Searching for the ideal conditions can be a constant battle for climbers in the southeast; more so when those prime winter months have come and gone. Despite the sometimes unpredictable weather in North Carolina’s high country, Grandmother Mountain can be a refuge for those in search of cool temps as the rest of the state warms. Located a short distance from the popular tourist destination Grandfather Mountain, Grandmother Mountain is home to nothing more than a cell phone tower and some of the best bouldering in North Carolina. These boulders, along with other smaller areas spread out along highway 221, are close to the town of Linville, NC.
For most of the bouldering in North Carolina, you park, walk a short distance and find yourself at boulders. Grandmother is no different. You wander down a trail that doubles as a creek at times, surrounded by tall trees and dense rhododendron bushes. You’ll find that shade is in abundance even on the sunniest days. Further shelter can be found under one grandmother's classic roof problems like Might Mouse or Raw Meat.
The problems can be somewhat cryptic here. Easy, moderate or hard, the dynamic nature of the problems will challenge your ability. 'Boone Beta', as some know it, often comes down to this: Here are the only holds, here’s how you do it. Even slight variations don’t often work. Coupled with the less-than-ideal climbing temperatures, spring and late summer sends can be a fun challenge. Even the warm ups can may need to be learned. Climbing through nice big holds on the Decepticon boulder, casually stretching as you reach each hold, will soon leave you hanging at a slopey lip that will make you think, 'Am I still on the warm up?'. That feeling tends to be common on these boulders; you'll be left thinking 'I've just gotta cruise this top out' only to find out its another problem in itself.
There's something special about sneaking in these out-of-season bouldering sessions. It's kind of like you're getting away with doing something you shouldn’t be doing. With the low expectations of off-season bouldering and the extended daylight, you can often find a sense of freedom to search out lesser-climbed problems you haven’t tried or even seen. While this all may be a way for the southeast boulder to cope with the fact that it's hot, it’s also like climbing with a weight vest. But once the good conditions come and you pull off the weight of the summer heat, those hard problems won’t feel so hard.
Climber and photographer based in the South East