Inform and Inspire

Welcome to Upstate Bouldering, designed around bouldering in the Upstate region of South Carolina. This website is intended to inform the reader of local spots in SC, Western NC and Northeast GA, as well as a blog of my experiences climbing at these great spots. I hope everyone learns of a new place to climb or is inspired to climb somewhere close to them. If you have any comments, please send me an e-mail.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

WNC Local Spot - Stony Bald

Stony Bald

Perched around 4200’ up, off of the Mountains to Sea trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, Stony Bald is a nice addition to Pisgah Bouldering. With slightly cooler temps and some fun routes, Stony makes a nice stop while driving along the Parkway or a good addition to mountain biking or trail running at Bent Creek or the North Mills River area. There are a variety of boulders in the area, but slightly overhanging tends to be the trend for most of the Unclimbed and First Boulders, with many fun slightly pumpy routes.

Stony is a relatively new bouldering area in Pisgah and has seen minimal development. There is still plenty of loose/hollow rock that can send you off onto the pads unexpectedly, so be careful pulling on anything that doesn’t seem super solid. Unlike the bouldering in the forests surrounding Looking Glass, Stony seems to dry fast and is south facing, generally exposed to the sun and making this a place preferred in colder weather, but doable in summer weather also due to the elevation. While I was sending routes on the Unclimbed Boulders recently, a bad thunderstorm was pummeling Looking Glass while I was enjoying the views above the storm clouds and seeing the lightening torment the forest below!

Check out a quick video of El Swiper V2, possibly the most classic problem in the area so far…

Driving Directions:

From the epicenter of Upstate Bouldering (junction of Highways 11 and 178 at Holly Springs Grocery Store), follow highway 178 north for a curvy 25 minute drive, out of the Jocassee Gorges, past the SC/NC line, eventually into Rosman NC…and hang a left at the first red light. Past the Rosman Community Pool on the left, turn left at the stop sign, drive about a ½ mile to the junction with Highway 64 and turn right. Drive another 10-15 minutes into Brevard NC, stay on Highway 64 (either of 2 ways through Brevard) past the Ingles, all the cheap fast food and hospital to the junction with Highway 276 at Pisgah Forest. Turn left into the forest on Highway 276, drive past the Davidson River pay campground, the Ranger Station (worth a stop if you have never been in before), Coontree picnic area (great swimming hole for all ages) and stay right on Highway 276 at the fork for the Fish Hatchery and North Side Boulders. Follow 276 past Sliding Rock (pay CLASSIC sliding and swimming hole that you’ve got to slide down at least once), the other turn for the North Side Boulders, and the Cradle Of Forestry, to the junction with the Blue Ridge Parkway…turn right, north, on the BRP. Drive past a few tunnels and the Mt Pisgah area (lodging, camping, restaurant and country/convenience store) to Elk Pasture Gap, where highway 151 intersects the BRP on the left and park at this intersection in the small gravel parking lot. Many different groups of outdoor enthusiasts use this parking area, so try to park in an organized manner so as many other cars as possible can park beside you.


From the gravel lot at the intersection of the BRP and Hwy 151, cross the road and walk with the traffic about 100 feet to pick up the white blazed Mountains To Sea Trail, which is also the Shut-In Trail, on the right. Hoof it over a small hill to a view of the BRP (and a possible side approach trail) on the left and very soon after will be the Unclimbed Boulders. To get the main bouldering trail and First Boulders, continue down the MTS/Shut-In Trail after the Unclimbed Boulders another 2-3 minutes to a small low slabby rock on the left and the best marked trail so far on the left…bust a left up the trail 20 or so feet to the Wake And Bake Boulder on the left. Don’t forget to “leave no trace” while approaching and at the boulders.

