Life in our Foothills April 2023 – Melrose Mountain Climbing Park

Published 2:37 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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Melrose Mountain Climbing Park is a recent addition to the Foothills community that provides an area for beginner and advanced mountain climbers to practice their skills. The park is located just outside Tryon on Hogback Mountain Rd.

Every mountain tells a story, and many stories in the Foothills revolve around Melrose Mountain. With its scenic views overlooking the Blue Wall Preserve, one of the best ways to take in that view can be hanging off the mountainside at the Melrose Mountain Climbing Park.

The rather steep trail winds around the side of the mountain.

Rock or mountain climbing has become increasingly popular over the years, especially in our area, with events like the Rumble held in Chimney Rock. The sport’s popularity has grown for many reasons, including its obvious health benefits and the fact that it’s an excellent way to enjoy nature. 

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It’s also a sport that mentally and physically challenges climbers, making it necessary to have places to practice close to home. The Melrose Mountain Climbing Area gives local climbers just that. 

Kevin Junge and Jonathan Gerst work together as the crag stewards of the new climbing park, established in 2019 off Hogback Mountain Road across from the water well. Since its establishment, it has provided climbing opportunities for beginners and advanced climbers, including numerous school and college groups and the Boy Scouts of America. 

Jonathan Gerst (left) and Kevin Junge (right)

“After the location was scouted, the Carolina Climbers Association, of which Kevin and I are a part, went to the Town of Tryon and Blue Ridge Adventure Guides. Everyone worked together and established a public climbing access here at Melrose Mountain,” Gerst says. “And thanks to thousands of volunteer hours, a parking area and a trail leading to the rockface were put in, which allow local climbers to climb in their backyard without having to go to Asheville or elsewhere.”

As crag stewards for the Melrose Mountain Climbing Park, Junge and Gerst put considerable time into maintaining the relatively steep trail leading to the climbing area, a 15-minute hike down and off the road. They often use a McLeod tool, a rake hoe created by the US Forestry Service, to build and maintain the trail to the rockface. They’ve also had to go to more extensive measures to increase the trail width, including removing 3-ton boulders to provide more room should first responders ever be called in.

They also spend considerable time on the side of the mountain. Both men are experienced climbers and often climb with their entire families. They have seen groups, both large and small, enjoy the sport of rock climbing. The cliff is roughly 30-90 feet, depending on where the climber starts, and there are numerous routes with locking carabiners already installed into the rock. 

View of one side of the climbing area.

“Rock climbing difficulty is based on the type of grading, with a 5.0 to 5.7 is considered easy, 5.8 to 5.10 is considered medium, 5.11 to 5.12 is hard, and 5.13 to 5.15 is extremely difficult,” Junge explains. “Melrose has several routes between 5.7-5.11.”

The rock at Melrose Mountain Climbing Park has numerous attractive features for climbers of all levels and styles, with sub-vertical and overhanging routes. The cliffs have large handholds and cracks perfect for beginners and advanced climbers.

“Park development is ongoing and includes plans for trail improvements, a trail kiosk and a picnic area,” Gerst adds.  “A new gravel parking lot was put in, with the gravel donated by the town of Tryon and grading provided by Greg Junges Construction, LLC. And we recently had a volunteer day where we constructed staircases out of locust logs.”

Crag steward Jonathan Gerst looks out over the Blue Wall Preserve.

Melrose Mountain Climbing Park is one of many projects of the Carolina Climber’s Coalition, established in 1995 to promote safe climbing practices and preserve climbers’ access to climbing areas in North and South Carolina. It has helped create and preserve dozens of climbing areas similar to Melrose Mountain.

The park consists of two climbing areas on Hogback Mountain Road, a few miles outside of Tryon’s downtown, at 3450 Hogback Mountain Road. Parking is limited to road shoulders on non-residential properties, and tentative permission has been granted for parking on private property. It’s asked that visitors not park on this lot’s left side. Visitors are also asked not to loiter or litter, making sure to pack out what they pack in. 

Some things to be aware of when climbing in the area are the steep approach, loose debris, overhead rockfall potential, scorpions, snakes, bears and poison ivy.  

Responsibility for safe climbing rests solely with the individual climber. All climbers are strongly encouraged to be self-sufficient and possess the appropriate first-aid gear and self-rescue skills. Climbers should climb with a partner and have proper clothing, water, and food in the case of an emergency. 

The Town of Tryon, CCC, Mountain Water Inc, and Blue Ridge Adventure Guides assumes no responsibility for any injuries incurred by anyone engaging in any climbing activity on Melrose Mountain, and they are not responsible for the conditions of the terrain or acts of persons who may be on Town of Tryon or Mountain Water, Inc property. Cell phones are encouraged for emergencies. The CCC has shared GPS points of cliff locations and maps with local rescue squads for rescue purposes.

Melrose volunteers (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Gerst)