The Dump Climbing Crag
Backstory and Context
The rock climbing scene in the High Country of North Carolina is well-known throughout national climbing circles, and is often listed in magazines and online as a top destination for both route climbing and bouldering. Included on this list is "The Dump," which is located off Hwy. 221 between Blowing Rock and Linville, NC. It was discovered in the early 1980s before completion the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain, which spans just above this section of Hwy 221. Local climbers such as Tom Howard, Doug Reed, Mike Grimm, Gus Glitch and Porter Jarrard (and many more) established the crag while combing the ridges on the backside of Grandfather mountain looking for the Ship Rock climbing area.
Finding crags around Boone was all word of mouth then, and according to Ryan Beasley, owner of Rock Dimensions, Lee Carter was the climber who originally found Ship Rock and spread the word, which eventually led to the discovery of the Dump. Mike Grimm, former owner of Misty Mountain Gear, was one of the students obsessed with developing new routes. “It took us awhile before we could even find [these crags],” Grimm said in an interview. “The first time we went up there we got lost, and when we found it we still weren’t sure we were even at Ship Rock.”
The Dump got its name because the locals originally dumped their trash on the other side of the parking area, though recently there have been clean up initiatives by both the DOT and climber coalitions. As a case in point: directions to get to Little Wilson, another crag not far down 221 from the Dump, included such helpful hints as "turn left at the rusty refrigerator." The refrigerator is now gone, but the name of the crag lives on.
Though these rope climbing crags were the main place people climbed, in the late '80s and early '90s, Boone began to develop as a bouldering destination. While boulderers today rely on crash pads, Ryan Beasley said in those early days climbers would mountain bike up to Howard's Knob and use old rugs. Slowly, though, there were a lot of private enclosures of these bouldering areas for private development or because of high traffic and not enough funds to maintain them. The Carolina Climber's Coalition has made huge moves to purchase some of these areas and open them back up to climbing.
One of the benefits of these private enclosures is that it pushed climbers to develop other areas, such as the Dump, opening up rope climbing to a much larger portion of the population. Parts of the Dump eventually began to be bolted by Doug Reed from the ground up, which is more risky because you can only place protection in place you have good holds. Eventually though, some routes couldn't be bolted from the ground up, but because Doug Reed had gained respect for establishing so many ground up routes, most people tolerated it when he began rap bolting the dump, though some locals took issue. Sam Beasley established the classic Homegrown (10a) and Diab Rabee essentially brought sport to the crag.
The Dump and other High Country climbing areas have grown in popularity over the years though and are not only used by local climbers. While by no means a "destination" climbing area, the crag has gained so much acclaim through early developer climbing lore, that in 2015 during his book tour for Alone On the Wall, famed free-solo climber Alex Honnold spent a day climbing at the Dump.
The immense amount of time that has been put into the creation of these climbing areas, the fragility of our outdoor recreation areas, and the possibility of closures on public and private lands makes the protection and care required when using them extremely important. Part of the effort of sharing this history of this important piece of our mountain home is intended to preserve it. We are lucky to have such amazing recreation all around our counties, and through community efforts hope to maintain them for generations to come. Perhaps in the future, we will be able to establish so many more crags like the Dump and continue the legacy.
"The High Country Cragger -- New Guide Explores Climbing Opportunities Around Grandfather Mountain." Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. May 17, 2011. Accessed October 25, 2017. http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/go-outside/the-high-country-cragger-new-guide-captures-climbing-in-....
"Climbing." The High Country. Accessed October 25, 2017. http://boonencinfo.com/outdoor-adventures/climbing/.
"Boone, NC – Local History: The Dump." Rock Climbing | Cruxn. February 18, 2011. Accessed October 25, 2017. http://www.cruxn.com/local-history-the-dump/.
Goodman, Pat. "Boone." Mydigitalpublication.com. August 31, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2017. http://mydigitalpublication.com/article/Boone/1800987/0/article.html.
"Interview with Ryan Beasley." Interview by author. October 20, 2017.