Season and Route Recommendation:

I only started climbing here recently, in the summer of 2012, and find it a little steamy in the middle (1-4pm) of the day and actually somewhat tolerable around these times…but being exposed to the sun on the side of the Blue Ridge makes it a warm spot to climb, especially when the air temps are hot. The temps and friction would obviously be best in the fall to spring (minus when the BRP is closed for icy/snowy winter weather). Stony has a small circuit (15 or so problems) of routes that are great for beginners-intermediate. Not to mention, with some grooming and care, this place could produce a few more classic crimpy & slightly overhanging routes. I think there is at least one route in each grade worth sending at Stony Bald (but you might as well climb all 18 routes listed on Mountain Project while you’re there): Pack It Up V0, Bottle Rocket War V1-, Hollow Prow V1/2, Wake And Bake V2, El Swiper V2, Unclimbed Arete V3, and White Squirrel V4/5 are my personal favorites.

Day Trip Recommendation:

If you’re heading this way, you might as well add a mountain bike ride at Bent Creek or North Mills River beforehand and if you’re getting hot after that, then grab some hydration at the Pisgah Country Store, and a dip at Skinny Dip Falls before either heading down into the Cradle Of Forestry, Looking Glass Falls and all of the Looking Glass and Nowhere Boulders…or stay on the Parkway to take a great hike, dip in some swimming holes and have a mellow second session on the couple of boulders at Upper Falls of the Graveyard Fields. Check out some basic info on the Graveyard Fields Boulders in the 2 submitted photos on

Stony Bald Mini-Guide:

Cut and paste the topo and route list below to a Word document and print it up for a hard copy mini-guide to the area…or simply use the Mountain Project app or website from your smartphone to access the beta and pictures of Stony Bald.

Stony Bald Route List:Unclimbed Boulders:

A. Unclimbed Lowball Boulder

   1. Unclimbed Lowball V1/2

   2. ULR V0

B. Unclimbed Highball Boulder

   1. Unclimbed Highball V1

   2. Unclimbed Arete V3

First Boulders:
1. Wake And Bake Boulder

   a. Pack It Up V0

   b. Wake And Bake V2

2. Hollow Prow Boulder

   a. Hollow Prow V1/2

   b. Hollow Prow Warm Up 1 V0

   c. Hollow Prow Warm Up 2 V0-

   d. Hollow Prow Warm Up 3 Vb

3. White Squirrel/El Swiper Boulder

   a. Blind Justice Slab V0

   b. White Squirrel V4/5

   c. El Swiper V2

4. Fireworks Boulder

   a. Bottle Rocket War V0/1
   b. Roman Candle V0/1

   c. Sparklers V0

   d. Jumping Jacks V0


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Dirtbaggers Deluxe Wal-Mart Bouldering Kit

The Dirtbaggers Deluxe Wal-Mart Bouldering Kit

I’ve been wanting to write this DIY article for a while now, but with the economy and jobs being where they are, now more than ever is a good time to put it out there. I generally don’t shop at giant mega-corporation superstores, I try my best to support local businesses as much as possible, but on occasion I find myself at Wal-Mart and over the years found all sorts of gear that's perfect for bouldering.  Here's a run down of my current bouldering kit I use to keep gear organized and easy pack in and to move between problems and brush kit I use to scrub dirt and grime off of problems.
Brush Kit:

When I started developing bouldering areas around the Jocassee Gorges, I always had a tough time finding the right brush to take off that first layer of crud. I didn’t want to use a stiff wire brush after seeing that many of the boulders in the area can be changed drastically when one is overused, so nylon and animal bristle brushes were what I generally used…with the occasional softer brass wire brush for the really tough spots. Regular toothbrushes just don’t work…if that’s all you’ve got, its better than nothing, but overall they just don’t cut it. I bought brushes/brush kits from all of the climbing companies that offered them at the time, spending nearly $100 on the variety, but I could never find the right brush to scrub the dirt and grime off of a the chossy boulders in the Gorges to the point of perfect friction. I started buying brushes in the cleaning isle at the grocery store. But once again, none of these brushes really fit the bill. The well known Metolius/gun cleaning brush was a great brush, much better than a regular toothbrush, but it still wasn’t good for initial cleaning.
I didn’t have a local store that sold these brushes so I looked around Wally World’s sporting goods department for the same brush used for cleaning guns and found a nice little Gun Cleaning Toolset by Winchester ($3.97)...
...that included the Metolius brush, a last resort, soft bristled brass wire brush for the hard to scrub crud and an oddly useful pick for trying to dig out that hard to reach detritus in small cracks and crevasses.

