up to the top; evacuations from the base of Big Pinnacle would be comparatively straight-forward. I did find it strange to hear Rangers and Search & Rescue(god bless them both) refer to it as a "climbing injury".
Brian Payst · · Carrboro,NC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 10

I had numerous conversations with the park about the big pinnacle over my time on the CCC board. The last one was probably less than a year ago. The article linked on the CCC web site was written by a state park biologist who is also a climber and remains the park’s position. I don’t see that changing anytime soon or longer than soon. It’s not news to the park that people want to climb on the pinnacle. 
It’s important to note that the rangers at Pilot have been incredibly climber friendly and remain great partners for the community. They balance a number of different user groups and their wants and desires and do it with limited resources at one of the most heavily visited state parks in NC (Pilot gets 2 x or more visitors than nearby Hanging Rock). As an example of their partnership, there are rare plant communities in the open climbing area (I’ve had the superintendent show then to me), but they are willing to work with climbers to evaluate areas on a case-by-case basis rather than just opting for broad closures. That may not seem like much, but if you have worked with land managers you’d know it’s very good thing and not as common as we would hope. 

Joshua McDaniel · · Fayetteville, NC · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 35
Brian Payst wrote: ...
It’s important to note that the rangers at Pilot have been incredibly climber friendly and remain great partners for the community. They balance a number of different user groups and their wants and desires and do it with limited resources at one of the most heavily visited state parks in NC (Pilot gets 2 x or more visitors than nearby Hanging Rock). As an example of their partnership, there are rare plant communities in the open climbing area (I’ve had the superintendent show then to me), but they are willing to work with climbers to evaluate areas on a case-by-case basis rather than just opting for broad closures...

Benandstuff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 570
Jeremy Stotz wrote:

The number of likes for your comment surprises me; I had figured that climbers, however few, would overwhelmingly support opening Pilot...

The sheer number of people using the land is the main problem. The fact that you thought the scene was ordinary is very telling of the issues climbing is dealing with nationwide. Refer to the Access Fund's climbing areas in crisis article to see how simple overuse can hurt areas: accessfund.org/open-gate-bl…;

Most of these areas are being used responsibly in the traditional sense. But more and more people are using them, and simply walking from route to route has an impact. The fact that people spread their stuff out and spend a long time at each area is another reason it is so bad. A more sustainable climbing plan for Pilot would probably be to keep large groups of topropers to certain areas and use belay platforms or other erosion/spread limiting surfaces with limited occupancy for other spots (for an example see accessfund.org/uploads/Denn… ) . And then have people to police the use. But it would take a lot of resources and manpower for something not guaranteed to work, for a relatively small amount of climbing routes. I think there are other more pressing issues we need to devote our time and money towards.
Carolina · · Front Range NC · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 70
Jeremy Stotz wrote:

The number of likes for your comment surprises me; I had figured that climbers, however few, would overwhelmingly support opening Pilot. However, I don't exactly know how to counter your argument because, I admit, I don't actually know what you mean by 'shitshow' nor its ensuing chaos. I've only been to Pilot twice as I recall (though both experiences left a strong impression).

Are you referring to Benandstuff's, "social trails, extremely compacted soil, and dead plants"?

My response is that trails are inherently social structures, and they are, nearly by definition, compacted soil and dead plants. These aren't necessarily climbing issues as much as hiking and overuse issues, if indeed these effects are so widespread to be considered 'issues' at all. Again, in my limited visits I didn't see anything at Pilot's lower cliff that struck me as out of the ordinary.

Perhaps you were referring to the dangers of "people throwing rocks, sticks and small trees off of the cliff", as Andrew AJ Jackson point out?
My response would be that these are concerns wherever amateur hikers have easy access to the top-side cliffs, and that this would be far less of a concern on the big pinnacle.(I'm not advocating for the restoration of a staircase)

My best guess is that by 'shitshow', you were referring to the degree of intermingling between hikers and climbers. This definitely WOULD happen if big pinnacle were to be opened to climbing, probably even more than it happens at the dainty side cliffs. My response is, the more the merrier. Put up a sign that warns the hikers, "climbers above and falling rocks". It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. -Bilbo Baggins

A girl last weekend took 3 steps toward the rock wall, stepped on a rock wrong and broke her foot. Had to be hoisted up to the top; evacuations from the base of Big Pinnacle would be comparatively straight-forward. I did find it strange to hear Rangers and Search & Rescue(god bless them both) refer to it as a "climbing injury".

