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One Last Look

One last look before leaving the valley.

We left the Valley today with heavy hearts.
Everyone fell in love with all the wonders and marvels of Yosemite. It truly is a magical place.
The entire trip has been simply amazing. So many stories, great times and fond memories. Best of all, everyone is returning with stronger friendships.

Yosemite Search and Rescue

Last night we attended Mike’s old friend, John Dill’s SAR talk. John is now 75 years old and regarded as an international legend in the rescue world.

Day 6 Update

The dreaded Idol’s Dam portage turned out to be easy and short.
The waterfall was safe to play in, so we did! Everyone had a ball!
     We are now at Mile 111 out of 175, leaving 64 miles to go in 4 days. Piece of cake!

Sixteen people, 7 canoes and Mike in a kayak.

 The first two days have been fairly hard.
Day one we put in on the Yadkin where it was rather small and paddled down to Kerr Scott Reservoir.

After paddling across the reservoir, we
had to portage up and over the massive earthen dam. That was really tough and folks were so tired that we just camped in the woods on the back side of the dam. We only covered 11 miles that day. Our goal is 17 per day. 

Everyone got up early Sunday and finished the portage. We were on the water by 10:30. Not bad. We paddled about 18 miles.
The river current is helping. Everyone is in good spirits. We will pass Elkin on Monday and hopefully make up a few lost miles.

Kayak Rolling Info

Kayak Rolling is at the Lenoir Aquatic Center, Monday nights in March. Meet at the gym at 6pm to load boats, leave at 6:20pm. Bring $5 cash per person, no credit or debit cards accepted!

Banff Film Festival

 We had a perfect weekend! Rainy hiking and camping, mixed with sunshine and climbing, and of course two nights of spectacular Banff films.
Banff 1
We had 25 Morganton TAASC folks at Brevard College Friday and Saturday night. Asheville TAASC came with 25 Saturday night. Brevard College president Dr. David Joyce recognized TAASC both nights.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Climbing Trip 2015
 The phrase “pulling rocks down” refers to a person pulling so hard on the rock to make a move, you would think the rock is going to sink into the ground from the force of the person pulling themselves upward.
Well the yucky weather finally left us and our kids and parents are pulling so hard you’d think zombies were chasing them.

Rock Climbing and Star Gazing Trip

A small but hearty group of us climbed for two fantastic days. On the summit we watched one of nature’DSC04477s greatest shows. The meteor shower was perhaps one of the most spectacular that I can recall and the viewing location certainly made the night. Windy and cold at first folks quickly cooked food and settled down into their sleeping bags and watched the night sky. We were not disappointed. Climbers were challenged by some of the classic routes such as Slipping Into Darkness (5.9) and A Tall Climb To Be Good On ( Solid 5.9+ no matter ones height).

Worley’s Cave

Howdy! We had a fantastic trip to Worley’s Cave on Sunday. WorleysWe probably set a new TAASC record of participants with 28 folks underground. We also set a speed record, not that we were rushing, but somehow we did everything we wanted to do in 3 hours! Thanks to all the Olders who kept everyone flowing safely along.

We carried a 10’ ladder for the tricky sections and it seemed to really help with the movement of the troops. Everyone had a great time!

Multi-Pitch and Bivouacking on Table Rock

Olders climbed the east face of Table Rock on Saturday, then hiked to the North Ridge area. Some of them bivouacked 150′ off the ground on a ledge at the top of the first pitch of the North Ridge. Others bivied at the base in the woods. Joe Lackey and his son joined us. The weather was windy and cold with a few false alarms of rain, but everyone was well trained and did fine.

Yukon Territory Expedition- Part I

Howdy! The first part of our expedition went very well as we explored the seldom visited Itsi Range. We drove 11 hours on gravel roads, bush planed to Fuller Lake, then heli hopped deeper into the range. It is highly likely that no one has ever visited the region we explored.
Yukon - Summit
The French-Canadian mountain guide who joined us for fun turned out to be a real asset. He taught the kids ice climbing, crevasse rescue, glacier travel, etc.
A first ascent of a beautiful Yukon Peak! Eight TAASC members and mountain guide, Éliel Bureau-LaFontane, on the summit. The ascent took all day and required all our skills and stamina.
The last day we hiked out about 5 miles back to Fuller Lake. It was one of the hardest days any of us have ever done. We had to first climb up 1,000′ out of our valley to reach a high pass, then down tough terrain to the lake. What made it so hard was the huge loads we were carrying. Lots of winter gear and climbing gear made for extremely heavy packs. But we made it!
We’re back in Whitehorse to resupply for the 10 day Teslin River trip.

