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Climbing in Big South Fork
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Sep 7, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The top of Bedtime for Bonzo
I am planning a seven day trip to Big South Fork to explore and hopefully get some FA's. Anyone with any information that could help including promising areas that have yet to be explored, areas not to visit, park rules regarding climbing exploration, etc. please contact me! Dustin Kisner
From Cincinnati, OH
Joined Sep 27, 2015
30 points
Sep 9, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Prusik Peak summit
I climbed at BSF a couple weeks ago. There's enough walls there to put RRG to shame, the thing is that they're hard to get to and many sections are very chossy. I'd recommend starting at the O&W bridge, that whole area is surrounded by some of the biggest walls in BSF. Get a back-country permit and camp out there. The rangers at BSF know little to nothing (unless the Obed rangers are there) about climbing, so don't expect much direction from them. They are looking to expand the climbing in BSF, but there's bolting moratorium so you'll need permission to place any bolts.

Have fun and enjoy the seclusion of BSF!
Bryce Bentz
From Gatlinburg, TN
Joined Apr 10, 2016
6 points
Sep 9, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Superfunhappytime!
Dustin, I climbed a lot in the Blue Heron area of the BSF years ago. There is still much to be done there. If you are looking for a virgin wall, just cross the river on the bridge and head left (and uphill) to the obvious wall. Bring a brush, there is a fine grey lichen on much of the surface that adds a graphite-like feel to the holds. Good luck on your hunt. There is about 200 miles of cliff line in the BSF (or so I've been told). Ian McAlexander
Joined Oct 31, 2007
134 points
Sep 11, 2016
I was just out there today exploring for new routes myself. I've been exploring mainly on the river trail east from leatherwood ford to station camp. there is an incredible amount of rock! I have found that a lot of the rock isn't great for gear routes. There are good lines to be found, but they usually aren't clustered closely together. The good news is I have never failed to find an abundance of rock. Just hike up from the river and you will find a cliff. Boulders are a good sign of rock above. The dixie cragger has some good info on how to get to walls that have been explored. Good luck! BSF is amazing paul.adams.3
From Knoxville, TN
Joined Sep 14, 2012
33 points
Sep 12, 2016
Ian McAlexander wrote:
Dustin, I climbed a lot in the Blue Heron area of the BSF years ago. There is still much to be done there. If you are looking for a virgin wall, just cross the river on the bridge and head left (and uphill) to the obvious wall. Bring a brush, there is a fine grey lichen on much of the surface that adds a graphite-like feel to the holds. Good luck on your hunt. There is about 200 miles of cliff line in the BSF (or so I've been told).


Back in the late '80s the AJC ran an article on 'under utilized' NPS units in the SE, and mentioned that BSF had 'miles and miles of cliffs.' Huh, I thought, gotta check this out, especially since every summer I drove up I-75 from ATL to Michigan. Went poking around in '89 on my annual MI trip, ran into a river guide who had helped develop Starr Mt. He estimated that BSF had the potential for 100k routes. From what I saw, I knew there was a s**tload, and even if he was off an order of magnitude--and he wasn't--it was going to be the next big thing.
Just nobody lives around there, Nofsinger has been whittling away at it for twenty years or more, but there is just too much damn rock for one guy to make a dent. And I'd have to drive past Chatta and all that other sandstone to get there, and it wasn't worth it. Still tons of stone down around Chatta to be developed.

