Okay, after a bunch of ya been pestering for this, y'all getting it! :-] The latest adventure trip report - Enjoy...

'Indiana Mark and the Stone Mountain Way'
[standard flashy lights and soundtrack noises here]

Thursday, May 29th. After taking care of a few errands and having lunch with a friend and packing (last minute, naturally), Indy fired up the 'Closet Love Harpy' Mobile and headed out to Stone Mountain, North Carolina.
The goal: a weekend of climbing at Stone Mountain (situated north-west of Winston-Salem, at the edge of the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mtns).

The participants: nearly a dozen climber-type people from B'more and DC, including Mosca Man, Condor, Jen-Vader, Dr ASCII, Connie, Rach, Amanda, Michael, Brian, Melissa (non-combatant), and doggie Tess.

Oh, and Indy, too.

The weather forecast: the entire South was green on the radar. The Weather God was up and about, preparing the way for Indy's arrival.
The run from Baltimore to North Carolina was, for the most part, quiet. Only two notable things came up in the drive:
1) just south of Harrisonburg the left lane was closed due to some work going on in the median. What was notable about this was that EVERYONE was in the right lane a full mile+ before the left lane was physically closed off! This was a wierd and unusual sight; Indy had never seen ANYthing like this! Usually there are people rushing up to cut in front of everyone else, and that just causes for massive congestion, headache, and traffic...jams. Here, with all the cars in the correct lane *early*...traffic was moving very steadily! Okay, not at the posted speed limit of 65, BUT people were moving, there was no stopping, and...things flowed. It was just too much. Indy's senses of East Coast Driving were assailed at this all too logical and efficient situation.

2) it began raining just shortly before Roanoke, and got heavier in waves as Indy approached North Carolina.
Indy continued on, jamming to a Metallica tape ("...still the window burns, time so slowly turns..."), dealing with normal afternoon traffic as he passed through/by Lexington and Roanoke. No further incidents happened getting to the out-of-park campgrounds that Mosca Man had scouted out on his last trip. In fact, Indy was expecting Condor to be there a good hour before him...but no one was there. 9pm. Indy selected a spot in which everyone could see him when they came in later that evening, pitched his tent, and went to bed.

An hour later Indy heard the Condormobile drive into the campground...and keep going. Guess he didn't want to camp there.

Sometime in the morning Indy heard another vehicle enter the campground area. But no one pitched camp in the site Indy was at, so he went back to sleep, figuring it wasn't his group. It rained lightly on and off all night.

Friday, May 30. Indy awoke and poked his head out the tent. It was soaking wet out there...and no one else was at the site he was in. Hmmm. No one else come? The rain keep them away? He crawled out and...across the field were everyone else's tents. Huh. Larger camping area. Neat...

Everyone else was asleep. Indy ate breakfast, read a book, then picked up his tent when people awoke and moved it to the other site.

After much poking around in the morning it was decided that Stone was going to be too wet to climb at (it is disallowed to climb on Stone Mountain when it is wet - and for good reason, too; Stone Mtn is all pure friction climbing - wet rock does not lend itself easily to frictioning), so the bail options were to either: go hiking, or...go climb top-rope stuff at Pilot Mountain, about 40 minutes to the east. Since everyone had come down for climbing...Pilot it was!

Under overcast and threatening skies the five adventuring ones piled into two vehicles and headed out. 40 minutes later they were at Pilot. A half hour after that (after requisite bathroom stops, viewing of the Main Pinnacle (illegal to climb on), snacking, and gear sorting), the troop worked their way down to the rocks in 2s and 3s.

Mosca Man and Indy set up two ropes to cover three climbs: Kiss My Ass (5.8 with 5.10 variations), Dirty Rotten Scoundrel (5.7), and Grampa's Belay (5.7, with 5.9-ish variation). Jen-Vader announced that each person must climb 3 times. And hurry!

Grampa's Belay offers a crack splitting crookedly through a disjointed face. Halfway up one can work the blank face on the right, but it's a good 5.9-ish hard route - harder if you're shorter (as Jen-Vader amply demonstrated for all who watched). It offers a variety of techniques one can use to get through the main section of the route - handjams, fistjams, armjams, face holds, overhangs to pull, sideways holds at the lip of the crack and within the crack itself...yes, a veratible variety of options. And at 5.7, that ain't too shabby.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel went up a sandy corner with pokey-out things, bulges, ledges, flat, blank faces, etc. It even (to Indy's dismay and surprise) required a quick body-length squirm through a squeeze chimney halfway up. ("There goes Indy again, through an offwidth!"). Other than dirty, it wasn't a bad climb.

