Rock Climbing at Table Rock

Upward and Inward in North Carolina
By Lynn Setzer

My buddy Dave was the first person I ever knew who climbed rocks for fun. After his first time, he came back raving about it. But I couldn't see the appeal. Who would want to hang in the air held by a rope while crawling up a rock?

That was some time ago. After seeing all of the rock climbing gear in the local outfitter's store and hearing others talk about how challenging and fun it is, I decided to give it a try and see for myself what all of the fuss was about.

Rock climbing can't and shouldn't be done casually. Suffice it to say that I didn't know anything about how to do it. Nada. Ground zero. And I certainly didn't want to risk my life—a real concern with rock climbing—because I was ignorant. So I looked for someone to show me how. That's when I found Burton Moomaw, owner and operator of Appalachian Mountain Guides. A former climbing instructor for North Carolina Outward Bound with 15 years of climbing experience, Burton was the man to acquaint me with this sport. Besides, he had climbed El Capitan in Yosemite, one of the test pieces for experienced climbers. I, on the other hand, have only stood on the valley floor and looked up at El Capitan, wondering about the physical stamina and mental determination it takes to climb such a rock. If Burton could do that, then surely he could teach me the basics.

So Burton and I went to Linville, North Carolina, on the eastern side of Linville Gorge. When we got there, Burton set about acquainting me with the equipment and how we would use it—an ordeal, but a necessity if I wanted to climb. With Table Rock and its imposing, rocky summit jutting into the sky, I needed to trust my equipment and be sure that I was using equipment worthy of trust.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »