It was exactly a year since we were at Looking Glass Rock NC. We were there Labor Day weekend in 2017. Here we were again making another trip to Looking Glass on Labor Day weekend for 2018. This time it was a totally different climbing experience. If curious to know what fun adventure we had on the last trip, please click on Linville Falls Camping Outdoor Rock Climbing.
For this trip, we wanted to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and our son’s 18th birthday. I have been saving up some hotel points for two free nights at La Quinta Inn so I decided to book at a hotel instead of camping at the National Park. Because of the epic celebration, we felt that we should hire Fox Mountain Guides and have an epic rock climbing experience.
After routing out our trip to and from the hotel, I realized that I booked the hotel 1.5 hours one way driving from our climbing area. The hotel was located in Greenville, SC. Ugh! Well, it was free so we stuck to it. Also, I didn’t think at the time, we couldn’t check in until after 3 pm. It was bad planning on my part. I forgot the minor details of time and distance. Luckily, my family and Fox Mountain Guides were very patient and were open to working around the hotel issue.
Similar to our last year’s trip, we did the weekend warrior driving but this time without the camping. We left Orlando around 5:30 pm, Friday. We timed everything just right so that we could meet up with our rock climbing guide before 9 am Saturday and then check in to the hotel after our day of the climb. We took turns driving and encountered rain once again similar to last year. Hmm, imagine that…
Our guide had called a few days before to let us know that there could be some weather passing through the weekends. Determined to climb, we accepted the challenge and continued to follow through with our plan.
After a few hours nap at the rest stop and then a nice breakfast to boot, we arrived at Fox Mountain Guides an hour early. It was a beautiful sunny day to start. The temperature in the mountain was in the mid-60s. Our goal was to climb a single pitch one day and then multi-pitch the second day. Single pitch climbing was much more favorable at the current time because there were two looming factors that would prevent us from climbing multi-pitch:
- Possible rain
- Need to hire an additional guide for four people to do multi-pitch climb. The cost would also increase.
By the time we arrived, all the guides were booked. Single pitch climbing for both days became our final choice.
In case, you are curious, a single pitch is a route from the bottom to the top section that requires a single standard rope. A standard rope is usually between 50 to 80 meters long. Multi-pitches are much longer which requires multiple standard ropes or the re-use of the rope each pitch. I hope that made sense.
For me, a single pitch is one route and multi-pitch is more than one route continuously connected to each other. Each route or section is climbable by one single standard size rope.
Pisgah National Forest
Looking Glass Rock is located within Pisgah National Forest about 5.5 miles northwest of Brevard and 25 miles southwest of Asheville. Pisgah National Forest is a National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. You can visit Pisgah online at the USDA Forest Service for more details. Pisgah National Forest is a popular place for many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, tubing, camping, climbing, etc. There are beautiful cascading waterfalls, biking, and hiking trails, and huge beautiful mountain peaks screaming out “Climb Me!”
As I researched more about Pisgah, I learned that there are many climbing and bouldering locations within Pisgah National Forest and the nearby Nantahala National Forest. Here are a few:
- Looking Glass Rock
- Laurel Knob
- Cedar Rock
- Whiteside Mountain
- Rumbling Bald
- Linville Gorge: Table Rock
Each location offers different choices to explore. So far, I have been exposed to only Looking Glass Rock and a little of Table Rock in Linville Gorge. You can also visit MountainProject.com for more descriptions of each location and other climbing locations in North Carolina.
In this blog, I will focus primarily on Looking Glass and my experiences there.
Fox Mountain Guides
We hired Fox Mountain Guides (FMG) to guide our climbing trip for the weekends. It was my husband’s second time guided by FMG. His first time was for a 201 course called Rock Climbing Anchors and Gear Replacement. He had a great time and learned lots so we thought hiring them as a guide would expose us to epic climbing experiences where the locals climb.
Fox Mountain Guides is a climbing school and guide services for beginning climbers to learn the basics as well as seasoned climbers who want to refine their skills. To learn more, please click on my Fox Mountain Guide Review.
Looking Glass Rocks
Looking Glass Rock has a huge range for traditional (trad) climbing, definitely more opportunity to trad climb than sport climbing or bouldering. Trad climbing is where a climber places protective gear such as a cam to protect against falls. Please click on my article regarding trad climbing for more details. Leading for trad climbing is much more involved than sport climbing. We did not have all the proper gear or know-how so hiring a guide was totally helpful. The guide provided all the gear, the anchoring, technical know-how, the fun routes, and instructions which allowed us to sit back and enjoyed climbing so much more.