Last Evening at the Beach

photo 1







Some of our gang played in the ocean one last time before we head home tomorrow. Wilson is in the kayak.

The Famous Angel Oak Tree

We took a field trip today to visit the Angel

It is a live oak tree estimated to possibly be 1500 years old. It was gigantic!!!

The End!

Reached the highway 701 takeout at 10:30 AM. Cleaned all the boats and gear and now dreaming of food we didn’t have…
Great trip. Great kids!!!
On to the beach house tomorrow!

Rope Swing

We found this great rope swing today and everyone played on it for a long time.
We are in the woods again tonite, but it is nice. Just a few bugs, not bad. Not bad enough to zip the mosquito net door of a tent while a bunch of kids are playing cards after supper.
We are upstream of the Great Pee Dee River confluence with our river. Slightly ahead of schedule and will be in good shape to meet bus and Benita 6/22 around noon.

Lumber River

photo 1 (1)We arrived at Fair Bluff, SC around 5:00 PM. Long drive. Locals told us of a fabulous, white sand beach about 1/4 mile upstream, so we paddled against the current and made camp early. The beach is beautiful. Apparently we will see lots of them because the river is low. Everyone is doing well. We head downstream tomorrow. More later.

Annual Appalachian Trail Trip

We are all back home tonight.

photo 1







Everyone had a great experience and learned a lot!

River Rescue Training

photo 3We had a great weekend of canoe training. Saturday afternoon we practiced strokes and rescue techniques, and Sunday we went to the river and practiced.






The Banff Film Festival was a lot of fun. We camped in our secret campsite, got in some great climbing, went to both film nights, and lots of TAASC parents went with us. We were rained out Sunday, but joined Asheville TAASC for breakfast, and then went to REI to drool. Great trip!

Youngers Trip

What a fine looking crew!








The kids worked on learning to fit packs well, treat water, and some tried bivying out since we had such a pretty star filled evening. Temps were mild to warm and it is time to start remembering the sun hats and sunscreen! Thanks to everyone for coming out.T

Warm and Toasty.

Everyone is doing great. Very cold up here. Probably zero wind chill. More photos to come!

Some folks are camping in the woods and some are out on the slab, guess who?

They’re Out!

We’re out!Ellison's Fantastic Pit (1)
Great trip.
Another historical TAASC first!
Jacob, Will and Will did the 586′ deep Fantastic Pit with our caver friend Zooks, while the rest of group explored the Attic. 
Headed down the mountain to 20 degree night! 

It’s Finally Stopped Raining!

The boulders were too wet to climb so we photo 5headed up Pigeon Mountain in search of the Historic Entrance to Ellison’s Cave. We had a great afternoon exploring on the mountain with radar on for possible new caves. After several hours of looking in the wrong area, we finally found the entrance and looked around inside for about 200′. Everyone is very excited to return with our caving gear and explore it fully.


Ellison's Fantastic PitEllison’s is one of the deepest caves in the U.S., with two of the deepest free fall pits. The Fantastic Pit rappel is 586′. The Washington Monument would fit inside the pit. We did not bring the vertical gear to do any rope work this trip, but the kids are psyched to train and return.


National Geographic photo of Fantastic Pit in Ellison’s Cave!

Annual Rock Town Trip

Everyone slept warm last night even though the temp was 32 degrees.  imageWe were able to get in a few hours of climbing before the rain started.

We have 13 folks on the trip this year, with the possibility of some TAASC graduates joining us at some point.

We had a great weekend of cold weather camping, bouldering and movies!
We tested the new Fortress bivy sacks while we cooked supper. I made the Fortresses for the 2014 TAASC Ragged Range Expedition and we tested them on the 2013 Mt. Nirvana-Ragged Range Expedition. These sacks, made from Tyvek, make winter camping enjoyable. Meal times, when people are sitting still, is typically when they get cold. The Fortress allows them to cook while being in a wind proof, cozy cocoon. Cooking inside it is possible, but it gets too steamy, but by sitting in the entrance, a person can cook with the stove on the ground and be fairly sheltered. 
     Everyone was really warm Saturday night even though the low temp was 14 with high winds. Connor, Jacob and Davis  wanted more of a winter challenge, so they bivied in the exposed upper treehouse, 60 feet above ground with awesome views into Linville Gorge. They were warm also.

