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The SCC 'Steeles' Another Victory

Submitted by admin on 2009-03-06 | Last Modified on 2009-03-09

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 5 | Comments: 14 | Views: 7453

by admin

Re-run with permission from the SCC

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The Amphitheater at Steele, AL.

On the eve of the Access Fundís national Acquisition Summit, the most active crag buyer in the country is at it again.

Steele, AL is comprised of over one mile of 80 to 100 foot tall sandstone climbing cliff located in northeastern Alabama. Situated above the town of Steele, this area has a long history of climbing dating back to the mid 1970's. Several old rings and angle pitons have been found scattered all along the cliffline.

Early pioneers and first ascentionists included Mark Cole, Rob Robinson, Gene Smith, Maurice Reed, Curt Merchant, Les Hutchinson, James Guidry, Ken Pitts, Mack McNease, Dean Elliot, Jamie Silliman and others. According to early climbers, many new routes were put up between 1984 and 1986. A second generation of climbers, including Bernard Wolfe, Adam Henry, David Hemphill, Gus Fontenot and others, added new energy and lines, too. Today the area boasts many superb climbs and a large concentration of two and three-star routes (nearly 100 throughout the area).

Steele has been closed to the public since 1987 after a local landowner (and farmer) got angry after climbers traipsed across his tomato fields to access the crag. No parking signs are still found to this day along the main road. The cliff was used infrequently by a small handful of climbers over the years, but never gained mass popularity again due to the sensitive private land owner access issues. The goal of The Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) is to open this crag to the climbing public in the summer of 2009.

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Adam Henry on Meathooks, 5.13 sport.

Over the years, Gus Fontenot of the SCC spoke with the owner of the largest section of cliff to no avail. The owner repeatedly hung up or did not answer calls. In the summer of 2008, The SCC got the break it needed, when Brad McLeod spoke and met with a local real estate broker who happened to know of a peice of land (and cliffline) that might be for sale, but not listed. The SCC began negotiations with the Robinson family for a 25 acre tract and a portion of the coveted climbing area.

Steele has several cliff sections with one main section called the Amphitheatre. The cliffline hosts both sport routes and traditional lines. According to several climbers, Birds Nest (5.9 trad) is one of the best of its grade in the state of Alabama. Meathooks (5.13, sport) is spoken of in similar tones. There are samples of almost every grade in both sport and trad.

Currently, The SCC is close to finalizing a signed contract on a 25.59 acre tract (1,418 linear feet) in early March 2009. The cliff areas within and close to property boundaries (survey pending) include the Area 51 Wall, The Nardo Wall, Campus Wall and Revelation Wall. This tract includes approximately 40 climbing routes, both sport and traditional, along with a hillside strewn with sandstone boulders. The 25-acre tract also has a house trailer, metal shed, parking and good road access from the main highway (Chandler Mountain Road). The distance from the house trailer to the Nardo Wall is a short 800 linear feet hike with only a few hundred feet in vertical rise.

The cost for the 25 acre tract is $55k of which the SCC has already pledged approximately $20k. It is believed that the SCC can raise another $15k by time of closing (late June 2009). Several fundraisers are on the horizon for the spring of 2009, and the Access Fund has given an initial approval that they may provide a grant and/or bridge loan to help secure the purchase by then.

The SCC believes that the Steele climbing area will be popular for southeast climbers but in particular those from Birmingham (45-minute drive), Huntsville (less than one hour) and Chattanooga, TN (1.5 hours). Atlanta climbers are no strangers to driving and the two-hour plus drive will be a norm for them. Given the cragís central location to several large cities and close access to Interstate 59, we believe it will see considerable traffic and use.

The SCC is currently asking for your support in the form of both financial help and upcoming volunteer support for trail building and work to prepare the crag for climbing. Your donation and support will be greatly appreciated!

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Climber on Birdís Nest, 5.9.

Donations can be made here, or by sending a check to:

275 Stone Mill Trail NE
Atlanta, GA 30328

The Southeastern Climbers Coalition currently owns four climbing areas, including Boat Rock (Atlanta, GA), Kings Bluff (Clarkesville, TN), Jamestown (AL) and Yellow Bluff (AL). The SCC also leases the Castle Rock (TN) cliffline and the Woods Hill (GA) bouldering area. The SCC has a track record of 7 years of owning and managing climbing areas and raising funds to secure these areas. To date the SCC estimates that it and the Access Fund have raised over $250k for these six areas.