So go forth, a great example that there is still lots of stuff that us old farts never got to. As to the reference above across the river from Blue Heron, I poked around there, too. Up the hill south on the west side of the bridge there is a crack--imagine standing under a ~60' radius basketball, with a perfect handcrack running up the underside (the rock is even orange). There ya go. Lots of stuff above the RR to the N as well.
Jim Corbett
Joined Sep 19, 2008
15 points
Sep 14, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The FA of Return of Manimal.
Lots of rock in BSF, I did bunch FAs there in the early 90s. Most of which are undocumented and approachs are very long. We would go in winter and use mtn bikes to explore and do routes way of the beaten path! Tim Powers
From Indiana
Joined Jun 13, 2009
25 points
Sep 15, 2016
Tim, that's awesome! My buddy and I ended up riding bikes in as well, so we called our route Tennessee Triathalon - bike, hike, and climb. Riding a mountain bike with a rope and a rack - not the easiest thing! paul.adams.3
From Knoxville, TN
Joined Sep 14, 2012
33 points
Sep 15, 2016
or...canoe, paddle, camp, climb...repeat. boo
From Estes Park
Joined Jun 9, 2008
47 points
Sep 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Myself on Golden Showers
I've never been to this area, but it looks promising! In addition to the walls, are there any promising boulders in the area? Enough to be worth visting and exploring? Lohan
From Young Harris, GA
Joined May 8, 2014
215 points
Sep 16, 2016
there are a lot of boulders, but they are usually spread out from what i've seen. kind of the same for looking for routes - just head up hill and you'll probably find something. whether it's worth your time or not, i don't know - depends how much you like exploring. royal blue isn't far away, and it's supposed to be the new spot for bouldering paul.adams.3
From Knoxville, TN
Joined Sep 14, 2012
33 points
Sep 22, 2016
I got taken there once when I was a n00b. Amazing place, for sure. One thing I remember was that we went on this access trail up a steep incline and there were no switchbacks whatsoever. I nearly died just trekking up. Then, we go to the area (I forget which wall it was) and I was shown the three or four routes established on a wall that could have held dozens. Then, we bushwhacked through some massive Rhododendron thickets and came out under one of the most awesome overhanging amphitheatre-shaped walls I could have imagined. We walked through, spying route after route of too-hard-for me climbing. When we came to the end of that section, we continued and....there was another one! And after that, yet another.... It was almost incomprehensible. the amount of rock out there. Happiegrrrl
From Gunks
Joined Dec 23, 2005
60 points
Sep 23, 2016
I did a recon trip last winter and there is tremendous FA possibilities (as mentioned above). I have plans to head back this winter to climb and document some of the routes and post on MP. Stayed at the Bandy Creek Campground. There is tremendous potential heading North along the river. Take pictures, notes and share with us your new lines. Grant Gibson
From Cincinnati, OH
Joined Jan 14, 2011
33 points
Sep 23, 2016
Just to throw this out there in case any potential FA'er isn't aware, the ethic in that area is ground up. As I recall power drills are not allowed so plan accordingly. Tipton
Joined Jun 22, 2010
23 points
Sep 23, 2016
Grant Gibson wrote:
I did a recon trip last winter and there is tremendous FA possibilities (as mentioned above). I have plans to head back this winter to climb and document some of the routes and post on MP. Stayed at the Bandy Creek Campground. There is tremendous potential heading North along the river. Take pictures, notes and share with us your new lines.


Please don't. That area you described had been climbed by multiple groups from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. Most any route that goes on gear and doesn't require bolts to get down has been climbed in that area... Hell one of the most classic bsf splitters is in that area. People come, climb, leave little trace, respect the adventure of the area by not posting it online, and move on to the next area.

This is one of the few places that hasn't been reduced to gym climber status and it should definitely be protected... Even if your ego has to suffer by not getting credit for a route on mp, the people who have climbed for decades before you understood that and the core group of active climbers in the area still see the adventure as something worth protecting. The recent posting of routes on mountain project has been crediting fa's of routes to folks who have no knowledge of the history here, specifically that the routes they posted were originally climbed in the early 90's by a group from Charlotte.

Keep in mind when climbing here... If you can walk to it easily it has most likely been climbed. Routes here seldom get cleaned much, you get used to climbing around the choss. The area reclaims routes and boulders super, super, quickly. The ethic here is ground up. As of right now, there is no bolting here.

Lots of groups have climbed here over nearly four decades... Several hundred routes have been done here by people who for the most part prefer to stay under the radar but would love to show you around if you meet up with them. Good luck, happy adventuring and I hope you all enjoy what is so very special about the area.
Leftwich
Joined Oct 28, 2009
40 points
Sep 24, 2016
It is interesting how I make no mention of bolting but yet the two posts following my post instruct me not to bolt. I have NO desire, need or want to bolt any routes in BSF whethere they could be FA or not.

I respect the fact BSF is still a place to get away from the overcrowding at RRG hence why I only climb at RRG during the winter.

