The Nose (5.8) Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina


Four Southern granite pitches sure to raise a few “eyebrows”

No need for haulbags, speed records, or poop tubes on this Nose. Looking Glass Rock’s beloved romp is a rousing moderate on granite every bit as good as the Valley’s . . . if one succumbs to far-reaching comparisons. Most North Carolina climbers don’t succumb to much of anything, however; mention The Nose around these parts, and it can only mean the proud protuberance of the Glass.

The 600-foot dome of Looking Glass gets its name from thin sheets of verglas that occasionally build up to reflect winter light after a freezing rain. Yet this sheen is not what comes to mind when you stare up at the southwest face: it’s the “eyebrows” — thousands of horizontal wrinkles in the granite veneer, weathered by water seeping into the metamorphosed feldspar and mica.

From below, the first pitch’s 5.5 eyebrows seemingly trace a jug ladder to the summit. But you quickly realize you’ve been duped: the eyebrows slope decidedly downward, requiring underclings, attentive footwork, and savvy gear placement. Get suckered too far up, however, and you might find yourself thinking existential thoughts, your last cam socked deep in the eyeball of a distant brow.

All this fancy footwork gives renewed appreciation for Bob Watts, Robert John Gillespie, and Steve Longenecker, who FA’ed The Nose circa 1966 . . . in lug-soled logging boots. Longenecker and Watts also wore motorcycle helmets, and the climbers used Gold Line rope. To descend, recalls Longenecker, they ran the rope through a carabiner on the fronts of their “rock jocks” [swami belts], and then took the line over the shoulder and behind the back. “Talk about rednecks,” he says. “We were that . . . in more ways than one.”

From the bolted belay atop P1, go slightly left, as the FA team did, aiming for a prominent ramp and adding 40 feet of do-not-miss climbing (and one of the route’s few bomber nut placements). Here, you’ll meet the first steep and balancy crux, working your way right on the ramp and then straight up to another bolted belay. Another 5.8 crux above the bolts and you’re skying eyebrows all the way to the aptly named Parking Lot ledge.
Tip the valet and start a fine pitch of 5.7 that slowly eases into fourth class. Up top, savor lunch before rapping (not with a shoulder wrap, we hope) to the rhododendrons.

From below, the first pitch’s 5.5 eyebrows seemingly trace a jug ladder to the summit. But you quickly realize you’ve been duped: the eyebrows slope decidedly downward, requiring underclings, attentive footwork, and savvy gear placement. Get suckered too far up, however, and you might find yourself thinking existential thoughts, your last cam socked deep in the eyeball of a distant brow.

All this fancy footwork gives renewed appreciation for Bob Watts, Robert John Gillespie, and Steve Longenecker, who FA’ed The Nose circa 1966 . . . in lug-soled logging boots. Longenecker and Watts also wore motorcycle helmets, and the climbers used Gold Line rope. To descend, recalls Longenecker, they ran the rope through a carabiner on the fronts of their “rock jocks” [swami belts], and then took the line over the shoulder and behind the back. “Talk about rednecks,” he says. “We were that . . . in more ways than one.”

From the bolted belay atop P1, go slightly left, as the FA team did, aiming for a prominent ramp and adding 40 feet of do-not-miss climbing (and one of the route’s few bomber nut placements). Here, you’ll meet the first steep and balancy crux, working your way right on the ramp and then straight up to another bolted belay. Another 5.8 crux above the bolts and you’re skying eyebrows all the way to the aptly named Parking Lot ledge.
Tip the valet and start a fine pitch of 5.7 that slowly eases into fourth class. Up top, savor lunch before rapping (not with a shoulder wrap, we hope) to the rhododendrons.


Photo by Bruce Willey
The Beta
Guidebooks:
Selected Climbs in North Carolina,
by Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull; The Climber’s Guide to North Carolina, by Thomas Kelley

Guide Services: Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School: (888) 284-8433, foxmountainguides.com; Rock Dimensions: (828) 265-3544, rockdimensions.com Equipment Shop: Looking Glass Outfitters: (866) 351-2176, lookingglassoutfitters.com

Season: Best in fall and spring, though winter and summer offer opportunities, as The Nose faces south.

Show us your photos of The Nose and win ultralight curve nuts from Metolius! Log on to climbing.com’s Photo Post, submit your The Nose images to the Classic Climbs folder, and on April 1, the photographer Jim Thornburg will pick his favorite. The winning entry will receive a full set of stonker Ultralight Curve Nuts ($109) from Metolius Climbing.

GEAR BETA FOR THE NOSE
Cams work best in the eyebrows-everything from TCU's or Aliens to 3" Cams. One set will see you through. Tri-cams work especially well in the eyebrows. Stoppers are difficult to place but bring them along for the other classics in the area such as any of the South Face crack routes. Also, bring long slings to avoid rope drag and two ropes if you intend to rap the route. Rap down Peregrine to avoid those coming up.

FIVE CLASSICS NEAR THE NOSE OF LOOKING GLASS ROCK, NORTH CAROLINA

Peregrine 5.9
Another Steve Longenecker (and Brian Lee, Sean Coffey) masterpiece done almost 25 years after The Nose. Also a straighter and slightly more difficult line that ends up in the same spot as The Nose route. Not to mention plenty of staring contests with the infamous eyebrows.

Sundial Crack 5.8
A beautiful line and perfect alternative if The Nose is crowded on a sunny weekend day-which is almost always. Though there's only about 20 feet of crack, the rest of the route will continue to hone your brow master skills to the hilt.

Titties and Beer 5.9
The hedonistic name was inspired by a Frank Zappa song, and although this is the South, it's probably not something you'll find on the route. Although, this being the South, you never know. Located on the Sun Wall around the corner (right) of The Nose, Titties and Beer was once dubbed the "world's hardest 5.8." Keep this in mind, especially on the ultra exposed traverse moves over the bulges on the third pitch. As first ascent climber Bob Rotert puts it, "The 5.8 climber might want to have a beer (or two) to calm one's nerves after tackling the terrific, sensuous, undulations of this route."

Second Coming 5.7
A rising hand crack splitting the spine of the good open book makes this one of the best climbs on the South Face of Looking Glass. (Park at the South Face trailhead right above the free climber campground to access these routes.) With this kind of climbing, Second Coming gets downright religious even for the Bible belt. Place your gear methodically, however. This route sees more accidents than any at Looking Glass and many a leader has offered up thanks after passing the bulging crux.

Gemini Crack 5.8
Astrologically-speaking the twin cracks at the crux swallow fingers and gear. Perfect crack climb to end the day before heading into Brevard for Mexican food and $6 pitchers of beer at El Chapala at the bottom of the road.

 



Comments

A few comment's on the above. Steve did wear a motorcycle helmet, Bob Watts wore a cheep climbing helmet. Bob Gillespie wore a pair of Royal Robinson Blue Boots. At the end of the climb, which was all four pitches, we walked down the tail to the road. At the road we hid our climbing equipment and walked back to the car. When we got back to the trail head the climbing equipment had been stolen. We did use a body rappel at times, but preferred a military carabiner wrap, as fig. 8 and similar devices were not available.

Bob Watts - 02/08/2014 12:51:55

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