Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rumbling Bald: Climbing a Mountain from the Inside

Here's an old blast from the past. Part of a hike I took with Andy Kunkle and Jack Thyen back in 2007.

Andy, Jack, and I had hiked that morning to the top of a summit called Eagle Rock on Rumbling Bald Mountain in what is now Hickory Nut Gorge State Park. The State had just acquired the land but had not done anything to the property at that time. But it was accessible for hiking. (I'm not sure if the land is still sitting as is, or if any trails or other amenities have been added since then.)

After the hike to the top, Andy left to head back home, but Jack and I continued on to another trail leading to a cave that goes inside Rumbling Bald Mountain. The unique feature of this cave is that there is a route inside that you can use to climb to another cave entrance much higher on the cliff face, a spot known as "The Attic Window".

This remains the only time I have hiked inside a mountain.

This is the base of the cliff where the entrance to the cave is located. If Jack had not been there recently there is no way I could have located the place. Fortunately, he remembered the way in.

Up there somewhere is the opening called "The Attic Window".

Jack standing above near the cave entrance. If you look to the right you can see a blue blaze on a tree that was a marking for the unofficial trail to the cave.

Jack patiently waiting for me to climb up to the ledge.

Getting closer...

In the 1800s Rumbling Bald Mountain was the epicenter of a pretty severe earthquake. Great plumes of granitic dust that rose above the mountain for days made people think that it was turning into a volcano. In fact, it was just the pulverized rock tumbling down from the mountain.

Andy Kunkle was still with us until we got to the cave entrance, then he had to head back to Charlotte to keep an appointment. You can see another blue blaze just to Andy's right.

Jack at the cave entrance.

Inside the cave! Some of the chambers were pretty large. Keep in mind that the place was basically pitch dark. We had headlamps, but the spaces were illuminated by our camera flashes when I took these inside photos.

Jack leading the way. We had to climb up and up. The climbing was easy.

Some light leaking in past some broken slabs.

Heading up toward some tight squeezes on the route.

There are other "trails" in the mountain. One of them leads to a stream inside the mountain, but we elected not to follow it. I was nervous enough just navigating to the Attic Window.

The following views were taken after I got to the Attic Window. You can't go out since it drops off a good distance straight down.

It was chilly that day and in fact had snowed on us earlier when we had climbed to the top of the mountain.

That's Lake Lure off in the distance.

Then it was time to start downclimbing back to the entrance.

Steep climb down! Careful!

A few places were really tight. Fortunately I only have mild claustrophobia.

I thought we'd have seen a lot of bats, but we only saw this one.

I "think" this is the way out!

Outside once more and looking back up in the general direction of The Attic Window.


Jack said...

That was a good one!

HemlockMan said...

Seems I've heard that place is really hard to find these days.

And, yes, that was a neat hike.

Vicki said...

Fascinating, though I'm not sure I'd be as game as you. The last time I was underground, I panicked and made it a hundred times worse. I'm okay with the larger caves, it's tight spaces I struggle with.

James Robert Smith said...

It was kind of a one-time thing for me. I don't see myself doing anything of the sort again.