When you're ready for superb trad climbing in Georgia, you may be ready for Tallulah Gorge. Don't let the touristy Interpretive Center fool you -- when you leave the parking lot and hit the trail into the gorge, you're in wild country and serious climbing territory. This is not a place for beginners or toproping; apart from a handful of moderate lines, the routes at Tallulah are hard multi-pitch trad or mixed aid/trad. The rock is high-quality quartzite, the scenery is beautiful and the exposure will raise your pulse rate.
Climbing at Tallulah Gorge began in the 70s, when southern legend Rich Gottlieb and partners established early classics like Flying Frog. But the top first ascentionist here has been Atlanta climber Shannon Stegg, whose name is stamped on most of the Main Wall routes. Along with partners Greg Allen, Chris Wilson, Larry Myers, Stan Glass and others, Stegg put up stellar lines like Punk Wave, Primitive Paradox, Heaven and Hell and many others. Another noted route pioneer is North Carolina's Jeep Gaskin, who gets the credit for such stout climbs as Cracker State and War in the Gulf.
Because this is a state park, activities other than climbing sometimes take precedence. There are periodic weekend water releases from the dam to facilitate white-water kayaking competitions, at which time Tallulah Gorge is closed to climbing. Unfortunately, these closures are in late fall and early spring, which is prime time for climbing here (like other south-facing crags, Tallulah is not a great summer destination). So wait until kayaking season is over or take a day off during the week. The park will issue a maximum of 20 climbing permits per day, but it is almost unheard of for this limit to be met; Tallulah Gorge is never crowded.
Camping is available on the grounds of the park.
From Atlanta, head north on I-85, then exit to I-985 north. Follow 985 to where it ends, then continue north on US 441 to Tallulah Falls. Cross a bridge that is the dam to the Tallulah River, then watch for the Tallulah Gorge State Park Interpretive Center and turn right into the center. Pay the parking fee, then go to the main building and fill out a climber's permit.
Pitch 1: Start at hand crack in a corner down stream from Primitive Paradox. Follow this crack through blocky bulge working left. Follow steep face to right facing corner and a fixed belay station. Double check this anchor and back up when necessary.Pitch 2: Step left, down, then back up a flake to a finger crack past a small roof to a bolted belay station. Many parties rap here.Pitch 3: Traverse right and through huge roof following easiest path to a ledge, then continue to top....[more]Browse More Classics in GA
Once down in the gorge, Tallulah offers some of the best scenery in the SE. Just be aware that permits are iffy following weather, you might be under surveillance, and there are commonly many loose rocks on the easier routes. Tallulah is a special place and worth preservation. Bring a double rack of cams and two ropes.
Just a comment on the approach. You don't actually need to make a rap, so you can leave your harness and rope buried in the pack until you reach your intended line. The short scramble/downclimb is easy 4th class for about 15'. Dogs and kids will be screwed here, but climbers capable of climbing the routes in the Gorge won't have issues here.
By saxfiend Administrator From: Decatur, GA Oct 5, 2007
All water releases for October and November have been cancelled, per the Tallulah Gorge State Park web site: www.gastateparks.org/info/tallulah/ This is due to the current drought. So there should be no climbing restrictions for the rest of the fall.
"Climbing at Tallulah Gorge began in the 70s," Actually, climbing there began in the '60s with a US Army unit nailing what we called Army Angle [the exact same route Bert Reynolds did "free" in the movie Deliverance] in '67 we removed 10 or more nice Army Angle pitons from that and another line - I still have one of them somewhere.
A group of five Ga Tech students "discovered" the gorge in '67 and made climbing trips there practically every [dry] weekend for the next several years. These included Mike Byorick, Steve Poulsen, Mike Kimball, Alan Vandeford and myself Rob Culbertson. We were not great climbers at the time so nailed/aided many of the lines. Three of the group also made the first ground-up ascent of Stone Mountain [immediately left of the carving] over July 4 weekend '69. I have many great photos from this.
[I also have quite a few slides & b&w pix of the gorge and climbs before it was "destroyed" by the circus.]
By saxfiend Administrator From: Decatur, GA Dec 2, 2007
That's fascinating history, Rob. I'll pass it along to Chris for his next revision of the Dixie Cragger. I hope you'll post some of your photos.
Do you happen to know who did the FA of Mescaline Daydream? I've been dying to find out who that was.
It's been over a year since Rob Culbertson posted comments about the early years of climbing in Tallulah Gorge, so I thought that I would throw in a photo to prove that we actually existed. The photo is by Mike Kimball and it shows us climbing a route near what is now called Punk Wave. Most of our climbs were probably first ascents, but we didn't name or document anything that we did, we just enjoyed climbing. Tallulah Gorge is a special place. I hope that generations of climbers will be able to enjoy it as we did. Have fun, be safe.
I consider myself lucky to have had the priviledge of climbing at the Upper Falls before it was closed. Now whenever I watch Deliverance it brings back fond and long ago memories...the John Voigt climbing scene, of course :)
To my knowledge, no new routes have been put up in decades. Bolting new routes in Tallulah Gorge is complicated by (1) vague regulations, (2) limited access, and (3) high non-climber visibility: Defacing the rock is illegal, but how permanent climbing anchors fit in appears untested by regulators. Climbing at any areas witin the park other than the main wall with is officially off limits; this includes previously published areas. Tallulah Gorge's walls are very visible to a large volume of hikers and are watched by park rangers, making it nearly impossible to keep a low profile when down there. The gorge overlooks even have coin operated tower viewers.
One-for-one bolt replacement projects have been undertaken under the radar. Safety/necessity support these actions, and the projects were conducted during low volume times in the park. As to new routes, bolting could endanger already sensitive climbing access and would likely not be received well by locals. The main wall is all but climbed out. On the other hand, there are still dangerous bolts and open, established (but overgrown) routes that need revitalization.