One thing to remember is that when you work at The Backpacker you join a family, a community, and a culture that is often times long lasting. One of the first people I met at Backpacker, as most people in the past might have as well, was Matt “Matt’Teryx” Vecchio. He has outfitted many of people for gear and sent them safely onward towards adventure. He has been my belay partner and adventure buddy for many moons and I was saddened when he left Baton Rouge to live in Greenville, South Carolina. A few months after his departure, he invites us to come and stay with him and to go climbing in the Linville Gorge located in North Carolina.Jumping at the opportunity, I packed all my gear and hit the road with my fiancé and Matt’s girlfriend, Ariel. Greenville treated us well and the time weInt spent there was more than enjoyable. We spent Matt’s birthday downtown touring breweries and local cuisines while cruising the city on bicycles. Before the night ended, I made sure to fill up both my Hydroflask growlers with some local beer to take to the woods with us. The Hydroflask growler is vacuum-sealed, double-wall insulated to keep your drinks cooler for longer and they have a special lid that keeps the carbonation for a fresher beer when you’re ready for it.
The next morning we left bright and early to head to the Linville Gorge. We parked at the campground for Table-Rock, a popular crag for climbers. Instead of heading to the Table Rock climbing area, we headed the other way to a lesser-known area called the Amphitheater that boasts three large, and fairly easy, multi-pitch trad climbs. We also found some off the path campsites that allowed us to base-camp for a few days while we hit the highlights. During the hike in, we were distracted from a moderately tough approach with fresh blueberries and blackberries growing along the trail. Once we arrived at the Amphitheater, we walked out to the rim and laid our gear down for a snack and to organize us. We used the Big Agnes Onyx tarp and the Grand Trunk Rain Fly to create a base camp. While the girls took a nap, Matt and I took the basic trad gear, two ropes, a bottle of water, and went off to get a refresher on the systems for when we all went out the next day. A basic trad rack, in this case, consists of a set of Black Diamond Nuts, #.75-#4 Black Diamond Camelots, 6 quickdraws, 6 slings (60cm and 120cm), cordelette for anchors, locking and non-locking carabiners, and two 60m ropes. We hiked down to the edge of the rim and set a 60m rappel to the halfway point of the route “The Prow” (5.4). By the end of our first pitch, we caught a rain storm that forced us under an overhang that protected us from the weather but left the rest of the climb, as well as the girls above, soaked and wet. After trying to rest while hoping it cleared up, we had to make the decision whether to try and rappel down and leave gear or to take a slow climb out. Realizing that it would be far to difficult to rappel with the top out being so close, we decided to take a slow, safe climb out. As we topped out, we realized that our 1-2 hour recon trip turned into a 5-6 hour adventure. However, we found a much more protected campsite at the top out that would be more protected from the weather.
As I left Matt to clean the route to go assure the girls that we were ok, we were met with angry/happy tears. When I sat down to drink water and to try and convince them to move to the other site while they were still upset, they happened to begin telling me that we were moving sites to exactly where we had planned already. Turns out they made the discovery and decision to move while searching for us. As we commuted to our new location, we used our climbing gear to hang a close line and extra gear for organization and drying. As we continued to set up camp, I cooked sausage jambalaya on the MSR Whisperlite. This versatile little stove is great for every type of backcountry cooking; that’s boiling water to gourmet meals for small groups such as us.
The following morning, July 4, we set out to do a ground up ascent of The Mummy (5.5), a 3-pitch 350’ route that stands proud amongst The Amphitheater. Though 5.5 is not an inherently difficult grade, the experience was demanding as a whole. The approach was a mixture of steep, mountainside trails and dense forest that required skillful navigation since the trail was not always evident. Once to the top of the climb, we rappelled down a wet chute that led us to the base of the climb. Once we arrived, we noticed that the first pitch, a beautiful crack leading to the first belay station was soaked and dripping from the day before. Having to dance on and off the route in order to find dry holds and gear placements, we finally made it up the first vertical pitch to the belay station. From here on out it was beautiful, easy climbing that was dried in the now present sun. When the sun came out we realized that the water we had brought ran out faster than anticipated and dehydration began to creep upon us. A successful top out was short lived by the need to return to camp for water. Even my helmet rolling off the side of a 20ft ledge could not deter me from the need at hand; I had to let the old friend go.
Upon return, we celebrated with plenty of water and dehydrated meals. The Good-to-Go Thai Curry, Mexican Quinoa Bowl, and Bibimbap were great toppers to the day. Oh, and just because we were in the mountains did not mean we were without fireworks for America’s Birthday. We perched on the edge of the cliff and caught the light show from the town down the valley. Not much of a better way to end the day.
The hike out was a continuous feast of fresh blueberries and blackberries along the trailside. The three-mile hike seemed to last long but was refreshing with all of the snacks. Back the Table Rock parking lot, we celebrated with Quest Brewery’s Golden Fleece IPA that had been waiting on us in the car. The Hydroflask Growler kept the beer fresh since it’s lid locks in the carbonation and keeps it from going flat like traditional glass growlers, and the YETI Hopper kept it cold during those long hot days in the car while we were away. After sharing a beer and a snack, we headed to the nearest town with the best BBQ. Banner Elk, NC boasts a local favorite, The Peddlin Pig. With meat so tender it would be worth any amount of time and suffering in the woods to come to such a rewarding feast. However, though suffering was minimal, the celebration with great BBQ and cold, local beer was the cap to a great celebration with friends.
Osprey Kestral 48
Marmot Nanowave 55 (an amazing lightweight summer bag that won’t break the bank!)
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
MSR Quick 2 Pot Set
Helinox Chair One
North Face Enduras Trail Shoes
La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes
Petzl and Blue Water Ropes (9.8mm)
Petzl Corax harness
Petzl Spirit Quickdraws
Black Diamond ATC-Guide (Here is a link to the ATC-XP: it has the same braking funtions as the guide but without top-belay capability)
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraws
Black Diamond Camelots (full run of cams)
Black Diamond sewn runners (4x60cm 3x120cm)
Friction Labs Chalk
Hydroflask 32oz growler (64oz growler carried at Backpacker locations)
Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter
Leki Legacy Trekking poles (I used men’s and my fiance used the women’s)