Kiss My Ass was a bit tougher - tougher still that the rope draped down it was over the 5.10 section, and not the 5.8 section! The 5.8 section was too far to the left; any climbing over there that resulted in a fall would hurtle the hapless climber into the rocky outcropping (eg, the aforementioned pokey-out things) of Dirty Rotten Scoundrel. Not an enticing thought. So everyone threw themselves at KMA's 5.10 section with gusto and glory. Mosca was the first to break through and get to the top. Somehow Indy managed to, also (shaking like Elvis on stage! man, that was a tough climb...).

Finally the day ended. It was still mostly overcast, but it was bright out. The sun even peeked through a couple times during the day. Only to be covered up again.

The group left Pilot Mtn and headed back to camp, with Condor and Indy stopping first in Stone Mtn park so Condor could get a religious experience: he had to...touch the rock (ewwww, it was still wet!)

Finally returning to camp they discovered the rest of the gang had arrived throughout the course of the day: Michael and Amanda, and Dr ASCII and Connie. When Mosca and crew arrived everyone cooked up a sumptuous meal (pot-luck) that satiated most all appetites. A campfire was started (with various degrees of skill involving themselves, some discovering that yes, fire really IS hot) and soon Brian, Melissa, and doggie Tess showed up as twilight deepened into night (ie, they got to put their tent up in the dark, with Mosca and Condor taking turns providing lamplight for them to see by). Michael relayed his and Amanda's tale of sauntering up to Stone Mtn around noon, fussing with the damp rock, and doing the first pitch of The Great Arch (which requires you to climb a full rope-length pitch of some other climb; they opted for Entrance Crack - 5.4 - and apparently Amanda took a small slider here on the damp rock, giving her an impressive case of thigh road-rash). Afterwards the gang sat around the fire the rest of the evening, like cavemen watching 'tv'. Dr ASCII burned the 'remote' to 2/3 its original length. Then everyone drifted off to bed. Indy broke the fire up and went to bed.

Saturday, May 31. Periodically throughout the night rain came down. Then not. Then did. Then not. Indy was first up and out. Everything...was still soaked. Overcast. <sigh> Indy went to take a shower (yep, running water and flush toilets at this campground!)

An hour later as more of the group roused themselves small patches of Light began appearing in the clouds, slowly growing in size and shape and form and....yes, there was the Sun!

Getting a slightly late start, the group broke up into teams and planned on what they would do. Indy and Condor were going to tackle Yardarm, a 3-pitch 5.8 route, the main pitch being the first, with variations and alternate options later on. Dr ASCII and Connie went to warm up on No Alternative (5.5 3-pitch corner route, opposite that of The Great Arch) before getting on something a little more challenging. Everyone else (Mosca, J-Vader, Rach, Michael, Road-Rash Amanda, and Brian) were heading to do The Great Arch. Melissa was going to be the Sane Person in the party and take Tess hiking. Indy stopped at the campground owner's house to pay for the nights of camping ($2/head/night - woo woo!!), and was warned "there be severe storms coming in later this afternoon; you ought to be alright this morning and have a decent day ahead. But if you hear any rumbling, get off the mountain!"

Indy nodded and would pass the word along. Then he and Condor headed in...

Dr ASCII and Connie had chosen to start easy and were just finishing Entrance Crack (5.4) when Indy and Condor arrived. Indy, having done it a couple times before, offered the lead to Condor (who had never been here before). Condor decided in macho climber style to do the route (on lead) in his guide tennies. Mosca and company arrived at the base of the rocks and decided to flop up Block Route (5.8) instead (Block Route has 1 5.8 move which is basically a flop over a large overlap, or 'block corner'; most can't do it gracefully, and it is a bit scary to lead, cause if you slip off...you go splotch against the ramp at your feet).

Once through Entrance Crack, the duo went over to what they perceived to be the start of Yardarm (it wasn't; turned out they were starting too far to the left, and on harder ground - go figure). Dr ASCII and Connie had disappeared through No Alternative already. Indy racked up (so to speak; wasn't much ahead of him on the mostly blank wall but small overlaps and bumps). The guidebook indicated a couple of bolts and a piton protected the entirety of the pitch. Indy remembered a place to stick a small Friend or Alien early in the route and started climbing on. Mosca had finished Block Route and was bringing the other 5 people up next.

One thing about slab climbing is that you don't get too vertical. However, you don't have a lot of positive hand and footholds to work with, either, and even less places to put pro (if at all). Runouts of 40' or more are not uncommon. The first bolt on Yardarm was far away...very far away indeed...

Indy began doing a delicate upward traverse on bumpy nothings. He got a piece in behind and overlap, but...the bolt was still far, far away. This piece wouldn't prevent him from hitting the ground if he went more than 15' out.

