Muir Redux   9/18-20  2015


When Laurel and I hit the Muir Valley several weeks ago, our vow to return was fulfilled with a vengeance as we drug the SoNo Rock Jockeys to this paradise of Corbin sandstone.  It is but a short 3 hour drive to the best climbing I have ever experienced.


We camped at a local spot called Land of the Arches.  For $5 per night you got warm showers, hot coffee and ping pong.  (In comparison we are paying the National Park Service $4 per night for a cumbersome reservation system and nothing else in the Smokies.) 

Saturday morning, after our gang of 8 was fully assembled, we marched down to hit the Bruise Brothers wall and warm up on a couple of 5.9 and 5.10s.   We were pleased to be met by Rick and Liz Weber and thank them personally for their gift to the climbing community and have Rick inscribe my copy of the Muir Valley Climbing guide he authored with such precision and detail.  Trey and I soon walked over to check out a different wall.  The beauty of Muir Valley is the abundance and variety of rock upon which to test your skills.

As we sauntered over towards the appropriately named, Johnny’s Wall, a truck came through the valley belonging to some of the volunteers of Muir Valley.  They offered us a ride which saved a quarter mile of walking and within minutes Trey and I were putting up a route on the best sandstone my hands have ever pulled.  JD Johnson soon arrived with determination from the crowded Bruise Brothers area and two ropes were quickly dangling from the Heavens on a rock all to ourselves.  (I should add that if you arrive on a beautiful weekend, Bruise Brothers is going to be a very crowded spot)

  Here, Flasher sends a big 5.10, note the scale of the wall.

Johnny’s Wall has everything you could ever want at my level.  Having two guns with the attitude to lead a 5.10a is the best plan imaginable for me.  I only led a 5.8 and 5.9 on this trip and had to bail on the 5.9.  That was later in the day on Sunday.  After concluding laps on that 5.9, named  everyone agreed it was every bit a 5.10.  At least that is the excuse I am sticking to, unlike the wall itself which seemed to expel me with great celerity. 

Chris Pickwell choses some holds that fulfill his last name.

Unbeknownst to me, Dan and Holly were combing the valley looking for us.  Laurel showed up to inform me of that fact.  She had apparently done about 8 miles scouring the crag for us and the day was pushing in towards 5.30.  When Dan and Holly arrived, with some frustration, we set up a rope on the appropriately named 5.7 called “Thanks Holly”.    And for her first climb, Miss Holly sent the route expertly.  We climbed well into the late dusk and began our ascent out of the valley floor.

Saturday night was blustery with intermittent periods of rain.  Our campfire was joyous and somewhat moist.  Thus is the nature of camping with a self described storm crow.  The past two weekends have found us milling about in nightly downpours of some note.   Not that it diminished the morale of our group despite Rebecca’s untimely departure due to work obligations the following day.

yours truly topropes a 10.

That same cold front brought cooler temps for our Sunday attempts, this time on the  wall.   JD and Trey and Asher set about establishing  two 5.10 routes.  I was happy to serve in belay until my turn.  After a while I was antsy and that is when the ascent of the notorious 5.9 evolved.  I had little trouble until the halfway crux and could find nothing upon which to pinch.  It took Trey to finish the route for me.  I will admit that it was pleasing to hear him repeatedly exclaim,  “There’s no way this is a 5.9!”   Which may have been specifically for my benefit.  But he did send the route.

This is Trey and Chris on adjoining leads.

JD does a great belay.

Dara freezes while Laurel prepares to jump on the rock like spider woman.







It was a most excellent outing in a most excellent place with most excellent folks.  I predict that we shall return.