Mountain Rescue

Mountain RescueRecent Olders’ meeting practicing mountain rescue with a Horizontal Litter Lower system.

Youngers’ Climbing Trip

Gingercake Climbing (2)We set up camp in a beautiful forest, ate lunch, then hiked across the top of the mountain to the climbing and rappelling area.Gingercake Climbing (1)         Lots of parents and Olders on the trip. Should be a great one!

Mike’s Back!!!

We helicoptered out of the eastern sanctuary of Mt. Nirvana by the skin of our teeth! The weather was challenging, cold drizzle interspersed with beautiful, sunny days and snow. The helicopter pilot got all nine of us out, with gear, in 4 trips as the clouds swirled in and out of the valleys, making flying tricky.

We had a magnificent trip exploring the nearby valleys and cirques and all agreed that this was one of the most spectacular places any of us had ever seen. The feeling of true wilderness, where no human has ever been, was a huge factor.

The highlight was TAASC graduates, Isaac Hoff, Joey Thomas and Bryan Haslam, making the 5th ascent of Mt. Nirvana, the highest peak in the Northwest Territories. They climbed the mountain in 44 hours round trip from basecamp. Conditions were tough with lots of wet, cold water running on the rock pitches. They reached the summit at 8:00 PM on August 29, and we were able to photograph them waving. They then proceeded to rappel down all night arriving at their bivy site in the morning.

We look forward to getting back to North Carolina and enjoying some warmer weather!

Heading Home!

Sierras, Yosemite (3)We left the wonderful world of Yosemite Valley this morning. The Valley spell definitely infected our crew, most everyone wanted to stay another 30 days. We climbed, ate, slept and did it all over again, day after day.
Sierras, Yosemite (1)
 Last night we watched the Search and Rescue program at the Yosemite Theatre. John Dill, the Chief Rescue Ranger of 40 years and an old friend of mine, narrated the show. It was very educational, even for our group. Some of our folks are really fired up about rescue now, so I guess we will be doing a lot of that training this year!

Yosemite Life

We are getting used to this climbing life. Everyone wants to stay here photo 2another month. Today we climbed routes at the base of El Cap.            Great routes! Great fun!


Congratulations to the first TAASC team to ever climb Snake Dike on Half Dome, 8 pitches.Keeping Watch over Half Dome

Jacob Cioffoletti, Davis Clark, Will Soper, Will Wilson.

We just received word via radio from the summit of Half Dome that our tired climbers made it! Everyone is in good shape. Now they descend the cable ladders and hike 8 miles back down to the Valley floor.

Here is the support team at Glacier Point watching their progress, Half Dome is in the background.

We’re Out!

of the Sierras. Everyone in great shape. seventeen days Sierras (12)of intense weather, forest fire smoke, heat, rain, the elation of reaching hard won summits, difficult elevation gains and losses, many nights living above 10,000 feet, trading food, 3 day solo without food, bivy on top of 12,300 foot Mt. Hooper, unbelievable scenery, mostly off trail hiking, forgetting the First Aid kit and Jacob, Sierras (6)Emory and Soper backtracking 9 miles at night to retrieve it (our heroes), a few minor tensions, but most importantly of all… everyone came out of the Sierras as good friends with the feeling of accomplishing an amazing expedition together in good style!


Sierras Bound!

We are now at the airport and are awaiting our flight to California.

Sierras Bound! (2)

No hurrying, everyone Sierras Bound! (1)relaxed, yet so excited we had to issue Pampers ( get it? So excited, they are peeing in their pants! ). Just kidding:~.
It’s going to be an amazing trip!

Beach Trip

Beach Trip (1)We left Lake Marion Saturday afternoon and headed for Folly Beach.  A visit to the grocery store was challenging, as it always is after a long trip. The urge to buy everything is powerful. Everyone agreed to clean all gear before taking showers and moving into the beach house. Noah, Jacob and Jo were waiting for us, as were TAASC graduates Tyler Lindell and Sarah Cioffoletti. All is going well here at the beach house. We may stop on the way home to serve as guinea pigs for the new zip guides that TJ and Joe Lovenshimer are training. If we do, it will probably be around 8:00 pm when we arrive home.

