Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA


Photo by Wayne Busch - View of Whiteside Mountain, NC.North Carolina - Whiteside Mountain

Image - shows state of North Carolina with location of Whiteside Mountain indicated with a yellow star.Location

Whiteside Mountain rises within some of the most beautiful and scenic country in the Nantahala National Forest. It is close to the southern border of the state, near the point where Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are joined. The trailhead is found just off Highway 64 between the towns of Cashiers and Highlands. Whitesides is located about 45 minutes west of Brevard, NC..

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Photo by Wayne Busch - Jason Hale atop the first pitch of The Original RouteDescription

If you are looking for the biggest, longest, wildest, runout routes in the south, Whitside Mountain is where you come. It is the land of hard men who seek difficult and dangerous climbing. Because of this, most pass by to climb at other more forgiving cliffs.

There are aid and free routes here as long as 10 pitches and more. By far, the most popular route is The Original Route 5.11a* (or 5.9 A1 if you use the bolt ladder at the crux), located towards the east end of the long southern face. The cliffs are approximately 700 feet high here, though almost 1000 feet of climbing is required when you include all of the traverses on the route. The first pitch, 140 feet of 5.7 slab offers no protection, setting the tone for that to come above. The most difficult moves above have sufficient protection, but the easier ground is very run out.

image - red starNote: a good view of the southern face can be had by driving through Cashiers to Whitesides Cove.

Enlarge photo of Jason

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Photo by Wayne Busch - View lookin East from several pitches up the South Face of Whiteside MountainDirections

From Brevard, NC, take US Highway 64 west, taking care to make the right turn just as you leave town. Follow 64 past Lake Toxaway, winding up into the mountains and through the town of Cashiers (good barbecue at the Smokehouse on your left). After 4.6 miles ( and before you get to Highlands ), you'll see a sign for Whitesides Mountain Road on your left near the entrance to the Wildcat Cliffs Country Club. Take this road to the parking lot and trailhead.

From Atlanta: Take I-85 out of Atlanta north across the Georgia border into South Carolina. Take the first exit in South Carolina - SR 11 north, (AKA the Foothills Scenic Highway). Take SR 11 north to Walhalla and then west on SR 28. A few miles later, SR 28 continues to the left and the road you're on turns into SR 107 Stay on SR 107 and go past Oconee State Park and north directly into Cashiers. If you take SR 28 when it diverges left, you'll have a long but scenic mountain drive into Highlands. At either Cashiers or Highlands, follow the directions from US 64 above.

image - red starOR: Take 441 North through Georgia to Dillard, then take SR 106 to Highlands. Head east on 64 to Whitesides. This saves a little driving time on the serpentine mountain roads.

[ Yahoo! Maps ] Yahoo Scalable Map - shows location of Whitesides Mountain

Logo - Topozone.comTopo map ( link)

Enlarge photo of East view

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Photo by Wayne Busch - The climbers' trail leaves the main trail at this group of pine shrubs. They nearly obscure the post marking the trailhead.Cliff Access

The north face can be seen from the road just before the turnoff to the parking area, but the massive southern exposure lies out of view from this approach. Most climbing activity is focused on the hidden south face that overlooks the valley from which the Chattooga River begins

Take the summit trail from the parking lot until it makes a hard left. The climbers trail to the base of the cliffs is straight ahead, through some some small pine shrubs (there is a wooden post hidden by the pine trees, see photo.) Follow the trail down and around to the base of the wall, working east (left).

To find the Original Route, hike along the wall for about 1/2 mile until you're below a long narrow ledge with trees. To your right, a large outcropping of rock reaches up to a tree covered ledge (where Catholic Girls 5.9 begins). Locate a single bolt about 90 feet up the face. The first pitch of the Original Route is pure 5.7 friction, comparable to Stone Mountain or Looking Glass.

While climbing, you may see tourists at a lookout on the far right side of the summit ridge. Once you top out, find the trail over to this spot to view the beast. Return to the parking lot via this same trail (head west).

