Grandfather Service Project Day

Special thanks to guest blogger Zachary Lesch-Huie. Zachary's a Boone local, volunteer for the CCC, advocate for land conservency, and a solid climber ta boot. Some folks also say he's a helluva a nice guy. This is his report on the volunteer work at Grandfather this weekend, where us climber folk would one day love to have access.From the photos it looks like they had a pretty wild day...

Organized by Phil Trew of the Boone Climbers' Coalition, last Saturday's service project on Grandfather Mountain was a complete success. Seven motivated Boone-area climbers partnered with Grandfather Mountain State Park, lending their assistance to the installation of signs in Grandfather's back country camping zones. The group of climbers was joined by two Grandfather Mountain State Park staff, including Ranger Andy Sicard who directed the effort.

The group departed from the parking lot at Grandfather's famous Swinging Bridge. The winds were high and ominous storm clouds obscured most of the view. With unwieldy tools and supplies, our group headed over Grandfather's high ridge. In an email announcing the service outing a few days before, Phil said, "If you've never hiked that trail before, it is sweet but will be a challenge carrying materials." He may have meant this as a clever under-statement. Or maybe he was just sandbagging. Either way, negotiating the many exposed wooden ladders and constricted boulder gardens while carrying 8' long posts and heavy tools made for an interesting approach. But it didn't hurt that the group was all climbers, and the chutes and ladders didn't seem to slow anyone down much.

I joined the outing and have to confess I had never hiked this ridge trail before. For natural beauty, it's an amazing trail to be sure, with unrivaled views and position. Unfortunately, it also gives one an ideal view of how high-end mountain development ran amok in the High Country. Looking across numerous mountain ridges west and north, there is a staggering lack of unfilled green space--and there are so many houses. It's somewhat ironic since Grandfather is deservedly regarded as a special natural area.

As a climber, one of the most interesting things I saw along the way were the climbing bolts and hangers used to fix the trail's wooden ladders and hand-cables to the rocks. The hardware was mostly self-drive bolts with old SMC hangers or Petzl caving hangers. I saw maybe two modern stainless steel bolts and hangers, and one rickety old cold shut. The best one though was at the top of the tallest set of ladders. The anchor was a makeshift "piton", cabled to the top of the ladder. Check out the photo. It seemed solid.

We eventually made it to our first work site, which I believe was the campsite at Cliffside. The park personnel showed us where to plant the sign. Our charge was to dig a two-foot hole and firmly install the sign in it. "Here's the post-hole diggers, go on and get your PhD," said Phil Trew. He handed me the tool and I proceeded to get pumped on that counterintuitive tool after 10 seconds. Turns out the PhD Phil was referring to is the one that stands for "post hole digger." The joke was on me. Phil proceeded to demonstrate his advanced degree. He went to town with that thing and had a hole up to spec in no time. On to the next install.

As the sun slowly came out, our group worked our way back along the ridge, digging holes and installing signs at Cliffside, Calloway Gap, Alpine Meadow (a really pretty spot) and Attic Window. Amazingly, we never once hit a slab of rock that prevented us from digging a hole. I found this hard to believe, but to the state park's credit they had come to each of the sites beforehand and made sure there was actually some topsoil in which to anchor a sign.

Eventually the sun came out and the day turned nice. The climbers managed to wrap up the service project by 3:00 in the afternoon. Ranger Sicard expressed the state park's sincere appreciation for the help, and all of us climbers present made it clear we were more than happy to help and would gladly help again in the future. Hopefully there will be another opportunity for climbers to assist Grandfather Mountain State Park in the future soon.

Service projects that successfully partner with land managers, like this one by the BCC (boone Climbers' Coalition), demonstrate the good will and cooperation of Carolina climbers. More importantly, they demonstrate climbers' long-held ability and willingness to be responsible stewards of the land and rocks on which we climb.

Thanks to the state park and the BCC for this opportunity, and to the great volunteers who showed up to help!

*Besides Ship Rock, which is a legal climbing area, keep in mind that rock climbing and bouldering are not allowed on Grandfather Mountain. Any climber caught breaking this rule is directly imperiling any possible future chance of legally climbing on Grandfather. Don't do it!


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