Classic Routes: North Carolina’s The Nose

Photo: Karsten Delap

Grade: 5.8 
Location: Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina
Type: Trad
Length: 400 feet
First Ascent: Steve Longenecker, Bob Watts, and Bob Gillespie (1966)

It’s that quintessential ‘eyebrow’ climbing that people hear about in North Carolina,” Karsten Delap said of The Nose’s distinctive downward-sloping, horizontal creases. As the owner of Fox Mountain Guides in the Tar Heel State, Delap has climbed the four-pitch gear-protected slab more than a hundred times, including a speed ascent that took him 12 minutes. This Southern favorite follows the prow of Looking Glass Rock, a granite monolith in Pisgah National Forest that rises to nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. The intrusive igneous dome formed when magma slowly pushed upward and cooled underneath the Earth’s crust, then surrounding dirt and rock eroded away to reveal sculpted stone amidst the rolling green hills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Nestled between the more challenging Hyperbola Direct (5.11a) and Peregrine (5.9), The Nose has only a few moves of 5.8, with most of the climbing going at 5.7 or easier. While the horizontal fissures appear as jugs, the sloping shelves don’t provide much purchase and are far better used as underclings, according to Delap. “There’s a bit of style involved in that!” he said. Precise footwork, plentiful smearing, and creative gear placements with small cams, TCUs, and Tricams are the keys to sending.

Climbers first started eyeing the formation in the mid-1960s, and Steve Longenecker, Bob Watts, and Bob Gillespie spent five years looking for a way to the top using binoculars from the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. In 1966, the trio strapped on motorcycle helmets and donned heavy-duty logging boots to make the first ascent of the formation via The Nose.

North Carolina Looking Glass Rock
An overview of Looking Glass Rock. Photo: Karsten Delap