About climbing at Steele:

Suggested Tips:

  • Please keep the noise to a minimum and be respectful of homeowners on the cliff above and the valley below.
  • Steele is both a traditional and sport climbing area. There are many old traditional and mixed routes with a long climbing history. If you donít know about a routeís history, please ask. If you would like to install a sport climb, please talk with the Preserve Managers (Johnny Connell and Jeremy Boydston).
  • Pack all trash out (and any other trash that you find)

Suggested climbs on the new 25-acre tract:

5.7 Wisdom (trad, long and well protected)**
5.7 Stepping Out (trad crack)**
5.7+ Grahams Crack (trad crack)****
Numerous boulders below Grahams Crack

Climbs located off the 25 acres, on adjacent property:

5.6 Triad (trad, well protected)**
5.8 Steele Magnolia (trad)**
5.9 Birds Nest (arching trad crack)****
5.9 Monopoly (trad arete)****
5.10 Unnamed to left of B-52 (long sport)
5.10 Rainbow Arch (trad)
5.10 Dead Reckoning (sport)**
5.10+ Aura (spicy face)***
5.11 Humpin to Please
5.11 Cloak and Dagger (arete)
5.12 Carnivore
5.12 Jetstream (vertical ballet face)
5.12 Chandlers Roof Crack (trad)
5.12/5.13 Renegade (trad)
5.13 Meathooks (sport)
Top Rope - Devils Wall

Steele Preserve Managers:
Johnny Connell -
Jeremy Boydston -

For more information, including driving directions, please see here.


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14 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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5 out of 5 stars always exciting to see new areas being acquired, especially ones with excellent climbing and a rich history ... way to go!
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Maybe I misunderstood, but how come climbs located off the 25 acre tract are listed? Is climbing allowed outside of the purchased area?
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5 out of 5 stars Kudos to them... now if they could only work on acquiring the little known gem in SW Va, known as Hidden Valley.
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lodi - no climbing on the other section.
bradley - SW Va does not fall under the SCCs purview as far as I know. Furthermore, Virginia is only a couple states removed from Canada...SouthEastern, it isn't.

Steele is some of the finest climbing to be had in the SE. Good job SCC!
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As a side note, you can see Brad McLeod of the SCC working his grassroots magic, on the film Heart of Stone:

The opening chapter shows Brad touring this parcel of land for the first time with the realtor and landowner. That was only three months ago and now the SCC owns it. Amazing.
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5 out of 5 stars Um... I lived in Va for 20 years... I think it qualifies as the south... especially the part that boarders Tenn. Not to get off topic or anything.
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Well, I guess me being from THE REAL SOUTH, I have my opinions...and, IMO, VA ain't the South and WVA surely isn't. VA also borders MAryland...put that in your pipe and smoke it.
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5 out of 5 stars Ok, if you want to look more deeply into this, then open up your history book and see what the CAPITAL of the south was during the civil war. And where was this city located? About 6 hours north of the area to which I am referring.
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Blah, blah, history books aren't written down here, so we don't trust 'em...they're written by nardowell, heathen, yankees from Virginia...hell, I can barely read or write.

OK, sorry for drawing fire from the subject...I drove past Steele on my way to Jamestown this morning...although a bit hazy, this place is a much touted locale for pushing it over gear or if hard sport is your thing. Hurray, SCC.
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I would be embarrassed to say I was from the South-especially the Real South! :)
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Andrew, I saw Heart of Stone last weekend. Brilliant work! I'd be psyched if every southeastern climber saw it.
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j_ung, Thanks - so would I! Its out there, but a lot of people still havent seen it. Share it, blog it, link it!
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Steele is highlighted in the "Heart of Stone" video at:

you can donate to the Steele project at:

thanks for helping to open up this closed crag to the climbing community!
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Chaco and Rock Creek are teaming up to donate proceeds from sandal sales to help purchase Steele.

you can view the Chaco-Steele video trailer here:

you can purchase a pair of sandals and a percent of every purchase goes to help open the crag at Steele, Alabama.

click this link to get to the Rock Creek online store:

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