Lake Keowee has seen a huge transformation over the last few decades. What once was a fairly sparsely inhabited lake, bordered by the soon to be Jocassee Gorges, to one of the most overpopulated, over used and over abused lakes in the area. The once rugged feel of kayaking on the lake is now overshadowed by the over abundance of expensive homes and landscaped lake shores. Even worse is the lack of courtesy of many of these newer inhabitants...so if you are kayaking to these destinations, please look out for wreckless powerboats that don't care how close they come to you or if you are even there. These 2 spots are still worthy of an early season kayak trip, before the public schools let out and the masses swarm to the water. So pull out that old pair of climbing shoes you thought you'd never wear again, and get them wet for some fun lake climbing.
Falls Creek Island:
Anyone that lives in the upstate and has been to Lake Keowee, have almost certainly either jumped off of or watch someone jump off of the big rock on the island immediately out from Falls Creek Boat Landing. This has been a tradition with most of the youth and is a popular spot on "Senior Skip Day" for all of the highschoolers around. During the summer, there are more visitors, and some aren't very friendly to the area...be careful for broken beer bottles and other random nasty items you might find at the top of the rock. Also, be aware that as the water level drops over the summer months that the rocks become exposed on some of the landings. The rock that most people jump off of, also makes for some great boulder problems. Although this rock is only about 20 ft tall, there are several different problems on the rock, with one easy, prominent line starting at the bottom right and moving up and left onto the broken shelf halfway up. There are several tougher starts, and the top out always seems to be a little sketchy. This spot is not really for beginner lake climbers, as the problems seem to be in the V1-V4 range.
From the junction of Hwy 11 & 133 in upper Pickens county, continue down hwy 11 towards Walhalla. After you cross over the bridge over the lake, continue to the top of the hill past the Cliffs community. After cresting the hill, take the next left onto Falls Creek Rd, which is immediately across from the boat dealership/service center. Take this road for about a mile and turn left at the stop sign. This road will dead end at the boat ramp and the rock island is visible from the ramp. Put in and paddle 1/4 mile across the lake to the island. There is an alternate approach...after turning left off of Falls Creek Rd, take the first right onto Falls Creek Church Rd. Look for the entrance to the boat ramp road after the crest of the hill, on the left. Follow this out to the boat ramp. From the boat ramp, walk out the gated road towards the island. About 1/4 mile down this road, you will see a trail off to the left, follow this to the water crossing to the island. You have to swim across this water crossing, about 100 ft or so, to get to the island with the rock on it. If you paddle to the island, get a map and make a longer day of it by paddling over to Keowee Falls and back.
This is my favorite spot on Keowee to climb! It has some really fun easy lines that go up to about 30'-35'. The jump from the top is a blast and scares many first timers. The approach is much longer though. You can make the routes as hard as the 5.10 range, but most are in the 5.5-5.8 range, which makes for a great beginner spot.
The approach for this wall is much farther, but also offers a paddling or hiking approach. The paddling approach begins by putting in at the Falls Creek boat landing, mentioned above, and kayaking about 3-4 miles, about 6-8 miles round trip, around the left corner, under the hwy 11 bridge, to the right past the bridge, and almost up to the mouth of the Eastatoe Creek. A map of the lake is essential for this paddling trip. About 3/4 mile before Eastatoe is an island across from the Cliffs golf course. Past this island, on the right side of the lake is the clearly visible rock wall. You may see the red clay peninsula that juts out at the end of the Raven Rock Trail right past the wall...which is the end of the hiking approach. The hiking approach begins in Keowee State Park and follows the Nature Bridge Trail to the Raven Rock trail. Follow the Raven Rock trail to up to the ridge and follow the ridge out until it hits a junction that leads steeply down towards the lake. Follow this trail down to the point described above where you can see the wall out to your left from the point. This approach is about 3 miles or so...maybe 5-6 miles round trip.
These are just some quick descriptions of how to get to 2 fun spots to keep you cool during the summer. Remember to always spot your landing zone before you begin climbing, and keep an eye out for snakes on your way up the rocks...they are usually just trying to get a couple of laps on the rock too:) Enjoy!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
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