Have you ever wanted to get some climbing experience without the crowds and the heat of the Georgia summer? Mount Yonah, in the Chattahooche River National Recreation Area outside of Helen in northeast Georgia, makes an ideal place to perfect your climbing skills during January, February and March. Mount Yonah, more correctly Yonah Mountain, is named for the Cherokee word for "bear." The 3,166-foot, granite mountain is popular with climbers year round, but the summit and climbing routes are particularly beautiful (and uncrowded) in the winter months.
About Mount Yonah
Mount Yonah is a good mountain for beginning and intermediate climbers. Its many ledges make good places for novice climbers to stop and re-group, unhook and untangle their lines if they run into trouble. In fact, the U.S. Arny Rangers based at nearby Camp Merril use the mountain as one of their training locations. The granite mountain is a local landmark and the distinctive main face can be seen from miles away. There are four main climbing areas: the Main Face, the X Walls, the Lowers and the Bouldering areas. The mountain offers a number of climbing routes, most of which are in the 5.5 to 5.7 difficulty range and are well marked with cables, lines and other features. Some routes have been marked even more clearly by the U.S. Rangers during their training. A variety of climbing is available on Mount Yonah, including friction slabs, cracks, top rope areas, juggy face climbs and sport routes.
No permit is required to climb Mount Yonah and admission to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is $3 per vehicle. Depending on which route you take to the climbing area, you may not even have to pay that fee. It's a good idea to call the Camp Merril training office in advance (706-864-3327), as the U.S. Rangers occasionally close the mountain to hold their training exercises.
Climbing Mount Yonah in Winter
Winter is a great time to climb Mount Yonah. The air is cool and crisp; the skies are clear and blue and the trails are uncrowded. However, climbing in the winter does require a little bit more advance preparation than climbing during warm weather. Georgia weather tends to start cool in the winter and heat up as the day progresses. Plus, although you're not likely to find snow at the summit of Mount Yonah, the temperature there will usually be around 20 degrees cooler than at the base of the mountain. Winter can also be wet in north Georgia. Be prepared for a pop-up shower.
How to reach the climbing area at Mount Yonah
Getting to the climbing area takes about an hour. There are two ways to get to the mountain. You can take the trail that starts at Chambers Road. The 1.5-mile trail is fairly strenuous, gaining 1,400 feet in elevation before reaching the Lowers of the mountain. Continue on uphill along the trail to reach the Main Face. There are also side trails off of the main trail that will take you over to adjacent Pink Mountain on your way down the mountain.
You can also reach the climbing area from Yonah Mountain Road from Highway 75. You go right at the first fork and hike about 2.7 miles. There is a primitive camping ground there that's also referred to as the staging area. Most of the major climbing routes are marked from there (although the X-Wall route spins off just before you get to the staging area.)
Camping at Mount Yonah
Primitive campsites are available at the staging area of Mount Yonah and are free. There are outdoor toilet facilities, but no water. No reservations are taken for the sites. They operate on a first-come, first-served basis. There is also an affordable RV Park just off of Yonah Mountain Road.
Accommodations around Mount Yonah
If you'd rather opt of a few more creative comforts after your day of climbing, the area around Helen, Georgia offers a variety of cabin rentals, ranging from one-bedrooms with lofts to spacious five-bedroom homes. Witha a large number of units in the area, we'll help you choose the cabin that best fits your climbing group's needs and budget. Many of our units are pet-friendly, so you don't have to leave your best friend at home.
Have you climbed Mount Yonah? What did you enjoy most about your experience? Share your thoughts with our readers by leaving a comment below.
image credit: www.mountainproject.com