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Five Minutes: Former CCC Pres, Sean Cobourn

Submitted by j_ung on 2008-11-24

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by J. Young

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Cobourn (left) with John Meyers, the guy who had the bright idea to buy LK in the first place. Photo: Shullphoto

A few days back, I and the missus headed down to Brevard, NC to help our friends, Phil and Jessica Hoffmann stage a grand re-opening for Looking Glass Outfitters, the climbing store they just bought. On tap was a John Bachar slide show and a fund raiser for the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition. For those who don’t know, this is the org that engineered what might be the most significant crag purchase in America – certainly east of the Rockies. While drinking beers with Sean Cobourn, a friend of mine and the CCC’s former president, I thought it might be nice to chat about the CCC’s past, present and future endeavors.

JAY: What’s your current official role with the CCC?
SEAN: Dues paying member!

J: But unofficially are you involved with any of the access issues that are ongoing?
S: I guess I’m sort of an elder statesman, and I’m on the Park Advisory Board for the new Hickory Nut Gorge State Park. I’ve still got my fingers in things.

J: Let’s talk about some of the big victories you’ve had, just in the past few years. What are some of the biggest ones?
S: Definitely the purchase of Laurel Knob in 2006 for a quarter million dollars. That was a big limb for us to go out on. But, as of yesterday, November 13th, 2008, it is paid for. We still need to raise funds for insurance, taxes, etc., to the tune of three to four thousand dollars a year, but that’s nothing compared to the quarter million we raised in a short two and a half years. I’m very proud of this organization and the climbing community around the world.

J: Around the world… from how far away did you get donations?
S: This is the truth – we got donations from every continent on this planet, including Antarctica!

J: And let’s not forget Asheboro Boulders.
S: Mmhmm… Asheboro has been leased by the CCC for the last two years, thanks to the generosity of the owner – and also the Triple Crown, which has been paying the lease with money they’ve raised through boulder competitions. They’re big supporters of the CCC, and we’re big supporters of them as well. Asheboro is the finest boulder field between Charlotte and Raleigh.

J: Is the Triple Crown trying to stage something at Asheboro, as well?
S: I don’t know the answer to that. That would make it a quadruple crown.

J: What else?
S: In addition to Laurel Knob and Asheboro and the CCC hopes to get the Kings Mountain Boulders open in 2009. They’re part of Crowder’s Mt State Park. We’ve been waiting for the state to build a parking lot and sub-ranger station, which should be done next year.

J: Let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on right now. I think the big thing on a lot of peoples’ minds is Hickory Nut Gorge State Park.
S: Right.

J: Run down some of the rock in there that the state just recently acquired.
S: Well, let’s see… the South Side of Rumbling Bald proper, with is the side everybody knows… There’s also an equal amount of rock, if not more, on the North Side, which few people know about. It’s mostly controlled by the state now. There’s Ghost Town, which is the cliff directly across from Chimney Rock Park, and then of course, there’s Chimney Rock proper. And, then north toward Asheville, there are a lot of other cliffs, which we’re working to get.

J: What do you think needs to happen to open up access to essentially everything in Hickory Nut Gorge, especially Chimney Rock?
S: A large educational effort on our part to deal with the incoming park administration. We have great relations with the state in other parks where climbing is allowed. They will certainly allow climbing in certain areas of the [Hickory Nut Gorge] park, but we need to lobby for getting as much of that opened for climbing as possible.

J: I had the opportunity to write an article for Charlotte Magazine a couple years ago when Chimney Rock first opened access to Fox Mountain Guides. I went back in there and climbed with those guys for a day, and I climbed things that would be world-class destinations anyplace on Earth. How much of that is back there?
S: A lot more than most people know about! There are areas that have been fully climbed out and developed and there areas that have not even been touched, both left and right of the main part.

J: What comes next? What’s in the far future for the CCC?
S: There are all kinds of boulder fields around that are privately owned and that we’d love to discuss getting a decent purchase price for. Most of them are small, so hopefully, they won’t have a quarter-million price tag, like Laurel Knob. There’s Poplar Tent Boulders near Charlotte, which is where I grew up bouldering. There’s more in the Piedmont. There’s some around Davidson. And up in the mountains, I’ve heard rumors that Howards Knob may coming up for sale. That was the impetus for the formation of the CCC back in 1995, anyway!

J: You’re a big advocate of land purchases. Why is that?
S: At least in the East a lot of land is privately owned. Out west a lot of it is BLM or national forest of whatever. The only realistic way to guarantee our future access is to purchase it. It’s the wave of the future. For four years I was on the board of the Access Fund, back in the early nineties, and they are currently fundraising to develop a sort of revolving fund to help local groups buy their local crags. That’s not up and running yet, but certainly in the future and hopefully… soon.


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Great read. I'd love to see more of this kind of thing on On a side not, keep your fingers crossed for me, I might become one the colonists of Fayetteville, as I just sent in my application for a History position at Fayetteville High School.
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We'll roll out the red carpet!
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Agreed - it's a great read, and I hope it gives folks from outside the SE some perspective on how good they have it. We have so much great rock down here, and so little of it is open to climbing.

On another note - what's the deal with Grandfather Mountain? I'm a bit far from Boone, but I recall some talk at the Triple Crown Hound Ears comp about it being opened and having some serious climbing potential.
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I went to school at ASU in Boone and I spent many of days exploring Grandfather Mtn(albeit illegally, but damnit I hiked up that trail and I earned it) It sure does have potential. I'd go so far as saying some of the best rock in the area. Raven's rock (or at least that's what we called it) would be a world class sport cliff with about a dozen or so mixed lines. Also, behind Ship rock there is a cliff band (you can actually see it in the winter) with about 2 dozen routes. I think most of these have been climbed by either tr or mixed free and aid. Hell, for all I know, they could have all been freed. Also on top of Grandfather Mtn. they're are some ok slabs and some really good boulders. One area I remember is this huge horizontal roof. No kidding its probably as big as the Junkyard bouldering cave. I've always hated the fact that you had to pay (or at least were suppose to) to hike GF Mtn. Having climbing access open up there would be great. Especially Raven Rocks.
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I just re-read my comment and realized that my description of Ravens Rock might be a bit tricky to understand. I meant to write, that Ravens Rock would be a world class sport cliff (with at least 50 routes) and an additional dozen or so mixed, or pure gear protected routes. Definitely kick ass place, which I think at one time actually had bolts and climbing on it. But, since the Grandfather Mtn. Mafia took over the place has been on lock down.
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Great Job Jay, especially since we interrupted you 3 times as this was going on in the store room of LGO. There is so much rock in NC and so little time to protect it. The home sites at Rumbling Bald seem if they are going in right up to the state property line.

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