But, I did think more about Leftwich's post about not posting the routes I climb. I do agree, keeping it off MP is smart because unlike most I consider myself a purist since I dont use chalk ever, I am actually a leave no trace trainer and value what small slices of non internet beta adventure we have left in the US. RRG is a prime example of overcrowding with folks who dont care. Not saying all who climb at RRG dont care but the percentage of people who dont care ruin the experience for other climbers young and old.


Grant Gibson
From Cincinnati, OH
Joined Jan 14, 2011
33 points
Sep 26, 2016
Its cool. I like how folks are very upfront with BSF and how new lines should stick with the local ground up ethic. People should be passionate about areas like BSF because otherwise they will eventually fall victim to the percentage of folks who don't care about or respect climbing experiences for future generations. Grant Gibson
From Cincinnati, OH
Joined Jan 14, 2011
33 points
Sep 27, 2016
Leftwich wrote:
Please don't. That area you described had been climbed by multiple groups from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. Most any route that goes on gear and doesn't require bolts to get down has been climbed in that area... Hell one of the most classic bsf splitters is in that area. People come, climb, leave little trace, respect the adventure of the area by not posting it online, and move on to the next area. This is one of the few places that hasn't been reduced to gym climber status and it should definitely be protected... Even if your ego has to suffer by not getting credit for a route on mp, the people who have climbed for decades before you understood that and the core group of active climbers in the area still see the adventure as something worth protecting. The recent posting of routes on mountain project has been crediting fa's of routes to folks who have no knowledge of the history here, specifically that the routes they posted were originally climbed in the early 90's by a group from Charlotte. Keep in mind when climbing here... If you can walk to it easily it has most likely been climbed. Routes here seldom get cleaned much, you get used to climbing around the choss. The area reclaims routes and boulders super, super, quickly. The ethic here is ground up. As of right now, there is no bolting here. Lots of groups have climbed here over nearly four decades... Several hundred routes have been done here by people who for the most part prefer to stay under the radar but would love to show you around if you meet up with them. Good luck, happy adventuring and I hope you all enjoy what is so very special about the area.


Disagree. Wow leftwich, your comment reeks of exclusivism when it comes to BSF climbing. Should we now begin consulting you or this mysterious "core group of climbers" before climbing at BSF? It's clear in your post that the area means a lot to you and you are passionate about protecting it, and I certainly am too, so I think we're on the same page here. My concern, however, is that when an area is deliberately kept so secret it becomes liable to being potentially damaged by “those that don’t care.” How can we expect new climbers, or those of us not in this secret club, to respect the ethics and tradition if they cannot find any information on the area? Your solution to this was, if only by sheer luck, we happen to meet one of these early climbers and then they show us around, but I think we can do better than that so everyone has the opportunity to fully enjoy BSF climbing.

Respecting the adventure of the BSF is an ideal proposition that I agree with, but claiming that posting new routes online somehow goes against this ideal is false. For starters, the approach to most of the climbing at BSF is substantial, and this alone has kept crowds away for years! It seems the key to the conservation of any area is striking the difficult balance between the publication of an area and strict ethics/tradition. With no public knowledge of the climbing, an area runs the risk of potentially losing future access by way of development or other local interests. With no publicized strict ethics, an area runs the risk of becoming over-crowded, loud, and anything but adventurous. Laurel Knob, in North Carolina, is one great example of this balance. Because it was eventually made public, climbers from all over the SE had the opportunity to fall in love with the 1000’ granite cliff, and when access became an issue later, climbers far and wide made every effort to protect it, eventually purchasing the entire cliff!

What if a history of some of the agreed upon ethics of BSF be informally published on the BSF MountainProject page? Does anyone know the status of the climbing management plan?

I think we can all agree on one thing: BSF is wild and provides true adventure climbing and it's these characteristics of BSF that should ultimately be protected.
khowe
From Knoxville, TN
Joined May 13, 2013
1,385 points
Sep 27, 2016
khowe wrote:
Disagree. Wow leftwich, your comment reeks of exclusivism when it comes to BSF climbing. Should we now begin consulting you or this mysterious "core group of climbers" before climbing at BSF?


