American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Laurel Knob, Defective Sonar

United States, North Carolina

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2011

Laurel Knob was purchased by the Carolina Climbers Coalition in 2006, which opened the cliff to legal first ascent activity. It is a beautiful granite dome hosting primarily slab climbing with some vertical sections. At the top it rounds off, as most domes do, into lower-angled fourth-class.

I had not climbed on Laurel, but was interested in checking out potential new lines. Just left of the prominent right-arching feature of Fathom, I saw a beautiful, steep, diagonal crack midway up the face. Shannon Stegg told me Ralph Fickel and Burton Moomaw had started working on it back in 1991, reaching the top of the crack (about one-third up the wall) and still had dibs on finishing it. I contacted Ralph and Burton to find out whether or not this was true. I mentioned that I would like to join them to finish it. Burton hasn’t climbed much due to physical reasons and wasn’t interested, but Ralph was.

We asked Shannon to join us and in April 2008 we pushed past the high point, finishing four pitches. The angle lessened and we felt we were near the top. In May we climbed all day and into the night, adding three pitches, but with every pitch the angle of the rock didn’t diminish. We had climbed about 1,000' feet and thought we were nearing the top, but in the darkness we couldn’t determine where to finish the route. We returned in June, climbing the seven pitches, and realized that adding one more, easier pitch was all that was needed to finish it. After that the dome rounded off into scrambling.

Since then I worked on freeing the aid sections. After about six visits, ending on April 22, 2010, I freed it all in one redpoint effort (Defective Sonar, 1,000', 8 pitches, 5.12a). The climbing is varied from slab, to crack, to stemming, to crystal face climbing, to shallow and deep water groove climbing. All in all, it’s a beautiful route.

Arno Ilgner, AAC

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