Congaree Swamp Trip

Well, do you remember the Humphrey Bogart movie, the African Queen? The past two days have been challenging with bugs, fallen trees, mud, passing fully loaded canoes through trees across Cedar Creek and lots of gigantic snakes.
Congaree River 1
Nineteen TAASC kids and parents slugged it out thru Congaree National Park until 10pm last night then busted out onto the mighty Congaree River! Whew! Everyone loved the beauty of the swamp, giant cypress and tupelo trees, thousands of cypress knees and the twisty- turny nature of the small, creek, never knowing what we are going to see around each bend, BUT a huge cheer rose from the group when we reached the Congaree late last night. We had to paddle til 1:00 am Congaree River 3under a nice moon sans headlamps until we finally found a place to set up camp. Everyone was in good spirits for the most part during the ordeal. High spirits this morning!
No sunburn, but definitely some bug bites. One of the highlights was the massive, friendly rat snake that everyone enjoyed having their photo with.
Three more campsites until we take out on Saturday, then onwards to a well deserved beach trip!

TAASC Open House Fundraiser

Join us for our Open House Fundraiser

Friday, May 31st, 4pm – 6pm

Tour the climbing gym, see videos and photos of past trips, listen to members and graduates tell about their experiences.

Enjoy our Baked Goods and Lemonade sale and help “Bail Out” one of the Treehouse Prisoners

Wanna see more? Come join us for a fun evening.

Green River Kayak Trip

Howdy! Green River Kayak (1)
We had a great kayak trip down the lower Green River and we were joined by the Lackey family of 6!

Green River Kayak (2)



The Green was running well with all the recent rain and everyone learned a lot, but we were reminded that we have a lot more teaching to do to raise everyone’s skill levels.

Unfortunately, I did not get any action photos, because we hurried down the river to avoid the afternoon storm, but here are the before and after shots.

Worley’s Cave

We had a great time caving.Worley's Cave (2)

Twenty people total!

Paradise Found!

Cedar Rock (3)

Armed with a new guidebook, we climbed

two amazing areas this weekend. This area requires an hour long hike in through beautiful forests and offers tons of routes. We have just scratched the surface and everyone wants to return ASAP.


Camp Harrison

Camp Harrison (2) Camp Harrison (5)

Bailing Out!

Appalachian Trail (3)
Well, we had to abort the annual AT trip one day early due to serious weather conditions. Friday was forecast to have more cold rain and wind, so we bailed. The kids now know that they have the option of hunkering down and staying in camp when weather gets serious or bail if that is possible. This was the most continuously cold AT trip we have had in years, yet all the kids and parents ( 21 total ) did an awesome job of staying warm!

Annual Appalachian Trail Backpack Trip

Howdy!Appalachian Trail (2)Both groups are off to a wild start!

The Youngers started at Carver’s Gap and are hiking through snow, but dealing with it just fine.

The Olders were dropped off near Erwin, TN along the Nolichucky River. It’s a cold, windy, snowy trip, but everyone is psyched!!!            See you in 5 days!

Inner Peaks

We had a neat weekend of variety. Saturday we went to Inner Peaks Climbing Gym in Charlotte. Saturday night we met some scientists at the south end of Linville Gorge.
Then most of the kids slept in porta-ledges in our gym. Sunday morning Gennifer H brought us breakfast! Asheville TAASC joined us all weekend and all the kids had a blast!

Banff Film Festival

The Banff Film Festival was incredible last night. Everyone absolutely loved it and can’t wait til tonite’s show. We set up camp around 11:00 PM and everyone was up early to climb today. Even though we had a steep 45 minute hike up the mountain to reach the Fate Osteen cliffs, we had a ton of climbs set up by the time Asheville TAASC arrived. We are now a group of 36! The weather is fantastic for climbing and the views are amazing! More later…

Sierras Trip Meeting!

Thursday, Feb. 28th at 7:00 PM.

We will have a meeting of expedition members and their parents at the gym to talk about the upcoming Sierras and Yosemite trip. Interested others are invited as well. We hope to show you a virtual tour of the proposed route on the big screen with Google Earth. You will be amazed by the beautiful country that this 17 day route covers.
All TAASC families are encouraged to attend, especially parents of the Youngers to develop an appreciation of the progression of skills and experience needed to tackle the greater adventures.

We did it !!!

Service Project – Moving RockService Project 3

Twenty- four parents and kids worked to near exhaustion, but we completed the service project by 3:00 PM. Everyone worked really, really hard. It was a very impressive display of perseverance and teamwork!