I also liked the small denture brush in the Revolution brush kit for a brush to keep in my chalkbag, so while at Wal-Mart, I checked out their denture brushes and found one of my favorite all around brushes to this day; the Sea Bond Denture Brush ($1.56). It has very hard bristles for a toothbrush, a compact but robust design that’s fits well in your hand so you don’t scrape your knuckles while scrubbing, and 2 brushes that both function very well to clean even some of the tiniest cracks, especially to prep the rock for a send attempt. I’ve even used the rubbery pick on the other end of the brush to clean out slots and cracks with hard-to-get-to dirt. So again, I had found a good brush to add to the collection, but I hadn’t found the brush I needed to strip the crud from the rock, to unearth the next amazing route. So I went to the hardware department and asked if they had any brushes, but they only had metal brushes for cleaning tools, but they recommended I look in the paint department…honestly something I had never even thought of before.

When I got to the paint section I found what I was looking for the whole time in the Stripper brush (~$2.50). With a racy name and super stiff bristles, this brush chewed through the outer layer of crap that haunts untoched boulders and soon proved to be my go to brush for the initial phase of developing a problem. If you ask me, the Stripper might be the best brush for a serious stick brush too, just strap it on with some zip-ties.

And if you’re like many boulderers, you take video of some of your and your friends sends…so adding a Stripper brush to the Targas Monopod ($16.98) from the electronics department makes for a perfect way to film video when propped up against a tree, shrub or with a stick, a great extendable stick brush and a walking stick for the approach to the boulders.

The stick brush slides down very compact and stores easily in the trunk of a car so its always handy if you need it and not really in the way if you don’t. The Stripper brush isn’t the easiest brush to carry alone because it didn’t fit into most pockets on my boulder buckets, and tended to get left in the boulderfield too often.

The Grout brush ($1.47) is about half the size of the Stripper brush, has the same style of super stiff bristles and fits into the pocket on most chalk buckets...that’s why I use it for the initial route cleaning phase nowadays. I tend to go through 4-6 of these a year over the past few years of heavy development, and like to keep 3 of them with various stages of wear and bristle length (and the brass brush) on a short loop of power cord as my go to crud scrubbing brush set.  

The more worn and shorter the bristles get, the better they scrub the crap away, so it’s good to have a few brush options when the scrubbing gets tough...each different brisle length scrubs a different scrub well also. So over a few years of trying out a variety of brushes, I’ve finally found the best brush kit for me and at a great price too!

Brush Kit:

-Gun Cleaning Toolset (1 typical bouldering brush + 1 brass brush) $3.97

-1 Denture Brush $1.56

-1 Stripper Brush $2.50

-1 Monopod for stick brush $16.98

-3 Grout Brushes for initial scrubbing $1.47x3= $4.41

Brush Kit: 6 Brushes without the Stick Brush Total Price $9.44

Stick Brush/Walking Stick/Monopod + Brush Kit $29.42

Dry Bag Bouldering Kit:

While at Wal-Mart, I poked around looking for other goodies for bouldering and I came upon one last thing that has been crucial to keep my gear organized…a set of lightweight drybags ($9.96). The Outdoor Products 3-pack Dry Sacks wont add weight to your bouldering kit, but will keep your gear organized and waterproof in case of the random summer thunderstorm. I started packing gear in these out of necessity because every time I went bouldering at the North Side of Looking Glass one summer, I always got rained out of the place…and once ruined my cell phone. So I wanted to get a lightweight dry bag to put my phone, wallet and keys in so they would be safe in a storm. I bought one small dry bag at my local outfitter for around $15, but it quickly wore out after a couple of months of heavy use.

