I like local flavor. While you can probably get some of this info off rockclimbing.com or some other mega rock climbing website, I think local is the way to go and I want to showcase this great website. BooneBoulders.com
Red Lantern is most definitely a burly route that requires a little bit of lunacy to climb. It got its name from a very random rusted out red lantern near the start of the climb. I have no idea how it got there but I do wonder who brings an ancient lantern out to the middle of nowhere. Regardless of how it got there, I like the flavor that it brings the route.
To be open and honest I did not climb this route but instead relegated myself to photography duty while Wes and Ben climbed. The start of the route is pretty straight forward. There is a crack… and you climb it. The rock has a thin layer of loose lichen that makes stemming and smearing tricky but luckily it is not the black, crunchy, flakey lichen which would make this route a nightmare to send.
After about 40 feet of clean-ish crack climbing the burly nature of the route reveals itself. For the next 50 feet or so it is some off-width nastiness that runs horizontal as much as it does vertical.
I don’t know whether I consider Wes bold or crazy but he certainly can climb, so when he said that it blanked out for a bit I believed him. Not the type to back down from a challenge he aided the blanked out crux and continued to free climb to the closest thing that could be considered a belay station. Now it was Ben’s turn.
I’d like to say that Ben was able to free the crux on second but it was not to be. There was much thrash n’ dangling and quite a bit of huffing n’ puffing but in the end he made it up in one piece. There is a second pitch to Red Lantern but after the struggle up the first pitch it would have to wait for another day. Down was the only option but there was no way the two of them were going to leave gear behind to rappel off of. That left them with the always daunting task of down climbing on rotten rock.
After a great deal of time setting up, Ben lowered Wes as he cleared the route. When I say Wes cleared the route I do not mean he scrapped off some lichen and brushed away some dirt, I mean he blitzkrieged the entire down climb of rotten rock. Luckily I was quite a ways away because there were verifiable avalanches of toaster sized boulders raining down. It was quite the sight to be seen (and sound to be heard) as Wes declared war on the rock.
After they were back on terra firma I think it was agreed that Red Lantern was a little more than they bargained for but fun none the less.
I’m planning on making a trip to Ship Rock next weekend to climb the classic moderates Boardwalk (5.8) and Hindu Kush (5.8). I wanted to see if youtube had anything on the two routes before I went but came up empty. All was not lost though because I did find this awesome video of Castaway (5.12a) being sent.
Developing near virgin North Carolina rock can be described in one word: dirty. Lichen grows everywhere and every route literally has to be cleaned and cleared as you go. Luckily we came prepared and our rack included one of those steel bristled BBQ grill brushes to hopefully make easy work of a dirty job. But even with the right tool for the job it was still a hassle but we went there to climb and the hassles that come with untrodden territory were not going to put a damper on the day.
Ben wanted to climb some virgin rock and soon found an odd flaring crack that opened to a right facing dihedral. He made quick work of the awkward but easy start and then had the distinct pleasure of battling a licheny dihedral. Armed with the brush he let loose and a flurry of black snow came raining down on me. Now with clean rock for his hands and feet he popped out left of the dihedral and scrambled to the anchors that he and Wes installed prior.
I followed and was quite surprised at how good the rock was. On the route there was nothing rotten and the rock still had that fresh grit feel that gets polished off as more and more people grab the same handholds and use the same feet. If you’ve ever climbed at Laurel Knob then you know that fresh grit feel I am talking about.
The route is not finished because there are definitely options to continue up but while we’re still exploring the under-developed wall the shiny new anchors seemed like a good place to stop.
All in all it was probably 60 feet of 5.7-ish climbing that just oozed adventure.
Wes and Ben were by no means the first people to explore this wall. There were already a couple of lines bolted with modern equipment when they got there but it was obvious from the overgrown lichen and friable rock that this wall had not been climbed out. They were not the first there, but developing is not about being the first. Developing a wall is about making it accessible to the motivated, adventurous souls looking to push the boundaries of established lines. It is about bettering the rock climbing community by adding one more area to explore. It is about a whole lot of work… and a helluva lot of fun.
This spring Wes and Ben are getting their fill of undocumented routes and they asked me to keep the exact location a secret but I can tell you that once it is developed it will be exciting.
I am hesitant to call anything a “first ascent” because you can never be 100% certain that nobody has climbed that route before. What I can be sure of is that this wall is about as virgin as North Carolina rock comes. On the whole the rock is covered in lichen which makes it very apparent where people have climbed before because you literally have to clean the lichen in front of you as you go. Also there is an abundant amount of very loose rock sitting on top of bomber solid rock which keeps the belayer on his toes as it continually flakes off of the wall. Unlike Crowders Mountain, where all the rock is crap, once this first layer of crap rock is cleaned the routes will eat up pro that you can set and forget.
Over the next few days I am going to write up the few routes that they have put up so far. If you’re interested in helping with their project shoot me a message via the “About Me” page on top or leave a comment. At the end of the day it is up to them if they want to share their baby but I can tell you that it will be fun to watch this project evolve.