Congratulations and thanks to all who turned out in cold conditions!

Winter Trip

Youngers' Winter Trip 1We backpacked in to the east side of the mountain today and found a delightful campsite near a beautiful creek. After pitching camp and eating lunch, we began a long, hard day hike up the side. We reached the top around 4:00pm, took a break, then started back to camp along a different route and arrived back to camp around dark. Everyone is tired, but doing well and staying warm.

Wintery Mix!

Highlights from the winter trip this weekend: watching the moon light up the tops of clouds Saturday night from the Brown Mountain overlook and top of Hawksbill; seeing tons of beautiful icicles; exploring a gigantic shelter cave.

winter-trip-6 winter-trip-10

Cold, Windy and Lots of Snow!


Ahhh…..the Olders finally got their wish:  cold, windy and lots of snow!!! After setting up camp at Carver’s Gap, we hiked up to the top of one of the grassy balds under the light of a beautiful moon. Everyone is staying warm and toasty. They are well prepared.


Cooking in a snow kitchen last night and back to the summit today to explore new snow drift tent sites for next weekend.

Birthday Whirl

Here’s one of many beautiful ascents from the Rock Town trip. Since it is her birthday today, she created this cool boulder problem and called it, “Birthday Whirl.”


Annual Bouldering Trip

Having a great day, everyone’s in bouldering heaven!!!

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

Have a wonderful holiday season with friends and family!!!
Mike Fischesser

Fantastic Climbing Weather!

Enjoyed fantastic climbing weather this weekend in Linville Gorge. Everyone tried hard to pull Hawksbill down into the ground!

Sunday Morning

After a warm 47 degree night, we are exploring some cool areas on the top. Everyone is having a great time!

On the Trail

Everyone is doing well as we trudge up the trail to the top. The 2000 forest fire is still very evident. At this rate it will be 100 years before the forest returns. On to the summit after lunch!

Everyone slept warm last night, but the rock is really cold for climbing.

Look at the huge surviving hemlock tree that we need to treat.

Trail Work

We had a great weekend of service, camping and climbing. On Saturday we had a strong turn-out of Olders to help with trail work on the Mountains to Sea Trail. We then drove over to Table Rock and had a beautiful evening.

On Sunday everyone wore their fingers to the bone on the amazing, private boulder problems at the Outward Bound School. People were trying to fight gravity so hard that you would have thought a pack of jackals were nipping at their heels. Everyone will probably be at school all week dreaming of at least one boulder problem that they want to return to and complete.

The hardest problem of the day and he almost completes it!

Climbing on Stone

We have four rope teams working their way up different routes. The new guy is having the time of his life on rope with famous climber and TAASC graduate, Brad Wilson. In the photo they have 300′ more to go. See Gallery for more photos.

Youngers’ Trip

Despite the rain, everyone is having a good time. We are half way to camp and the rain has stopped for the time being. The views are really cool looking out over the clouds!


Annual Summersville Lake Family Weekend

Sunday at Lunch Rock on Summersville Lake with 36 crazy TAASC kids and parents!

New River Gorge Bridge

Hi Everyone!
A friend of Mike’s allowed 31 of the TAASC kids and parents to do the BRIDGE WALK! A lifetime adventure 875′ above the New River.

Look at that smile!

170 Miles Completed!

On Saturday morning, June 23, Morganton TAASC members completed their 170 mile canoe expedition across South Carolina. The trip was a huge success with all members arriving strong, healthy and tanned.

We headed to the rental house at Folly Beach, where everyone will recuperate from the canoe trip and a year of school. The beach house is really nice and everyone has gone into slug mode, with some bursts of energetic activity. Some folks did some nice surf kayaking today. Loralie and David Clark came down today and are staying nearby. Nina Fischesser and Isaac Hoff arrive tomorrow and Mark Vitrone returns on Tuesday. TAASC graduate, Sarah Cioffoletti, surprised her brother and arrived from Chapel Hill last night. I have a meeting with the USS Yorktown people sometime this week to sell them ziplines from ship to shore and hopefully a Beanstalk Forest adventure park. I will probably take the kids to the Yorktown and some to walk around Charleston.

Here are all the expedition members after the confluence with the Congaree River. Everyone is still doing well and we are camped at the beginning of Lake Marion tonight after a 17 mile day.

