Bumblebee Buttress: A Linville Gorge AdventureSeptember 22, 2016 fmg-adminRock Climbing Route Beta The Guides' Climbing Adventures
With the recent lifting of Peregrine Falcon closures (http://carolinaclimbers.org/closures/2016lifted.html) , cool temperatures in the Linville Gorge, and a willing partner, I decided to venture to the rarely traveled North Carolina Wall to sample a classic NC moderate, Bumblebee Buttress (5.8).
I have heard many stories of BB, and it’s intimidating reputation. Imagine the classic movement of White Lightning on Table Rock with the remoteness and position of the Amphitheater. Put those two things together and you have the truly classic climbing that is Bumblebee Buttress. Here is a detailed description of the route with some personal accounts and suggestions of each pitch. As always, please use this information in conjunction with a guide book and other sources like Mountain Project and trip reports.
What to Bring:
Pack: I prefer to tackle multi-pitch objectives in Linville by placing all of my things comfortably into my 32 Liter Deuter Guide Lite and then, upon reaching the top of the cliff, switch out with my Deuter Speed Lite 20 for decent and climbing.
Rack: Full set of cams from single set BD C3’s 00-2, BD C4’s .3-4 with doubles in the .5-1 range. Larger stoppers (BD 8-13). Tricams (pink, red)
Bring a helmet! This is not a party crag, and the rock quality can be suspect in places, including on the approach!
Plenty of food and at least 2 Liters of water, especially in the summer. Bring a layer if in the shoulder seasons. The route won’t see the sun until you are on the 3rd pitch and even then, won’t hit until late afternoon.
As with any approach into the wilderness area of the Linville Gorge, expect to take your time and to meet challenges of route finding with the patience and foresight of a Jedi. Watch out for snakes, bees ,and poor rock/loose soil. Be prepared to use a rope!
Begin your approach from the Table Rock parking lot and head south on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). Walk past the familiar Chimneys features where you will likely see groups top roping. Be sure to wish them a good day and when they ask you where you are heading, smile and say with a sense of invigoration, “the North Carolina Wall!”
Once leaving the Chimney’s proper, begin to look for a trail heading down hill to the west next to a tree with a blaze for the MST. This is NOT the MST, but the climbers trail to the top of the NC Wall. This trail is just past a tree that is typically signed with laminated notifications from the USFS about Peregrine closures. If you hit a rock outcrop after about 30-40’, this is the wrong trail and heads to the Apricot Buttress area.
After taking the correct trail downhill for about 2-3 minutes, you should pop out into a clear-ish area above a hard to define gully. To either side of this gully, if looking west, should be two areas of rock that define the top of the cliff. Stash your pack up on the left side. Remember that to descend, you will need to head back to this spot!
When prepping for descent, I prefer to put my harness and helmet on and stash my coiled rope on my back, so that I am more likely to decide to use it if I feel it may be necessary. I place a few cams (.5 to 3) and my stoppers on if I need to build a quick anchor for a step or two.
I then rack up with my “guide rack” (plaquette device, gri-gri, a couple free lockers, double length sling, a couple cordelettes, and a prussic type loop). Stash the rest of your gear in your smaller pack to carry down.
Head back to your location where you popped out of the trees looking down the initial gully and begin heading down (west). You should almost immediately head down some loose soil terrain to a 2nd/3rd class rock step. Eventually you will begin to turn south and head between the Mossy Monster Buttress and the NC Wall. A short, 10’ section of rock guards entrance into this cool canyon.
After carefully descending the canyon between the two cliffs, you will pop out into very loose vegetation and small downed trees. Be very careful here as there is a small cliff (20-30’) below you and a slip could lead to a tumble over it. Before you reach the cliff, begin looking back west and north for the trail to continue over to an easier descent down more loose soil.
Once at the base of this section, move up towards the cliff and follow a faint, yet obvious climbers trail along the base, eventually moving over big talus under several overhangs. You are now along the top of a small cliff band that will lead directly to the base of Bumblebee Buttress, which is marked by the obvious left facing corner system capped by a roof that begins at the base of a 10 ft. high ledge.
Begin by carefully scrambling to the top of this ledge and prepping for the climb!
Pitch 1 5.8: From the top of the ledge, climb up an unprotected, but low 5th class feature up to a rhododendron (sling for pro if you wish). Awkwardly step up and around the rhodo, and enter the corner. It is possible to get a high #1 C4 here in good rock to protect the movement. Make some tricky moves to better feet and establishment in the corner and climb it to its end beneath the roof via excellent stems, jams and locks with great protection including some threads! Once in the blocky corner beneath the roof, it is possible to step out left to a small (1’) ledge and place small gear (C3’s-small C-4’s) in a horizontal crack on the face and establish a semi-hanging belay.
Pitch 2 5.8: Step right off the belay and up into the roof where it is possible to place a #4 out left into the roof. Extend long and make the delicate traverse out to the corner of the roof. Make an excellent series of steep moves on big holds over the roof and back into the corner. Great protection is offered as you step up on to a ledge on the right after about 15-20’. Follow either corner system to the top of the feature watching for loose rock! I chose the right variation as it looked to have better feet. Step right on the small ledge on top of the feature and locate a horizontal that takes small hand sizes for a belay. You can extend your anchor back to the edge from the master point by utilizing your rope as an extension. Once your partner reaches the top, you can stay attached to the anchor and carefully scramble down and right to a better ledge and re-organize your rope.
Pitch 3 5.8: Make some careful moves up to your anchor and begin traversing out right utilizing horizontals (small hand sizes shrinking to small C3’s). You are aiming for the right side of a bulge, up and right of the traverse. I was able to find a 0 C3 before committing to the bulge move. Take a deep breath, find small feet and pull over the bulge. Begin working up and right to a large ledge system. There is a large crack far right on the ledge beneath the large grey face, but it is quite out of the way and communication would be very difficult. I ended up using gear in a crack out right and using my rope as an extension to a comfortable rock ledge back left. I used a couple of pieces in a horizontal as an elevator to keep my masterpoint comfortably high.
Pitch 4 5.5: Reorganize your rope and begin to wonder up the weakness from right to left up into the increasingly moss covered cracks and holds to a comfortable ledge about 60’ up. Belay here utilizing an excellent blocky thread for better communication. Or…
Pitch 5 4th class or 5.8: This can be combined with the last pitch. Head out right for the likely original exit on 4th class blocky terrain with some 5th class moves thrown in there to a thorny, bushy exit to the top of the cliff. I would not recommend this if combining with previous pitch.
Head straight up through two left facing triangular blocks for a direct finish that will keep the grade around the 5.8 range. Follow great holds on steeper terrain to the top of the cliff and carefully top out avoiding the loose soil on top. We chose this option. Belay up top on live trees.
Give yourself a pat on the back and munch on blueberries on your way back to your packs! Follow a faint trail and some ledges, carefully, along the top of the cliff.
Be safe out there and enjoy!
Cody Bradford, AMGA SPI and Apprentice Rock Guide