moderate multi-pitch

Visualize with me for a moment.

Pick any climbing video from the archive in your brain where those with a more responsible hippocampus have actual useful memories stored. It could be a retro Lynn Hill biopic, the most recent Adam Ondra scream session, or a DIY film from a local crusher. All cued up? Cool.

Now let’s freeze frame, shot-by-shot, as the face of [insert extremely strong and perhaps professionally-paid person’s name here] moves from determination to anguish to frustration to unadulterated HULK SMASH mode.

Now pan the camera back to you on a Friday afternoon at 5pm in rush hour traffic. Notice anything different? Would a more cheerful passerby on the interstate describe you as, perhaps, dog-tired? Wholly enervated? Completely and utterly without purpose?

The reality of a 9-5 lifestyle can easily turn the most passionate climbers amongst us into beer-gutted vicarious adventurers, relying more on YouTube or Patagonia’s latest advertising campaign to get us psyched than the actual Thing itself.

Fear not true believers, there is hope.

That hope is an irreverent and beauteous niche within the sport, flitting amongst the exhausted Red Bull toting projectors and the laconic pad parties brought on by the Boulderer Near You. I daren’t say its name without the dopey grin donning my visage. Yes, the rumors are true, moderate multi-pitch is here to save us.

multi-pitch climbing
This weekend my partner and I tromped out to Table Rock, a very popular cliff on the eastern ridge of Linville Gorge in Western North Carolina. A cornerstone of climbing history in this region and home to the local Outward Bound office, the wonderfully long and incredibly approachable sport routes at Table Rock are no secret amongst local folks looking for a full day out.

Originally bolted by Outward Bound awhile back, several of the long moderate sport routes (it’s North Carolina so bring a light rack or, more suitable to locals, “just don’t fall”) have since been re-bolted and fall within the 5.4-5.7 range. The climbing itself is well-featured, with ample feet, and moves just technical enough on the easy stuff to remind you not to be arrogant. The runouts, even on the lower graded Jim Dandy (5.4), are more of a mental than physical game, as one might expect, but the occasional TCU provides an easy salve to any heightened heart rate brought on by the “what if…” peanut gallery in your head.

Most of these longer sport routes end up on Lunch Ledge, a veritable parking lot (more Prius than Tacoma, but still …) on the side of the cliff where most teams have to refocus a bit after the giddiness of the easier approach pitches. My Route (5.6) is arguably the most popular on that part of the cliff and a great finishing 2-3 pitches (the second two can be linked) as you can hike the mile-long summit trail from the top of Table Rock right back to the parking lot.

On some recommendations from trusted veterans, we chose to climb My Route (5.6), which was a fantastic finish offering 250 feet of varied, featured climbing, with fantastic exposure. A few heady moves pepper the route, but hidden holds make the bark of the roof pulls way worse than their bite. The stable leader, with a good head for NC sport, shouldn’t have to stop between every bolt to place gear (indeed, the Mountain Project comments section is smothered in testaments of various Johnny Tryhards who didn’t place any gear or [gasp] free-soloed the whole thing) but, again, an orange TCU and a few C3s will go a long way.

The real joy of this climb, and moderate multi-pitch in general, comes from the natural rhythmic nuances of the day that start to develop after a pitch or two between you and your partner.

The lead, the follow, the belay switch, wash, rinse, and repeat.

multi-pitch climbing

My partner, Janie Cole, brought up how nice it was to not only have the inherent team-focus of the climb, but also to enjoy the solitude of being alone on the wall or the belay station while the other partner is working. This is something you just don’t get from cragging. It is a taste of Muir’s style of freedom (dare I say, Of the Hills?) without the unrealities of an expedition that simply isn’t feasible every single weekend.

I chose to use these routes at Table Rock to expound on the bounties of moderate multi-pitch because they epitomize the style so adeptly. The climbing is just plain fun, technical but not scary, demanding attention rather than attrition. Although described as good for the multi-pitch beginner, I think more experienced climbers will agree that these climbs won’t lose their luster or grin-inducing ability no matter how many times you summit.

So don’t give into another weekend of Dale’s Pale and Valley Uprising. I know you’re tired and simply find the gym depressing. That’s okay. Freedom has no grade and solitude doesn’t give a hoot about what you can redpoint. Find a moderate multi-pitch climb in your area and if you really don’t know what do with yourself, just go up.

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