One of the peaks that has been on my bag list for years was Babel Tower. Located in the northwest section of the Linville Gorge Wilderness, I had missed a number of opportunities to hike it with friends. However, Monday was my last day of recuperation before heading back to work. So I asked my son if he wanted to drive up to Linville Gorge to go for a hike. He agreed.
We hit the road at pretty much 7:00 am and got to the trailhead at 9:30 am. Good time. The Babel Tower Trail is straightforward. It just goes down and down from the Kistler Highway until you get to the peak they call Babel Tower. You lose about 800 or 900 feet in elevation, and the trail's kind of rugged in some spots. But that's not really very steep for a 1.7 mile hike.
Babel Tower is located on an extreme bend in the Linville River and it looms hundreds of feet above the rapids at its base. The summit itself is kind of difficult to climb. There are a number of technical and near-technical routes on it, but I'm not that into hanging my body out over certain death. So I always look for easier paths to reach the peaks.
Andy and I examined the tower and tried to figure out a way to the top that wouldn't involve anything dangerous. We tried a couple of routes, but each one ended up having some kind of exposure that would result in serious injury or death if you slipped. Neither of us like that kind of thing, so we retreated to a lower spot to examine the peak some more.
Andy was really tired by then, but I was bound and determined to reach the top. "I'm going to try to find an easier way up," I told him. Andy waited with our packs while I went in search of mountaintop access.
One thing I did was return to a spot where we had turned back. It had appeared that the trail ended in a very steep drop off, but I took a second look. In fact, the trail continued around the tower on a ledge, and from there I could see that there was a scrambling route to the top. I decided to go for it and pretty soon, after hauling myself up a couple of rock steps, I found myself at the actual summit of Babel Tower. I called down to Andy and he waved back, but didn't feel like clambering around to try to locate the route I'd found. That was good, since I didn't want him to try to follow me up. Too many places on the way that you could take a nasty tumble.
I took about 150 photos there (gotta love digital cameras), then climbed down and rejoined Andy. We took a few more shots and then headed back up to the truck. The climb back was steady, but not too bad. Andy's lost a lot of weight since he became a vegetarian, so now it's me trying to keep up with him rather than the opposite. I knew this day would come. The old man is getting older.
In short order we reached the parking area and then decided to drive down to Wiseman's View. Andy had never been there so he got a kick out what is considered the single best overlook in Linville Gorge. After that we decided to head back to Charlotte where both of us took showers. In quick order I was knocked out, completely asleep. It's going to be a while before I'm back up to speed.