So I looked around Wal-Mart for a more economical solution and found a set of 3 dry bags in the sporting goods department for cheaper than the one from the outfitters. I use the smaller of the 3 to keep my phone, wallet and keys dry, and I use the largest of the dry bags for snacks, water bottle, extra long sleeve shirt, guidebooks and to hold the smaller dry bag for a double dry cell phone.

The middle sized bag makes a PERFECT chalk bucket too…add an old wash cloth from the closet, a chalk ball, a denture brush and some chalk and you have a spill proof chalk bucket for 10% of the cost of an Organic or Flashed rolltop chalk bucket!!!

It’s easy to unroll and get a handful of chalk and after your send just roll it up and attach it to the large dry bag and toss it all in your crashpad.

There is even a perfect place to tuck a gun cleaning brush next to the buckle for convenience.

This is still the basic bouldering kit I use to this day…and if I ever have to replace any part of the kit that wears out, its very economical to do so! Here’s the rundown on the Dirtbaggers Deluxe Bouldering Kit…

Brush Kit includes Denture Brush, Gun Brush, Brass Brush and 3 Grout Brushes          $9.44

Stick Brush/walking stick/monopod                                                                                +   $19.48

Chalk Bucket & Gear Bags                                                                                            +    $9.96

Total Bouldering Kit…just add chalk, shoes and crashpad                                               $38.88

There is a kinds of fancy gear on the market nowadays, but when you dont have the cash flow to afford it, the Dirbaggers Deluxe Bouldering Kit fills in nicely or provides cheap options to add to your existing kit!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Local WNC Spot-107 Boulders

The 107 Boulders

The 107 Boulders are a small set of intimidating boulders on the side of Highway 107, just outside of Glenville, North Carolina. Not only are some of the routes tall with powerful committing moves, but they are RIGHT beside the sometimes busy highway…making it feel like you gotta climb your best. Fully exposed to the sun and within a quick drive of Cashiers and Western Carolina University, these boulders make a great spot to crank down to prep for the next road trip, after class or work sessions or as you’re driving through the hills on your way to another destination. I’ve passed by these boulders for many years on my way to paddle the Nantahala and Tuckaseegee Rivers, and always wondered if there were any routes on those oddly convenient boulders…ends up there are…and some of them are pretty damn good!

The boulders tend to be a little tall and some have bad landings…but it cant be denied that it just makes for some very proud routes! The routes follow either slabby lines up a pebbled face or pulling hard on sharp crimps and some slopers. Overall though, there is a small variety of shapes, sizes and height of boulders and surely everyone can find at least a route or 2 to satisfy them. If you aren’t accustomed to climbing outside, and even if you are, this place might eat your skin in less than an hour.

Justin Briggs drove the development of this area and created the topo and “107 Boulders Guide”…full credit to him, his vision of sending these routes, creating and making available the downloadable topo and guide and putting this little spot on the local bouldering map. Justin is seen crushing the classics in the videos in this post. Andrew Blease was extremely kind in providing me with the “107 Boulders Guide”, so I could make it available in this post, and also for the beta posted on Mountain Project that turned me on to these boulders in the first place. Thanks and all the credit goes to these guys for their hard work!

Check out Justin giving a tour of the classics…

And on the FA of Dendrophiliac V9…

Driving Directions:

From Cashiers, North Carolina, drive approximately 7 miles north on Highway 107 to the obvious boulders on the left side of the road, You’re most likely to drive past it the first time, so slow down and turn around at the recycling station on your left, just after the oncoming traffic splits into 2 lanes, on your way down the hill. From WCU campus, head south on HWY 107 for 20 minutes or so. Look for boulders on the right after the road opens up into 2 lanes. Park on gravel road.


Toss out the pads…

Season and Route Recommendations:

I recommend (if you can stand the attention from the oncoming traffic) every route on the Front Door Boulder, especially Carolina Bamboo V3…well worth stopping for alone. Along with Carolina Bamboo, I liked Triple-B V3, Horizontal Waterfall V3 & V4, Saddle Up V2 and Thorn In My Side V1. I visited when some of the boulders and trails between boulders were becoming thickly covered with spring and summer growth, but it seems like the routes I recommended above will remain climbable most of the year. The best time of year for these boulders seems to be fall-spring.