170 Mile Canoe Expedition

We just set up camp several miles upstream from the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. It is Day 3 and we have 20 awesome people on this expedition and everyone is fantastic! Day 1 we paddled 16 miles in 4 hours! Day 2 we paddled an unbelievable 34 miles, from 10:00 to 8:00PM! Day 3, today, we got to camp at 5:00PM after 20 miles of paddling. We have 6 adults and 14 kids. Ten of the kids are age 13 and under. Minor sunburn turning tan. Beautiful weather. Deep wilderness. Lots of fun. Heading to Lake Marion tomorrow.

By the time we get to the end of Day 5 this group will have paddled about 100 miles.

Visiting Linville Falls (from the bottom)

We had another great Youngers trip this past weekend. We night-hiked with headlamps down the Bushy Ridge Trail (one mile and flat) into Linville Gorge Friday night and set up our base camp near Bull Branch. From there, on Saturday morning, we hiked all the way over to Linville Falls where we ate lunch, dipped and rested. Back to camp Saturday afternoon to take it down and pack up for the hike back to the bus. The round trip hike to the falls was challenging, but everyone made it. Everyone agreed that the effort was worth it to see Linville Falls from the bottom. Wait ‘til you see the pictures at the Annual Recognition Dinner.

Cancer Research Canoe Trip

We made it! Eleven people for eight days covereing 170 miles from Camden, S.C. to Hwy. 41 and everyone had a fantastic time.

Expedition members were Olivia Gage (TAASC graduate/Medical school student), Monika Lesch (TAASC gym owner and mom of two past graduates, Nathaniel and Zachary), Will Wilson, Luke “Thunderbird” Carlisle (age 10!), Molly Franklin, Cassidy Mull, Laurin Jennings, Cody Memmel, Jacob Cioffoletti, Livy Franklin and Mike Fischesser.

At the Recognition Dinner we collected $1,300 in pledges toward colon cancer research. Our goal was $3,000. It is time to send in the amount you pledged.

Please make checks payable to: Climb For Colon Cancer.

Send them to us at:

P.O. Box 69
Jonas Ridge, NC 28641

We will gather them and send them to Matt Hardy in Boulder, CO (Past TAASC member and founder of C4CC. I will forward the email from Matt that he sent us in July – in case you would like to refresh your memory. If you are able to contribute a bit more, that would be great!

Younger’s Weekend at the Kettles

The Youngers and their mentors had a great trip to the Kettles of Steele’s Creek on May 15 and 16. Everyone played hard, like river otters in the freezing cold water, for hours, until their teeth were chattering hard!

We wore PFDs and helmets at all times to be safe on the slick rocks. Everyone did well with the 1.5-mile approach hike. We camped along Gingercake Creek on Saturday night and the next day hiked to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, which was really cool.

Thanks to the mentors who helped out.

27 Miles on the Broad River

We had an absolutely perfect canoe/camping trip this past weekend. We camped beside the Broad River Friday night and completed 27 miles of the Broad River Expedition to raise money for colon cancer research.

The river was beautiful. It was clear, swift, “wildernessy” and fun. Everyone had an incredible time running lots of mellow Class 2 rapids.

We will have a one-day, 27-mile, make-up day on Sunday, April 25 for those who couldn’t make it this past weekend, but you must let us know by Tuesday night.

Thanks to TAASC graduates T.J. Weller and Thomas McCombs for running the shuttle for us!

Annual Appalachian Trail Backpack Trip

We left the gym on Monday, April 5, with 22 TAASC folks in the bus and drove to Watauga Lake in Tennessee.

Around 2 p.m. we began hiking in really hot weather up a steep hill to gain a ridgeline that was 16 miles long! For the next two days we plodded along in the heat ‘til we reached the monument and gravesite for Uncle Nick Grindstaff who died in 1924 and according to the marker, “lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone.”

On Thursday the weather changed to a cold, windy, hard-at-times rain. Over 14 years of AT trips in April the weather continues to always throw us a challenge. In 2000, we had to abort five miles into the trip due to a freak snowstorm that dumped four inches. The cold, challenging weather on Thursday really drove the point home of the importance that ALL TAASC members must do at least one trip per month for the experience and training to deal with serious situations such as the weather we had this year. People were getting cold, wet and tired after nine miles of hiking that day (and a total of 31 miles over four days), so we grabbed the first campsite we could find and got everyone in the tents and into warm, dry sleeping bags.