And the bolt was a good 45+' away. Did I mention it was far?

Indy delicately - oh, so VERY delicately - worked his way over harder and thinner ground. Handholds, footholds, and even feature bumps evaporated as he went. Gah! He looked up - a hangerless bolt! Only 5' above him - over a sea of nothing. Somehow he gingerly climbed up to the bolt, got a nut out, cinched the nut up against the bolt head, clipped it, and breathed only a mild bit easier (but not much; he was still a good 25' away from the main bolt on the route; this bolt here was off-route, on a route called Adrift). Condor chose this time to pipe up "Ya know, this reminds me of the time when you were climbing at Friction Slab and delicately looking for stuff to..."

Condor's voice drifted away to silence before Indy could tell him to shut-the-hell-up-I'm-gonna-fall-here-real-soon-now. Indy...moved...on...

Indy moved on about 10 more feet...and hit a REALLY smooth section of rock! Well, it wasn't so much *smooth* as it was...tricky. There was a downward facing shallow flake - too low - and some footholds - too high. In fact, the footholds were *above* the flake-handholds. <sigh> Indy looked and danced about this section forever. He slotted an Alien in the shallow flaring flake his left hand was holding (downward-facing, btw), then decided to move it over to the other half of the flake where his right hand was holding, convincing himself it was deeper over there. The Alien wouldn't go in. Desperation was beginning to mount. Indy could see the footholds he needed..but they were too high! And the only good handholds were those of the flake - currently at his waist! He tried to move the Alien back - to discover it wouldn't go back in the flake!! GAH!!!! Indy started wigging. He had to move up...but couldn't! The next bolt...15' away - so close, yet so far. A fall here would be like taking a slide down a highway doing 100 miles an hour nekkid. His skin would peel away, blood and muscle, flesh and bone, scraped clean on the white coarse granite rock that he was precariously standing on - by will alone. He couldn't get any pro in, he couldn't climb up, he couldn't climb down, HE COULDN'T DO ANYTHING!!

Finally Indy leaned back then....stepped through the crux onto not-quite-easier ground. And gently barrelled his way to his destination: that damned taunting bolt. Arriving he whipped out a quickdraw, clipped it, and clipped the rope. SAFE! Indy had Condor 'take' him while he readjusted his wits and the rack (which had gotten kinda furled about, plus he wanted to put the Alien which never really got placed earlier away so it wasn't dangling about his feet; he still had a good 90' of climbing to go!).

The rest of the way was just one continuous motion. Move up, rock over, switch feet, backstep, move over, move up, rock over, backstep, move up, backstep, move up, rock over, move over, switch feet, etc, etc. For nearly 80 feet this happened. Yes, it was easier climbing. But...no protection for that entire stretch. And the wind/breeze had picked up, buffetting Indy just enough to push his balance just a weeeee tad off to one side or the other. Just enough to be disconcerting ("I don't neeeeed this!").

Indy finally got to the fixed pin; never saw the bolt he thought he had spied ahead. A trick of the light perhaps, from the crystalline structure in the granite? Not an unheard of happening. Clipping the fixed pin (a piton in a crack/flake overlap), Indy moved up over much easier ground, the last 10' to the belay. There (once anchored in) he gratefully drank some water to coat his now-desert throat. Condor got ready to climb up.

A few minutes later Condor had arrived to the belay station. "Yeah, that was pretty easy climbing," he said casually. They consulted the Guidebook. There were two options open to them: the mostly blank traverse over to the upper part of pitch 1 of No Alternative, or the joining to the prairie of flat blankness that made up the 5.8 pitch of Adrift, a 5.9 climb that goes up the blank face next to Yardarm.

"Let's do the traverse," said Condor, whose turn it was to lead. Indy didn't care; he had done one of the things he came to do - pitch 1 of Yardarm. Unfortunately Indy would not achieve any of his other goals this weekend. But he did not know that - yet.

Condor led across the blank face to No Alternative. While it was no more than 20 or so feet over, the last 5' was not exactly trivial. In fact, it was downright difficult. Not *quite* as difficult as Yardarm's crux, but damned close. After a large (huge) step, Condor finished it off and brought Indy over. He then took the next pitch of No Alternative - 1 bolt and 2 overlaps for camalots (which he decided to not use - the overlaps, not the bolt). Condor made it to the belay. Indy came storming up behind him, somewhat recovered from his trial on Yardarm. It was decided that Indy (whose been on it before) would take the next pitch ("What's the next section like?" "Oh...blank, no pro, nothing 'til you get to the top, and nothing there, either." "Okay, you can lead it.").

