Major New Free Climb in North Carolina

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Dan Caldwell on the the crux of the second pitch on an early pinkpoint. Photo by Paul Rothfeldtt.

Richard Burnett attempted to link the second and third pitch together belayed by Josh Odom. Photo by Paul Rothfeldtt.

A two-year team effort has resulted in one of the hardest and best multipitch free routes in the Southeast: The Glass I (5.13a or b, four or five pitches) on the north side of Looking Glass Rock in western North Carolina. The route has three pitches of 5.12 and 5.13 and requires a broad range of crack and face climbing skills.

Dan Caldwell made the initial free-climbing efforts on the route two years ago, and eventually spent at least 60 days working on the climb, with a variety of partners helping to clean and suss out the moves. Richard Burnett got the first free ascent of all the pitches, with Pat Goodman and Dave Sharratt making the first one-day free ascent.

Richard Burnett on the third pitch. Photo by Paul Rothfeldtt.

Dan Caldwell on the the crux of the second pitch with Josh Odom belaying on an early pinkpoint or yo-yo. Photo by Paul Rothfeldtt.

Mike Stamm attempting the fourth pitch. Photo by Dan Caldwell.

The Glass I is partially protected by bolts, but all of them were placed on the lead and the “bolt count was kept as low as we could, and all parties working on it have reported some eye-opening moments,” Caldwell wrote at The route shares about 40 feet of the aid climb Chieftains of Creep on the second pitch, but no bolts were added here. The Glass I’s 5.12+ second pitch follows an undercling to a flake and crux boulder problem. The 5.13a third pitch begins with an offwidth roof leading to a technical vertical slab. The long 5.12a fourth pitch, considered the best of the climb, follows face climbing to a finger and hand crack, protected by seven bolts and a fistful of cams.

During Goodman and Sharratt’s one-day free ascent, Sharratt linked the second and third pitches to create a 5.13b marathon that avoids a hanging belay at a small stance. “I did not place all the gear at the redpoint of the crux pitch,” Sharratt said. “Wish I had, [but] it ended up that way by mistake. After a failed attempt, I thought I was leaving it set up as a TR for Pat to check out, but ended up pulling the rope and going again. Oh well! It’s such a fun route I look forward to doing it again in better style.”

Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

At Carolina Climbers, Caldwell wrote eloquently of the time he spent on The Glass I: “I believed wholeheartedly this route would go to the top from the moment we reached the end of the first pitch. I worked on it nearly every day it was worked on, certainly more than any other individual. I fully intended to see it through to the end, with me redpointing every pitch. But 50 years of age and a career as a contractor, stacked on top of this route, left me with a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgery looms on the horizon. Nevertheless, I have no regrets. I spent lots of time at my all-time favorite crag, with my favorite partners. I could ask no more.”

Dates of Ascents: October 2008, Pat Goodman, Dave Sharratt

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