The next morning, Friday, was our last day and everyone was eager to reach Damascus, VA our final destination. We chugged along the remaining five miles that morning and ran smack into Mike and Karen Ayotte at the edge of town. Karen had baked fresh cookies for all and you’ve never seen cookies consumed so fast. We hiked on into town with visions of pizza and “real food” on our minds.

Congratulations to all the kids who completed the 40 mile trip and especially four amazing Younger members who did a truly awesome job of handling this tough challenge in good style: Zach Ayotte, Connor Brazinski, Luke Carlisle and Spencer Memmel. Thanks to Molly Franklin for planning the trip and being the overall leader and to all the other kids who served as daily leaders.

Another Full Weekend!

We had an incredible weekend of experiences! Here’s a summary: on Friday afternoon we had a really cool tour of Appalachian State University’s Outdoor Programs. I think it made a big impression on a lot of our TAASC kids. Some of them are now seriously considering ASU as a potential college
to attend.

After that we ate supper at Black Cats, then on to the Banff Film Festival. Banff continues to be a real highlight of the year for all the TAASC kids.

We finally arrived at Cedar Rock Campground around midnight. At 7:30 a.m. Saturday we drove over to Stone Mountain State Park and began the approach hike to the summit at 8:30 a.m. It was a tough one-hour hike because only six kids showed up to help with the Rappel-a-thon and we had to hump in 150 lbs. of ropes (4,000’), rigging gear and our personal equipment. But everyone did great with no complaints. We rigged our brand new 1,000’ ropes in record time. Usually it takes hours, but this crew completed the task by 10:30 a.m.!

We only had two Rappel-a-thon guests (Bonnie Wilson and Sheila) so it didn’t take too long to get them down the mountain and hike back up.

At 2 p.m., 17 staff and kids from the Asheville TAASC program arrived. Our kids taught them how to descend and ascend 400 feet and at the end of the day, three of their 10 year-old girls got to do the 1,000’ rappel. It was a real highlight of their life and they were very appreciative and thankful for the opportunity. The three girls were best friends since age three and had joined TAASC together two years ago.

Our newest member, Will Duncan did great on his first TAASC trip, as did two brothers from Charlotte, Austin (age 16) and Davis (12). They are moving to Morganton soon and are very excited about joining TAASC. They got to do the 1,000’ rappel also.

We pulled up and coiled all the ropes at the end of the day, then went to our favorite local restaurant, Mazzini’s, to celebrate the day. Since the weather forecast was for 90% rain on Sunday, we decided to head on back to Morganton and arrived at the gym at 10:30 p.m.

Thanks to all the kids who helped out with the Rappel-a-thon. They really worked hard and did a great job of teaching others, monitoring safety and humping loads of gear!

Thanks to Bonnie and Sheila for having the courage to brave the 1,000’ rappel and raise money for TAASC.

Thanks to Mike and Karen Ayotte and Morganton Federal Savings and Loan for their generous contribution, which allowed us to purchase 4,000 feet of new rope to make the Rappel-a-thon much easier to manage (no knot passes).

And thanks to all the other parents and kids who raised money for the Rappel-a-thon, but weren’t able to attend.

According to pledge reports and funds received, it appears that we raised about $2,000 for TAASC this year. Not bad in tough, economic times. Last year we raised about $5,000. Our budget continues to run in the red, so please help us recruit new members.

This will help a lot towards the purchase of canoe and kayak paddles that we desperately need. Thanks to Greg Franklin for arranging a generous deal.

Weekend Packpacking Trip

We had the perfect spring backpack weekend trip. On Friday night we were star gazing off The Pinnacle (across from Shortoff Mountain at the southern end of the gorge); then we hiked to a nice campsite on Yellow Fork. On Saturday we backpacked further towards Dobson’s Knob. Some of the gang were able to get in a bit of climbing at a new area called “Black Fork.” Sunday we woke up at 7:30 a.m., backpacked back to the bus and made it to Wendy’s around noon. It was a great trip to get everyone thinking about the annual Appalachian Trail trip.

Winter Mountaineering in Roaring Creek Valley

We had an incredible snow camping trip this past weekend! We snow shoed into the Roaring Creek Valley Friday night, pitched camp on 12”+ snow and finally crawled into our warm bags at 1 a.m.!

