Linville Gorge is, arguably, home to North Carolina’s most fascinating and rugged terrain. Often referred to as the “Big Ditch” or “Grand Canyon of the East”, the jagged and towering cliff lines certainly live up to their monikers.
The Florence landslide left a scar in the cliff line, highlighting a prominent rock stack that was blended against the back wall. Up until then, no one has been documented on its summit; and until someone climbs the formation to earn its naming rites, it was given the placeholder “Little Sphinx”. (Dubbed for its strikingly similar features to the iconic Sphinx, located just 0.15 miles north)
Eager to check out the landslide and the “new” feature, I made an initial scouting trip with close friends Thomas “Badger” Mabry, Kitty Myers, and Dana Allison. We decided to first check out the base, and see what kind of damage was left at the river. I entertained the idea of potentially going up the slide from the bottom, if I felt like conditions permitted. Kitty, Dana, and I entered down Pinchin and then north on the LGT until we reached the obvious damage left behind. Badger was nearing plans for a hip replacement surgery and decided to hike out to Sunshine Point, to photograph the slide and potentially us from an aerial perspective. Unfortunately going up from the bottom and crossing the river wasn’t really feasible, nor something we were all really up for. Oh, and I forgot to bring my shoes with me so I wasn’t particularly gung-ho to take that on barefoot either. We hiked northbound until we reached Zen Canyon, then bushwhacked 1700-ft up in elevation between the canyon and Sunshine Access Trail (if you want to call it a trail now) to where we had strategically left a car.
Armed with the knowledge from my scouting trip, I returned with a different approach (and shoes!) three weeks later on October 19 – this time having Austin Ortiz accompanying me. He is my longest standing training partner, and my go to man in pioneering situations like this. We decided that failure would not be an option this time around. However, it was raining when we started our hike out, as per protocol. Austin and I departed Table Rock parking lot south on MTS, until we reached the Amphitheater spur trail – then down the Amp we went.
After a fun bushwhack to the mouth of the canyon, we hung a sharp left through some cool overhangs beneath the Daddy that saved us from the briers.
We were able to ride this route all the way to the landslide, and the base of our target.
Being this deep in a recent landslide was a surreal feeling. The way the earth was just ripped clean thru in a tunnel-like fashion – AND STILL had enough power to push all the way across the Linville River – is simply breathtaking! The amount of power and destruction, that I was standing in the middle of, was captivating.
Luckily, the scramble/climb to the summit of the rock stack was relatively easy and quick! Within 1.5 hours, we had successfully became the first people to document climbing the feature. The views are pristine – you get an up close, mid way shot of Moonshine canyon directly west, looking north is a stunning south profile view of the Sphinx, and the south overlook faces Chimney Gap (in my opinion, the widest section of the gorge) with Shortoff Mountain and Pinchin finishing it off!
We decided to name it Thoth’s Throne. Why? Who’s Thoth?!
Thoth was the Egyptian god of the Moon, and also a key architect of the iconic Great Sphinx of Giza. The rock stack lies shortly south of Linville’s Sphinx and directly across from Moonshine Canyon. We think Thoth’s Throne fits the occasion.
As per tradition, the handstand to seal the deal.
We backtracked our steps back to the car without a hitch. Truly, you can never have a dull day out in The Gorge!!
Leftovers from Thoth’s Throne’s various views