After topping out, Condor and Indy admired the vistas below (and watched some touristy college girls play brave by 'scrambling' and crab-walking down around the rocks near them), then finally reracked and headed out to the walkoff trail. Indy's feet were in pain from the tight-tight shoes. Unbeknownst to him, the Tevas he was wearing did *nothing* but make things worse. Soon he would know...

20 minutes later they were at Condor's car. They ate a quick lunch, determined they were doing about 1 pitch every 30 minutes, then headed back to the rocks. The goal: to do The Great Arch (assuming Mosca and crew were off of it). Condor had to climb one of the Top Ten Classics, Indy said.

They got to the rocks and Condor decided to try Crystal Lizard as the entrance route to the tree ledge above where The Great Arch started. Crystal Lizard is a delicate 5.8 route, with the crux right at the bolt 20' or so off the ground (but it's no picnic getting *to* the bolt, either! Indy took a 15' ground slide on this last year already). Condor tried to attack the route straight on (as it was meant to be, they believe) but the rock was still damp, too damp to get any friction on, down here beneath the trees. Indy pointed out the large tree growing out of the rock ~10' up. "Why not loop that with some webbing for protection; at least you won't ground out," sayeth the voice of experience. Condor did. And climbed on to the bolt...

...to slip 5' below the bolt. He slipped...but caught himself. Cosmic balances swung too and fro as he slowly and delicately leaned forwar--

--and totally lost all grip on the rock, sliding down it at incredible velocities! Indy turned and bolted out through the woods, employing the 'running belay' that was pioneered at Stone Mountain.

Fortunately for Condor, the slip was short, and Indy only got two steps running before he had caught Condor on the rope. Good call, looping the tree with some webbing. Condor sat for a minute, contemplated Life, then went at it again.

A short while later he was at the top of the route. There was a party of 5 on U-Slot (5.7, next to Block Route) who wanted to do the Great Arch, too. But they were going to allow Condor and Indy to go first, being as they were only two, and moving faster than the party of 5. Indy scampered up to Condor, then to the tree ledge. Indy told Condor he's led each pitch of this route at least once, and so if Condor wanted all the leads, that was fine with Indy. Been there, done that, wore the t-shir...wait; Indy doesn't have a Stone Mountain t-shirt.

The Great Arch is a 5.5 3-pitch route that goes up this lonnnng right-facing corner. You can climb it as a slabby layback (as Indy generally does) or work the face to the right of the imposing corner wall (Mosca and some others take this option). A beautiful, well-protected route. Worthy of being in the Top Ten Under 10 list. One of few on Stone which takes almost all natural pro to protect. And can be stitched up as tight as the leader wants.

Condor took the first pitch. Arriving the belay, Indy painfully put on his shoes. Pain? No, they downright *hurt*! His toes were...meat. But he got them on and climbed up to Condor. At least he could still feel the subtle granite crystals beneath his feet.

When Indy arrived at the belay, Condor instructed Indy to continue with the second. That first pitch was tiring! So Indy went on up...and found the wet spots on the rock!! Even almost-flowing water. He scowled down at Condor. Of course somehow this was a conspiracy; Condor must have SOMEHOW known the second pitch was going to be wet!!

Is it paranoia when they really are out to get you?

Song started going through Indy's head (what, now??). "...momma they try and break meee..."

From the belay Condor came sailing up, and flew the third pitch to the top. Indy followed, running as fast as he could as he neared the top ("Look, mom, no hands!"). His toes were in some hard-core pain at this point (boy, that was pretty stupid, the running, huh?). At the top he switched to his sandals and noticed his little toes were both rubbed raw, one had even gone to Blister Stage. Joy. The hike out was no picnic.

On the way down Condor mused about heading back up again to catch up with everyone else and doing The Pulpit. A beautiful climb, at least the first pitch that Indy knew of, but Indy was having second (and third, and fourth) thoughts about going up again today. His feet/toes were rebelling. Condor and Indy both figured the other parties in their group should be arriving the base of the rock or starting the first pitch of whatever climbs they were going to do next by the time they got to the cars.

Indy was never so thankful to see everyone just clustered around the cars when he and Condor arrived at the parking lot. One less walk up to the rocks with feet o' fire. Everyone ready to go back to camp now?