On our first day, we visited the South Wall. We climbed Good Intentions (5.6), Left Up (5.8-), Right Up (5.9), Fat Dog (5.7), and Unfinished Concerto (5.9+). It was great fun. Good Intention was a great first route for warm-up. We struggled with Left Up and Right Up at the beginning sections because we were not yet used to the texture and the footing. They were both great introduction to Looking Glass granite. After we got up the hardest part, the route was much easier up to the top.
Fat Dog and Unfinished Concerto were yet another fun crack climb. Fat Dog has a huge crack that you can actually fit your whole body inside. You can wedge yourself and slowly climb up. That was pretty interesting. We learned foot jamming, finger jamming, body part jamming, or any type of jamming we can make up as went along the cracks. We ended the day with a good note from the Unfinished Concerto.
The South Wall definitely was exposed more to the sun. By the end of the day, I got a bit of a farmer’s tan.
Back again for more on our second day, we drove up to the North Wall. The routes on the North Wall has much more challenging climbs. Our guide thought that we were ready to embark on something harder. We warmed up on a 5.10c which was called Creature of Waste. There are four pitches to this climb. Pitches 2 to 4 are aide climbing which I would imagine would be much harder. We climbed only the first pitch.
Oh yeah one more thing about the North Wall, some sections have shady spots. It is great for the summer months and possibly rainy weather.
Creature of Waste was slightly intimidating for me because it was rated 5.10c and it was our first climb of the day. However, my son, his friend, and my husband climbed it pretty well so I followed them. There was a famous short finger crack where you jam your finger inside to help you up. Everyone thought it was cool. I think I may have passed it or used it without even noticing it. =( Oh well, maybe I’ll notice it next time.
Our next climb was part of a route called Waverly Waster. The first part of the climb was very challenging with lots of crimps and smearing. Then you traverse left and finish on Creatures of Waste. This particular route was rated 5.11+. I struggled with the beginning section. It took a lot of strength to pull myself up to the next ledge. With the support from my belayer and the beta from the guide, I was able to reach the section where we need to traverse to the Creature of Waste. Whew, that was a challenging and fun accomplishment.
We had time for only one more route. Our last route of the day was called Invisible Airwaves (5.10c). It was another amazing crack route for trad climbing which included a small traverse using tiny finger cracks. Our guide set up two ropes for this particular route to prevent us from swinging wildly when we fall. I was fortunate to have small fingers because the tiny finger cracks were totally useful for me. It was nerve-racking anyhow. There was a section where we have to be Adam West, Batman and climbed up using counterbalance between our arms and legs. That was fun and scary at the same time.
Poison Ivy or Poison Oak
Poison Ivy or poison oak was not part of our climbing but it was possibly part of our hike up to the climbing spots. I might have brushed against it somehow when I didn’t pay attention. Now I have rash randomly on my arms and legs. YIKES!!! It drove me wildly itchy. That was one least favorite thing I enjoyed about being in the woods or camping for rock climbing.
I did a quick research on how to prevent remedies from poison ivy or poison oak. I am hoping to share this with you so that you can avoid future rashes when coming in contact with poisonous plants during your hikes or climbs. Here is one link: MedicalNewsToday.com. You can also do your own research and find your own solution.
Here is also a great YouTube.com video on how to prevent getting poison ivy:
From my experience, if I come in contact with poison ivy again, I will avoid scratching myself in the first place. It is very hard to do for sure but scratching it will be spreading it even more and making it worse.
What I learned
Every road trip and/or climbing expedition I learn something new. I enjoy climbing outdoor so much more. My confidence soars each time.
For climbing, I was reminded to always check each other and always be in communication using simple one to two-word commands. I also learned effective ways to belay my climber who was heavier than me with a grigri.
This time our trip started out raining but when we arrived at our destination both days were beautiful. It rained when we arrived in Florida on our drive home. I was reminded once again to follow through regardless of the weather. You never know and make the best out of what we have.
For this trip, we were able to climb more crack routes and enjoyed the different challenges outdoor climbing had to offer. There are many more options for outdoor climbing than indoor climbing. The next goal for me is to learn how to lead with trad climbing. Looking forward to more new opportunities and adventures.
Have you rocked climbed outdoor before? How about climbing at Looking Glass? I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences, or questions. Please leave your comments below.