That is in no way what I implied. What I meant was that a lot of people come for a weekend once or twice, have mostly great experiences and move on. A much smaller group climbs here weekend after weekend, year after year. Both experiences are equally important, but one group does more new routes than the other... no exclusion, no secrets, no need to be consulted, but just by amount of time in the area have more of a handle on the history and ethic. If I had referenced the core group of climbers at Ijams and then name checked Kelly, Benji and crew would it have been any different? Some people climb at certain areas more than others and as a result end up having more experience and information in that area.

As far as me being exclusive, I sent private messages to several people in this thread inviting them to my house for beers and info when they're in the area and offering to swap belays or go scouting together... An offer, that if I am not mistaken, that I made to you at the Obed one day a few years ago when we discussed climbing at Devils racetrack, Breaks ISP, and the BSF.

When I started climbing in the BSF I did exactly as you suggested in a tone that made it sound preposterous... I contacted the folks who had been here before me and asked them if I could tag along. No happen stance, no sheer luck, just a couple of emails and I was welcomed, an offer I would gladly extend to anyone else. I learned to hand drill and go ground up from Noff and the NC boys and learned to respect style. I believe that's how it should be passed down... through personal interactions and not color photos on the internet. I think that would detract from the experiences that are available here.

My goal in my previous post was to let folks know that the resource is not some cherry for the picking as it has been implied... it has a rich history that goes back decades and tons of routes that have been done. It is a place where you can have a ground up FA experience on a route that 5 other people have had the same experience on... but if you post it on line, no one else can have that same experience of launching into the unknown again because you claimed it for yourself.

I also think you are right about posting some type of abridged history including previous climbers ethics in the area... If you want to work on this with me I would be happy to do so and can be contacted through here. Happy adventures.
Leftwich
Joined Oct 28, 2009
40 points
Sep 27, 2016
Khowe,

No one is asking anybody to consult anybody about climbing at BSF. It's a National Recreation Area, and it's already open to climbing. It's not a secret. There are no access issues now, because there are not hoards of hundreds or thousands of climbers reading route descriptions, and following hiking instructions to get to the published crags. There has been a guidebook out on the area for many years, and it details the ethics very clearly. To imply that without the ethics and route descriptions written down for all to see on the trailhead signs, would send the area into total ethics chaos, and over development, says something about the way a lot of new climbers think. The ethics are out of control at a lot of other climbing areas, because of too many climbers. The BSF is not a climbing gym. I have asked the moderator to put something on the BSF page about the ethics so everyone will know. The ethics are not a secret.

The ethics of the BSF have always been ground up, and hand drilling. That in itself keeps the adventure level high, and preserves the rock for future adventure climbers. Not the entitled "show us all your rock climbers". There have recently been two climbing management meetings. They went very well. The rangers there, and at the Obed are great. We are trying to strike the balance as you say, between climber and the resource, which is a limited amount of rock. Do we really want every nook and crannie of the BSF published? Where is the adventure then?

People climb there because they want to be out in the woods without other climbers around them. That's why they hike deep into the interior of the park, to find solitude. They are not obligated to publish anything for other climbers. If you want adventure, get a map, grab a compass, leave the GPS at home, and get out there like the early climbers did. That's where the adventure is. Not on a website, waiting to be printed off by anyone with a computer and a chalk bag.
NOFF
From Big South Fork, TN
Joined Jul 30, 2009
20 points
Sep 28, 2016
Leftwich wrote:
My goal in my previous post was to let folks know that the resource is not some cherry for the picking as it has been implied...


Appreciate the response. Like I said, I do think we're on the same page about most of this, although we may be talking past each other at this point. It sounds like you do have a wealth of experience and knowledge of the area, much more than myself, and my suggestion in the first post was to publicize this knowledge, the ethics/traditions, at least some of it, rather than expecting others to follow hidden rules they never knew existed, e.g. not posting BSF routes to MP.

As far as the conversation at the obed, I am not sure who you actually are, so I can't confirm this.

I agree with you that, from your perspective, BSF is not some cherry for the picking, but with so little publicized info and so much damn rock, it certainly appears that way to the general climber. BSF is not a roadside crag, it's all quite committing, so any climber that bushwhacks in a few miles and puts up a route, and sees zero evidence of a previous ascent, is totally justified to think that it could be some kind of a FA. Some of the new routes posted were more placeholders than direct claims, one of the guys even commented that they posted them for others to enjoy and provide the original FA an opportunity to document their ascent, if he/she desires.