However, everyone wanted to go up and do The Pulpit! No waiting, right now. Sighing, Indy went with them. He was not going to climb (as badly as he wanted to, his feet weren't having anything to do with it; The Pulpit will have to wait another day for Indy). Rach and Amanda stayed behind at the cars (and unbeknownst to Indy, left for camp! and for a candy-seeking adventure into and over the Blue Ridge mountains...). Everyone else to the rocks, and split up into 3 teams: Dr ASCII & Connie, Condor & Brian, Mosca, J-Vader, and Michael, while Indy played National Geographic photographer. As Connie & Dr ASCII were getting into the 2nd pitch, Condor started up the first pitch. In the middle of her lead on the second pitch, Connie called down, "Hey! There's a snake up here; now what do I do??" Everyone offered suggestions, up to and including prodding it with a nut tool ("Are you CRAZY?!?").

Fortunately after a few minutes the 'snake' grew a few legs and scampered away. Prolly tired of the fun of fooling the humans who were obviously out of their element ("aren't they supposed to stay on the ground or something?").

After everyone was up off the ground Indy sought out the mythical Stone Mountain Falls, legends told tales that it contained Great Magicks and Healing Powers Unsurpassed in the Hills of North Carolina (there enough cap letters here for you?). And possible clues to the whereabouts of The Ark (more than needed this weekend with the Weather God on the warpath). However, it turned out to be a stream of water cascading down a ramp of rock, maybe 60 - 70' high. Indy managed to soak his climbing shoes (which were still hanging off of his harness) while wading through the pool at the base of the 'falls', trying to get 'that perfect shot'. He got a couple adequate photos instead.

Returning from the falls an hour later (long walk back) he saw Condor and Brian at the top of Stone, Mosca and company on the second pitch, and no sign of Dr ASCII and Connie. Who turned out to be at the cars! They gave Indy a lift back to camp. Woo! (after a quick stop to get something cold to drink at a semi-local gas station/grocery store).

Back at camp Indy, ASCII, and Connie found Rach, Amanda, and Melissa building reinforcement restraints for their tents. "Dale [the campground owner] came by a while ago and asked us if we were going to 'tough it out' tonite."

'Tough it out'???

"Yeah, he said there's Big Storm Warnings scrolling all over the bottom of his tv set." (for some reason none of the group here this weekend thought to bring a television along, or an internet connection to download the latest radar and satellite images).

The Weather God cometh...

A while later Condor and Brian drove into camp. It began raining. Hard. Indy got some assistance in getting J-Vader's Mobile Picnic Pavillion thingy erected (how DOES one person set these things up, anyway?!?). Everyone waited out the deluge, wondering where Mosca and Co were. It was raining, hard (did I mention this already?). Stone Mountain is not a place you can climb when wet. You'd be better off ice-climbing in shorts with no gear than trying to get up Stone Mountain with water pouring off of it. As the rain let up, still no Mosca. It was nearing 8pm; the park closes at 8pm. Rach and Amanda took off in the van to check on their status.

5 minutes later Condor realized Rach and Amanda had all the food. Bummer; guess everyone was going to wait for their to return before dinner got started!

After a time Rach and Amanda returned. They couldn't get into the park; the road back to Stone Mtn was closed (fortunately at that point the main gate was still open, but it becomes locked up at 8pm). But the group had food, and meals began to cook. Mmmmmm....foooood....*drool*.

Much later, after a fire had been started, and as twilight decended through the overcast skies, Mosca and Crew showed up, wet (well, soaking). They dried off, cleaned up, and ate, telling the tale of their adventures on the Mountain (they were barely halfway through the 3rd pitch when The Rain hit them, making for a fun scramble for the rappel anchors). After another hour or two of unwinding (and half of everyone sharing in burning down the 'tv remote' further), the crowd retired. Indy kicked out the fire again, and strolled out to the field to gaze up at the overcast skies. He saw a small hole in the clouds pass overhead, revealing a few stars. A teasing hope...which promptly closed up again.

That night it poured. And rumbled. A lot.

Sunday, June 1st. Indy awoke and wondered just how wet it was out. He had no plans to climb that day as he had Job Requirements(tm) which were going to force him to take off early that morning so he could catch a couple hours sleep before going in to graveyard shift (jeers of 'wimp!', 'gurly-man!', and the like were hurled in his direction when the others had learned of this lame reason for leaving early sunday). Poking his head out he saw the noise from overnight bore fruit: it was *soaking* out! And not likely to clear up anytime soon. When Michael poked his head out his tent he said, "Well, that makes the decision easy. No climbing today. Heading home."

Slowly the group broke up and headed home. Indy was the second to go (and kept getting passed by almost everyone on the way back - now who was it that who said Indy drives fast??).

At home Indy unpacked and caught a few hours sleep. At work Indy set his tent up in the Ops area to dry out. Everyone on the grave shift looked at it, wondering if Indy had spent the earlier part of the evening in it there at work...

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Mk - 5/6/97