Stone Mountain Bouldering
To accompany this little write-up on bouldering at Stone Mountain, here’s a link to an old Boulderdash article on the finer problems Stone has to offer, written by local and Triple Crown Bouldering Series originator, Jim Horton. For those of you who don’t know Boulderdash, it was a Carolina-based, by-the-seat-of-its-pants rag that ran from the 1990s until 2001. Begun by Mark Bishop, from the late 90s to early 2000s it was revamped by Carl Stearns and Lynn Willis as a full-color East Coast mag. I think it was loved and enjoyed by all while it lasted! Anyway, enough nostalgia: Horton’s article is an entertaining written and photographic guide to some of the best boulder problems of Stone Mountain. Enjoy.
Stone Mountain is known as a mecca for pure, holdless, full-smear slab climbing. It’s a granite dome both infamous and appreciated for adventurous routes and generously spaced bolts.
Less appreciated and less known are the high-quality boulders along Stone’s base. These beautiful blocks offer the contemporary boulder-toad exactly what she or he wants: overhanging aretes, compression moves, and full-handed feature climbing on excellent, grippy granite. And just when the sloper-smacking gets to be too much, there are a handful of tall, smeary slab problems to keep everyone honest.
In the dead of winter, Stone Mountain may just be a perfect weekend bouldering get-away. The area’s not huge, but the amount of bouldering is plenty, just right for one or two days. Because we’re talking granite-feature climbing, there’s a good grade-spread (V-easy to V-double digit). More importantly, nearly every line is aesthetically pleasing and worthy of a go. Plus, it’s south-facing, so the whole area gets blasted with sun. If you want to stay the night, the park offers great camping facilities.
A pleasure of bouldering at Stone is that the lines are screamingly obvious. One can wander around, pick an attractive feature, start where it feels best, and just climb. Numerous classics like Trailside Arete, Skagg Baron, Thumb Slab, Rage, Slap Happy, the Whale problems, Ruffage and many others are like that: they mostly speak for themselves.
So, don’t ask where it starts, just get on the thing and climb.
From within Stone Mountain State Park, the boulders are accessed by parking at the Lower Trail Parking Lot. A 5-minute or so walk up a dirt road leads to a historic farmer’s homestead standing at the edge of a big, open field. You’ll get a great view here of the 600-foot granite dome of Stone Mountain sitting just above the meadow.
To get to the boulders, take the obvious trail towards the cliff up through the field. You’ll immediately see the boulders, and the obvious 90-degree corner of “Trailside Arete.” The highest concentration of problems is to the right, or east, but there is a nice smaller set just to the west as well, above the log cabins historic pig pen. Another satellite area can be accessed by walking into the woods at the far, eastern-edge of the field, then walking up hill. This is another bad-ass little spot, with about four boulders, including the top-notch sloper problem “Rage.” Uphill from “Rage” is a sweet roof problem, once called “Sweet Leaf Roof.” Like the main set of boulders, this little side area is a must-visit, with plenty to do.
If you like lesser-traveled boulders, and don’t mind wandering about, there are additional options for bouldering at Stone. For example, the boulders on the north side of the mountain have plenty to give the boulder-toad with a mean jones for some thick granite texture. Here’s a little video of one the best problem back there, a tall and fun arete called “Rebel 88 (On Dirt).”
Ready for a trip then? Please keep this in mind. Stone Mountain State Park has a historically friendly and productive relationship with climbers. Keep it that way and follow the rules. For climbers, that boils down to two things: registering as a climber, which is easy and free, and leaving before the park closes. You can register right by the boulders, next to the climbers’ kiosk.
Leave before the park closes! November through February, when the area and temperatures are ideal, park hours are 8 am to 6 pm. Though that’s plenty of time for a full day, this closing time might test your punctuality as you fight for that last-ditch send with the sun going down. If this starts happening, wrap it up and save it for another day. The state park hours are strict. Do not, I repeat, do not tempt fate and push the clock. The park rangers have worked a long day and want to get home for dinner. They will drive up into the field and blast their horn–or worse, they’ll just head home, locking you inside the park. Don’t make it unpleasant for you and the ranger who has to come let you out. Make climbers look good and leave on time.
For directions and information on the state park, including current park hours, go to their official site here.