Whitesides is closed to climbing due to peregrine falcon nesting season from January 15th - August 15th each year through the year 2003. Those dates may fluctuate slightly. The area is administered by the Highlands District Ranger office, call 828 - 652 - 2144 for current information. There is a $2 parking fee, self administered. Peregrine Falcon Closure info

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The Climbers Guide to North CarolinaSouthern RockGuidebooks

The Climbers Guide to North Carolina by Thomas Kelley.

Southern Rock by Chris Hall

Selected Climbs in North Carolina - Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull.

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Bryan Hall and Wayne Busch atop the 3rd pitch of the Original Route 5.10c A1Routes

The Original Route (a/k/a Gom Jabber) 5.11a* (or 5.10c A1),
New Diversions 5.10*,
Catholic Girls 5.9,
Volunteer Wall 5.10 A4 (hook moves)

View large image of Bryan and Wayne

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image - logo- National Forest ServiceLand Manager:

Nantahala National Forest
Highlands District Ranger Office
2010 Flat Mountain Road
Highlands, NC 28741
828 - 526- 3765

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image - caduceus -  symbol of medicineEmergency Information:

911, you are in Jackson County.

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image - carabinerGear:

Trad, man. Although you'll bring a full rack, this monolith has few weaknesses in which to insert your puny protection. On the Original Route, belay stances are either bolted or offer good natural anchors. Pitches in the 5.6 to 5.8 range are quite runout, often a full (gulp) rope length. The more difficult pitches are more easily protected. There is a 3 bolt ladder on pitch seven that allows you to aid through the difficult 5.11 move. 60 meter ropes are recommended. Because bad weather comes in unseen from the west and north, be prepared for storms. Also be aware that, on the Original Route, retreat is problematic after the first few pitches.

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Photo by Wayne Busch - View looking up the cliff face from the start of teh Orinial Route. 1050 feet of climbing ahead, 10 pitches.Facilities:

Camping is not allowed in the parking area or anywhere on Whiteside. Camping is available at VanHook campground down the Cullasaja Gorge Rd.

Another free area to camp is below Shortoff Mountain, about 4 miles NW of Whiteside. Take a left out of the road leading to Whiteside. Go about 3 miles, take a right on Buck Creek Rd at the curve. Look for a boardwalk/wetland area under a mile on your right, then take a right. Go another half mile or so and take a left. This road eventually leads to Forest Service land. The road ends at a large turn around. Park here. Go down the bank to make camp on an old roadbed. There are houses nearby, so be discrete. Keep fires small. This is a great and legal place to camp but avoid disturbing the neighbors. Camping here is about 5 minutes from the Whiteside parking lot.

There is also a U.S. Forest Service campground on Highway 64 west of Highlands, about 10 miles away. This is a self-pay campground that is not locked, allowing for late arrivals and early departures.

See large photo of the start of OR

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Southern exposure heats up the wall in the summer, but peregrine closures usually keep the cliff unoccupied until fall. Winter can be nice, but ice is known to pervade the upper pitches.

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Photo by Wayne Bucsh - View looking west from the South Face of Whiteside MountainAccess Notes

Whitesides is essentially closed to climbing from January 15th - August 15th, 2000 to protect peregrine falcon nesting activity.

Peregrine Falcon Closure info

Show large view looking west

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image - red starBe especially cautious concerning the weather. Routes are long and committing with limited chances for retreat or escape. This is not the best place to get pinned during a violent thunderstorm.

View larger image of South Face

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Whiteside Mountain Trip Reports

7/15/00 Opening Day at Whitesides, NC - Almost - submitted by Wayne Busch - Jason Hale and Wayne Busch try to be the first climbers on Whiteside only to find the closure signs have not been taken down. They go to Looking Glass.

10/21/99 Climbing Scared - Submitted by Wayne Busch - Wayne has a foreboding dream prior to climbing The Original Route with Jason Hale. We also visit Looking Glass Rock and Tallulah Gorge.

9/25/98 - Whiteside Mountain and Rumbling Bald Trip Report - Submitted by the Buttinskis, a.k.a. Jeff and Chris Braund. The Brothers climb Whiteside with Matt Floyd, then spend a day at Rumbling Bald.

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