What is a shit show? and what does one shit show look like.  Well many have tried but none can describe.  You'll know it when you see it.


However it light of the recent discussion I have copied a recent trip report from the big pinnacle off my instafacespace blog page.  Some of the names and details have been omitted to protect the innocent.

It was a warm fall Saturday, and I was just getting over an appendix surgery.  The doctor had told me to take it easy, so we did the natural thing, grabbed our ultralight BD cams and went craggin at the pilot mountain.  We arrived early at 11am, and the parking lot was almost full.  Park rangers were on site to monitor the situation.  We had planned on getting in some easy warm-ups, so we racked up and hit the grindstone tail.  Somewhere between the disco rave at three bears gully and the new in-formal dog park at the amphitheater we got offtrail.  At one point my partner spotted a stack of rocks, a cairn, and we felt better knowing we were going the right way. But upon further investigation we discovered the stack of rocks was actually concealing someones excrement. We donned some purell and hit the trail again.   After bushwhacking through crashpads and backpacks for hours and crawling through the mess of ropes that hung from the cliffside like vines in the jungle, we finally arrived at Black Rain 5.9 our target for the day.  We qued up for the climb and while waiting overhead a group from boulder telling someone they know where all the best belays are at pilot, despite being first time visitors.   Maybe it was the warm weather or the smell of refer and spray on sunscreen but I started to feel a little nausea.  Combined with all the shirtless bros and broritas around I lost my focus.  With all the naked bodies, we felt like we were at the beach, the Piedmont stretching out below us like an endless ocean.   After queuing up and then pumping out on blackrain, we decided to climb one more and headed down the trail.  Along the way we answered all the tourons questions.  "how ya'll get them thumbtacks up thar?"  "Do it hurt when you put ya fingers in them loops"?  " Wherd you lern ta do that?"    Upon topping out at the parking lot area, I scared a group of visitors that had gathered at the cliffs edge.  They were spreading the ashes of a loved one, and just so happened to spread them as my second began climbing.  He arrived at the top a little dusty and asked how I "managed to dump that much chalk on him?"  All in all, it was a good day for us. 
amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Carolina wrote: It was a warm fall Saturday, and I was just getting over an appendix surgery.  The doctor had told me to take it easy, so we did the natural thing, grabbed our ultralight BD cams and went craggin at the pilot mountain.  We arrived early at 11am, and the parking lot was almost full.  Park rangers were on site to monitor the situation.  We had planned on getting in some easy warm-ups, so we racked up and hit the grindstone tail.  Somewhere between the disco rave at three bears gully and the new in-formal dog park at the amphitheater we got offtrail.  At one point my partner spotted a stack of rocks, a cairn, and we felt better knowing we were going the right way. But upon further investigation we discovered the stack of rocks was actually concealing someones excrement. We donned some purell and hit the trail again.   After bushwhacking through crashpads and backpacks for hours and crawling through the mess of ropes that hung from the cliffside like vines in the jungle, we finally arrived at Black Rain 5.9 our target for the day.  We qued up for the climb and while waiting overhead a group from boulder telling someone they know where all the best belays are at pilot, despite being first time visitors.   Maybe it was the warm weather or the smell of refer and spray on sunscreen but I started to feel a little nausea.  Combined with all the shirtless bros and broritas around I lost my focus.  With all the naked bodies, we felt like we were at the beach, the Piedmont stretching out below us like an endless ocean.   After queuing up and then pumping out on blackrain, we decided to climb one more and headed down the trail.  Along the way we answered all the tourons questions.  "how ya'll get them thumbtacks up thar?"  "Do it hurt when you put ya fingers in them loops"?  " Wherd you lern ta do that?"    Upon topping out at the parking lot area, I scared a group of visitors that had gathered at the cliffs edge.  They were spreading the ashes of a loved one, and just so happened to spread them as my second began climbing.  He arrived at the top a little dusty and asked how I "managed to dump that much chalk on him?"  All in all, it was a good day for us. 

This sounds like a rejected essay for the John Long writing retreat.

The whole writeup is quite fun, and I find this phrase "we arrived early at 11am and the parking lot was almost full" truly hilarious. Not that the parking lot is almost full, but that a self professed expert trying to get easy warmp-ups shows up at gumby hour and complains about there being too many gumbies around.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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