Cut, paste and print up the picture and guide below to a Word document to create a hard copy version of the 107 Boulders Guide...

107 Boulders Guide

Directions: From WCU campus, head South on HWY 107 for 20 minutes or so. Look for the boulders on the right after the road opens up into 2 lanes. Park on gravel road. Toss out the pads…

1. Carolina Bamboo- V3 Sit start in middle of face, up on sidepulls, trend left on slopey ledge, big move to horn, keep it together for the mantle.

2. Hetch Sketchy –V1 Tall black slab

3. Short Project… Start on slopey sidepull, go up left to rounded top(v7-8??)

4. Thorn in My Side- V1 Start in seam, follow crack up and left

5. Triple B- V3 Start on ramp, climb straight up and over slopey bulge

6. Blue Heron- V1 Slab to the right of arete

7. Downclimb or V0

8. Easy E- V0

9. Saddle Up- V2 Start same as Cellar Door move through jugs to slopey ledge

10. Cellar Door- V9 Start on pinch and sloper, trend right then at lip up and left on more slopers, crux at the top…

11. Way Off- V0 Start on crystals trend up and right on crack, finish above undercling

12. This is for Babies- V1 Start to the right of Way Off on crystals go straight up

13. Push and Pull… Start on crystals to the right of Babies, go straight up

14. Bulge Project… Start on slopey block, climb up blunt prow (v8-9??)

15. Teaches of Peaches- V0 Layback crack

16. Whispering Eye- V8 Sit Start on crystals crimps, big moves to gain slopey crimps at lip, move left along lip to the apex of the boulder

17. Crap in a Bag- V3 Start on sloper and arête, climb face to jug and top out

18. Uncleaned potential line…

19. Project… Start on big undercling, gain juggy sidepull, throw for crimp rail(v10ish)

20. Rock the Boat- V4 Start at the lowest point of the lip, follow slopey lip up and right

21. Dendrophiliac- V9 Sit start low on undercling crimp, move to pinch and crimp, big move into jug sidepull, pull up on arête, move right to the slopey lip, mantle the large sloper on the slab / Project Variation: 21a. low right start on crimpy sidepull, big iron cross move to come into Dendrophiliac(v11-12??)

22. Uncleaned crazy line…

23. Find your Balls- V5 Sit start just left of Dendrophiliac, move up and left on pinch rail, pull through to left facing seam, go straight up from crystals above seam

24. Horizontal Waterfall aka “The River”- V3 from the right/ V4 from the left: Sit Start on sidepull(right) or undercling(left) , move up through pinch/undercling to slopers and top

25. A New Beginning- V5 Sit Start low on right facing sidepull , gain obvious jug, use pinches and sidepulls to top / Variation: 25a. Beginning Anew- V6 Start low in break on the left, climb into same finish

26. Revamp- V2 Start in jug break, climb up arête and over bulge

27. Hallway project…. Stand start on blocky holds at head height, go straight up without using the arête (V7ish??)

28. Vendetta- V4 Start on arête and sidepull, climb up triangle feature to slopey top

29. Milk Thistle- V3 Stand Start in jug sidepulls, climb up and left on slopey slab features

30. Crunchy Arete- V1 Just around the arête and left of Milk Thistle. Stand start by pinching the arête and mantling. Smear and bump to top.

31. More hard slab projects… start in crystal band, go straight up to juggy crystals, top out around 25 feet…

32. Ultimate arête project… start on blunt arête crystals, trend up right on slopey arête until squeezing prow, top out around 30 feet…

33. Andrew’s slab- V0 Choose right or left line

34. Easy slab problems- Multiple easy slab, take your pick

35. Giant scary arête!!!

36. New line- needs cleaning

37. Uncleaned slopey traverse

38. More uncleaned potential

39. Shortie- V1 Start on jug, hit the top

40. Crazy crack project…

Any questions, comments, new problems, or whatever- call/ email me

Justin (847)-471-9834 /