The goal of the trip was to be comfortable and warm at ALL times and everyone did an outstanding job of doing so. Everyone learned a lot about the art of cold weather camping. Everyone wore our Mouse Boots, so we didn’t have to ever worry about cold toes or frostbite even though the nights were
down to 20 degrees F.

On Saturday some folks played on Jacob’s snowboard and Jo and Will built a Quincy snow shelter (like an igloo). We had snow saws and snow shovels. Alyssa pulled Mike’s Mt. McKinley expedition sled, which kept the weight off her bad shoulder.

In the afternoon we snow shoed up to the summit of Little Hump Mountain which was even more of a winter wonderland with 360-degree views.

After supper Saturday night we lay (lie lay lain!!!) (lay laid laid!!!) out on our foam pads and watched the stars for hours.

On Sunday we broke camp and snow shoed 1.5 miles back to the bus and were back to the gym by 1:30 p.m.

All in all it was a magical snow journey. Everyone had a ball and stayed comfortable at all times and are eager to further develop their winter mountaineering skills!

Stone Mountain “Goat Hole” Explored

We had a great time at Stone Mountain on Saturday. A large group of Youngers turned out with a handful of Olders to help. Molly Franklin, Heather Duffy and Will Wilson did an outstanding job of guiding the Youngers through some exciting rope-work experiences.

The Youngers traveled down a 350-foot rope with two prusiks, transferred to another 350 and climbed back up Stone Mountain. It was a great taste of the exposure of the 930-foot rappel. Some of the Younger members prusiked all the way down to the mysterious “goat hole” at 530 feet from the top. Mysterious because for decades the locals wondered where the wild goats would disappear into on the face of Stone Mountain. It was a depression, often containing some cool pools of water, where the goats would go to get a drink.

Four Days Just Isn’t Enough

We had an incredible four-day climbing trip in Linville Gorge that began at my cabin Wednesday night and finished at Sitting Bear Rock Sunday afternoon.

Everyone who went learned a lot of new skills and all agreed that we would’ve liked to have kept the trip going for four or five more days. There was so much more left to do. We climbed at Table Rock on Thursday afternoon and a newly developed area named “The Pirate’s Wall” on Friday and Saturday.

Rachel Gage, Ehrin Irvin and Zachary Lesch-Huie (Original TAASCS members from 1996) joined us on Saturday.

Our kids had the unique opportunity to climb new routes and even work on first ascents!

First Climbing Trip for Newest Youngers

The first, official climbing trip for the new generation of Youngers was a hoot, literally!

The Saturday/Sunday trip arrived at my cabin on the edge of Linville Gorge where the Mentors and Trip Leaders taught the Youngers how to select and pitch camp in the woods. Then Nina gave a wildlife talk that included saw whet owls, barred owls, a great horned owl, flying squirrels and a bobcat.

The rest of the day was spent on a long, four-hour loop hike in the gorge that included an old, moonshiner’s still, a bear wallowing hole and lots of other interesting things. After cooking dinner it was dark and pretty cold, so everyone turned in early.

After breakfast on Sunday we hiked to Amelia’s Cave (the site where Amelia Clark spent her three-day solo). Then back to the gym and a hilarious and very wet bus washing. It was a great trip and everyone is looking forward to the next one in November. Big thanks to the trip leaders and mentors for a good job!

Collecting Old Glass Soda Bottles

The weather was pretty cold and windy in the mountains on Sunday, so we decided it was too cold to climb and we went to Short Off Mountain instead to retrieve a huge pile of old 1960s era glass soda bottles.

We hiked to the top, stashed our climbing gear (in case the weather changed) and continued north for another two miles. It was a perfect day for a hike – cold, windy and sunny with tremendous views of Linville Gorge and Lake James. The pond was full on top of the mountain!

We had seen the pile of bottles on one of the gorge hikes last year and had vowed to return. It was nice to check that small service project off our list. Apparently, there was quite a hunting camp on the north end of Short Off back in the 1960s when a four-wheel drive vehicle could work its way up from Wolf Pit Road and travel along the top. We ended the day back at the bus at about 5 p.m.

Big Sweep on Wilson Creek

Well, we had another weekend of great activity. On Saturday, about 30 TAASC people turned out to help with the Big Sweep. Luckily Wilson Creek (No kin to Will Wilson!) wasn’t as trashy as past years, but the teams still managed to collect a pickup truck full of garbage.

Then on Sunday we went climbing on the North Ridge of Table Rock and a cool, secret area called “Dragon’s Lair.”