For many years, Laurel Knob was The Un-named Crag, a secret destination known to the chosen few. Climbing was illegal here, but that didnít stop the determined climbers who saw the imposing granite dome rising out of Lonesome Valley near Big Green Mountain. They thrashed and bushwhacked for hours through thick rhododendron to the base of the cliff, looking up in awe at an expanse of rock so tall they couldnít see the top.
Undeterred, these hardcore climbers began the first ascents of the exposed, water-grooved face, putting up routes of up to 10 pitches. And they made do with what they had: leaders who came later would arrive at the next bolt and discover with horror that it was a carriage bolt hammered into the wall with loops of rusty bailing wire to clip to.
Because it was a secret crag for so long, documentation on the first ascentionists and even route names isnít easy to come by. But that wonít be the case much longer; in 2006, the Carolina Climbers Coalition pulled off the stunning achievement of purchasing Laurel Knob, with the help of donations by climbers all over the world. Now the 1,200-foot dome is open to all climbers, and the CCC has replaced the old hardware on most of the well-known routes like Fathom and Groover.
Some important points of information about Laurel Knob:
This is one of the tallest (if not THE tallest) crags in the eastern US.
LK is a remote area with serious multi-pitch climbing. It is not a place for inexperienced climbers.
Regarding access, Laurel Knob is owned by the Carolina Climbers Coalition, which is working hard to maintain good relations with neighboring landowners. If you're going to climb here, you MUST respect and follow the CCC rules, which can be found at www.carolinaclimbers.org.
Laurel Knob is in the Cashiers Valley. Make your way to the town of Cashiers and take US 64 east of the town. Continue two or three miles to Cedar Creek Road and take a left (north). Follow this winding road into the hills until it intersects with Breedlove Road; take a right here and continue past Christmas tree farm fields for several miles. The road changes to gravel and ends in the Panthertown trailhead parking lot. This is the starting point for the long and strenuous hike in to Laurel Knob. Allow about two hours for the hike in and up to three hours for the hike out.
NOTE: This trail is the only legal access to Laurel Knob. If you come in from the valley below -- no matter who you're friends with -- you are trespassing!
Hike down the road toward Panthertown valley. At the first intersection with another old road, take a right and continue about 10-15 minutes to a creek crossing (Frolictown Creek). Ford the creek and hike another mile or so to a fork. Take the right fork (the smaller trail) and after another 10 minutes or so, be on the lookout for a trail that angles up and right from the main trail. This should be marked by a small wooden sign saying "Laurel Knob."
Continue on this winding trail through the woods, crossing a stream on a log and past the marked corner of the property line between the CCC property and that of the forest service. Follow pink and/or blue flagged markers and cross over a mossy slab. Before long, you'll see a gravel road and buildings to the left; this is private property. Stick to the trail; continue past the CCC kiosk and down a steep 600' series of switchbacks to the base of the main Laurel Knob face.
At this point, you should come out on a well-groomed trail put in place by the Lonesome Valley development. Continue along this trail until you reach the small clearing at the base of the direct start of Seconds. From here, the Lonesome Valley trail goes down and left; the climbers' trail goes uphill from Seconds and continues along the cliff base.
Groover is one of Laurel Knob's signature moderate routes. It has the distinction of being established in a single-day first ascent by noted NC climber Jeep Gaskin and his wife Julia -- on their honeymoon! For much of its length, Groover follows a nice arching crack system with great protection; toward the top, it uses the carved water grooves that are a hallmark of Laurel Knob. Don't let the 5.8 rating or the fact that there's "only" six pitches fool you; this is a long a...[more]Browse More Classics in NC
The CCC is still trying to pay for this awesome cliff. Cost $250,000. We still owe around $25,000. Thanks to everyone who has donated. Help us get over the top by making your tax deductible donation today. Go to www.carolinaclimbers.org for details on how to help.
The CCC met its goal of raising $250,000!! LK is now owned by the CCC on behalf of climbers everywhere. Thanks to all who helped make this acquisition possible. As an aside, the CCC still has annual expenses such as insurance and property taxes for the cliff. Comes to around 3-4k per year. Donations are appreciated. More info can be obtained at www.carolinaclimbers.org.
If it's clear and the sun is out, you shouldn't freeze to death. Camping will be mighty cold as will the face if it is overcast and windy, but conditions are variable that time of year and it could make for some great friction.
Instead of hiking the gravel road from Panthertown Parking Lot, make the first right onto Wilderness Waterfall Trail, which is now marked with NSF signage at the trail heads. This is a much more enjoyable trail with a great view. You end up meeting up with Deep Gap Trail right before the Frolicktown Creek crossing. This trail may be slighly longer, but on a hot day is much more shaded than the awful gravel road. FYI, make sure you don't lose the trail when you reach the slabs before the waterfall. Head down the slab to stay on the trail, do not traverse to the right. The trail to the right eventually turns into private property.