I PM'd you. I'd be stoked to grab a beer and continue the conversation or just go climb.
khowe
From Knoxville, TN
Joined May 13, 2013
1,385 points
Sep 28, 2016
NOFF wrote:
If you want adventure, get a map, grab a compass, leave the GPS at home, and get out there like the early climbers did. That's where the adventure is. Not on a website, waiting to be printed off by anyone with a computer and a chalk bag.


I agree the ground up ethics, etc are very clear for the BSF, but what about this ethic I quoted? This ethic of "not on a website" is something I haven't read anywhere. The ethic of getting a map and getting out there is exactly what I've done, so I whole-heartedly agree with you there. This presumed ethic, however, of not publicizing it on MP is not public knowledge as far as I know. Should it be? I don't know, it seems like it could be a grey area. Noff, you're a badass climber and I admire the years of work you've put into BSF and the current climbing management plan. My main point was if we, as a climbing community, new and old, don't want others posting on MP, this ethic should be made public so others can respect it, otherwise, more climbers will likely continue to post their climbs on MP.
khowe
From Knoxville, TN
Joined May 13, 2013
1,385 points
Sep 28, 2016
Khowe,

You've asked a great question. Should information be put on MP? I really can't answer that. I could see it getting out of control, but also know that some info does help visiting climbers. I do know that nobody wants to be the internet police. I'm certainly not going to be. This issue was never a problem back in the day. I guess time will tell.

I want everyone to know that they are very welcome at BSF. Anyone should feel free to contact me, and I'll be glad to help them out. I think the real fear of the regular climbers there, and a lot of them I've never even met, is that the BSF gets turned into a circus like a lot of other areas. That's when access problems start. So while people may perceive me and others as secretive, we are really trying to preserve access and the park itself, by keeping things under the radar a bit.

The BSF is a fantastic resource for southeastern climbers. There's not a whole lot of large undeveloped areas left. My goal is that I want climbers 50 years from now, when I'm dead and gone, to be able to go to the BSF and have the same type of experience I had. Hiking out into the forest, bushwhacking up a mountain, and finding a cliff that's seen little if any development. We have to think of the future climbers, and leave them the opportunity for their own BSF adventure. Once that's gone, it's gone forever.

BSF is obviously going through some growing pains, and maybe we should plan a meeting of climbers up there to answer some of these questions. I am willing to help out anyway I can.
NOFF
From Big South Fork, TN
Joined Jul 30, 2009
20 points
Sep 29, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Who makes the best rice?
NOFF wrote:
Khowe, You've asked a great question. Should information be put on MP? I really can't answer that. I could see it getting out of control, but also know that some info does help visiting climbers. I do know that nobody wants to be the internet police. I'm certainly not going to be. This issue was never a problem back in the day. I guess time will tell. I want everyone to know that they are very welcome at BSF. Anyone should feel free to contact me, and I'll be glad to help them out. I think the real fear of the regular climbers there, and a lot of them I've never even met, is that the BSF gets turned into a circus like a lot of other areas. That's when access problems start. So while people may perceive me and others as secretive, we are really trying to preserve access and the park itself, by keeping things under the radar a bit. The BSF is a fantastic resource for southeastern climbers. There's not a whole lot of large undeveloped areas left. My goal is that I want climbers 50 years from now, when I'm dead and gone, to be able to go to the BSF and have the same type of experience I had. Hiking out into the forest, bushwhacking up a mountain, and finding a cliff that's seen little if any development. We have to think of the future climbers, and leave them the opportunity for their own BSF adventure. Once that's gone, it's gone forever. BSF is obviously going through some growing pains, and maybe we should plan a meeting of climbers up there to answer some of these questions. I am willing to help out anyway I can.


This is one of the most sensible articulations of this philosophy (especially in the SE) that I have ever read. Every area does not warrant "the treatment". BSF is one of them. Keep it wild.
UncleBen
From Steele, AL
Joined Jan 12, 2007
1,809 points


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