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Adventure quartzite for well-seasoned and aspiring trad dads alike
Linville Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is an adventure-cragger’s heaven in North Carolina’s remote Pisgah National Forest 21 miles from the nearest town. The 14-mile, 2,000-foot-deep gneissic gorge has hundreds of routes from single- to multi-pitch. The Daddy, a five-pitch 5.6 (with 5.8 variants) on The Amphitheater’s 500-foot Mummy Buttress, provides an archetypal Linville experience.
The bucolic canyon and Designated Wilderness glows green with old-growth forests and rhododendron. The Cherokee referred to the Linville River as Eseeoh, or “River of Many Cliffs.” Today, the gorge’s only manmade structure is an Outward Bound school.
“Climbing spans nearly 40 years at Linville, with teams using routes like The Mummy, The Daddy, Bumblebee, and much of Table Rock Mountain to further their skills . . . ” says Harrison Shull, co-author of Selected Climbs in North Carolina. Although The Daddy and The Mummy (a neighboring, three-pitch 5.5 classic) sound casual, many parties are slowed by the rugged approach and route-finding epics.
Established by Art Williams and Mike Holloway in 1972, The Daddy is a wandering crack-and-face climb on incut edges and flakes up grey quartzite and phyllite. Belays are on spacious ledges, though you should scope the line on the approach, to avoid straying. Complete the one-hour hike via steep terrain, “rodo” tunnels, and (optional) rappels. (Hike about 15 minutes along the Mountains to Sea Trail, and then take your second right, marked only by a white quartz rock, for an additional 45 minutes. Continue down past The Mummy and look for a trampled platform marking The Daddy’s base.)
P1 starts in a 140-foot, blocky, left-facing corner (5.4). The easiest line wanders left and right to a spacious belay ledge. Now head directly up via knuckle-wrapping flakes and horizontals, and then right to the pine tree at the next ledge. Climbing direct is about 5.8, though most parties boomerang right and then back left at 5.3. “Truth is, the terrain 20 to 30 feet right and left of the ‘line’ is so homogenous, you can climb The Daddy with infinite variations,” says Shull.
The next 80 feet ascend a broken face steep and exposed with pro in the cracks between (mostly solid) blocks. The fifth, final pitch is what makes The Daddy the Daddy. Ascend a steep, paw-swallowing crack in a left-facing corner to the summit. For maximum value, tack on The Mummy (5.5). Total payoff: about 1,000 feet of rock!
Guidebook:Selected Climbs in North Carolina, Updated Edition, Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull (2002, mountaineersbooks.org); Climber’s Guide to North Carolina, Thomas Kelley (1996, Earthbound Sports, Inc.)
Guide Services: Granite Arches Climbing Services (423) 413-1432, granitearches.com
Season: Spring through autumn
Rack: 10 quickdraws with extendable slings; nuts and cams to 3”; 50-meter rope
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