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The Glass Menagerie 

YDS: 5.13a French: 7c+ Ewbanks: 29 UIAA: IX+ ZA: 29 British: E6 6c PG13

   
Type:  Trad, 7 pitches, 900', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.13a French: 7c+ Ewbanks: 29 UIAA: IX+ ZA: 29 British: E6 6c [details]
FA: Jeep Gaskin, John Borstelman - 1980 FFA: Pascal Robert, Arno Ilgner, Kris Kline - 1995
Season: spring or fall
Page Views: 21,911
Submitted By: chad umbel on Jun 19, 2007

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Brian Talbert on belay... mid 90's.

Description 

This is the finest multipitch free-climb of its grade in the Southeast. If you want sustained climbing with big air and on perfect granite, this is the route for you. The Glass Menagerie is the obvious overhanging line up the center of the North Face of Looking Glass. It is equally good as an aid climb, as it is a free climb. Its cruxes are well protected and the rock is almost always stellar. Please be courteous to other parties if you are trying to work out the free moves. This route gets plenty of traffic and you will likely be sharing the route with other climbers if you try it during peak season.

Pitch 1: (5.11c or 5.8 C1)

Start climbing up the easy face towards the obvious shallow right facing corner. You will eventually be faced with some 5.11 moves on great rock with mostly bolts for pro. You will then encounter a funky steep section that is protected with some pretty rusty bolts and sort of rotten granite. This is short lived and eventually you will traverse out far right on a ledge system (5.8? rotten) that will take you to a bolted belay. Two nice bolts and an angle for the belay. If you are hauling make sure you put your haulbag in the proper location for takeoff on the deck.

Pitch 2: (5.12+ or C1)

This is one fine pitch of climbing. Start cranking hard moves right off the belay eventually scoring a nice kneebar rest under a shallow roof. Get ready for some thin face. Climb out past the roof and up past several bolts onto the beautiful face and end up finishing by traversing onto the exposed face placing a few cams to gain a nice little ledge belay below a flaring corner with a splitter crack in the back. Two bomber bolts will make your belay.

Pitch 3: (5.11a or C1)

After a little rest, rack up with some cams and stoppers for this pitch. You will have a hard time with this one if you don't like rattly fingers. Climb a short crack in a left facing corner with great pro to a decent ledge with at least two bomber bolts for your anchor.

Pitch 4: (5.13 or C2)

This is the money pitch. Get amped right off the bat because you will be loving the climbing here. Make some face moves off the belay. Then break out left through the improbable looking roof. You will encounter jugs, laybacks, and crimps out of this masterpiece. Keep cool for the first thirty feet off the belay. There is big air with bolts for pro and only 5.12 moves till you reach the lip of the roof. It suits the route that the hardest move is at the steepest part of the whole wall. Try and get a breather before you pull the crux. There are good bolts in between the bad ones for the whole roof. Once at the lip, pull a pretty dang hard boulder problem (V6?) and gain a thin lichen covered face. This face is about 5.10+, but it only has two bolts for pro. They are painted black so if you don't see them just keep lookin. Once you've pulled through the face you will find a two bolt belay for your anchor.

Pitch 5: 5.10+ PG 13

This pitch is only part of the free route. The aid line went up and left out of the roof, while the free variation goes up straight past the two bolts described in the previous pitch. Down climb down and left off the belay with only one bolt for pro. You may be able to get some small wires or aliens in as well. You will be angling down and left at about 7 o'clock off the belay. There was a fixed runner off the bolt when we were up there. This pitch will be sort of scary for the leader but terrifying for the second, as he will actually be doing the lead climbing. You will encounter a 2-bolt belay about twenty feet above the lip of the roof proper here.

Pitch 6: (5.10c or C2)

As Mike says below, you can link pitch 5 and 6 and save your second from doing the heinous down climb of pitch five with a semi-top rope. Either way you do it you will climb a splitter hand crack up and eventually gain a fixed nut anchor at a little roof. Traverse out left a few feet to regain the crack (crux 11.c?). Climb the hand crack that will turn into a reasonable off width that overhangs slightly and ends with a slabby right leaning finish to gain yet another two bolt anchor.

Pitch 7: (5.9+ or 5.8, C1)

Climb up off the belay pulling through some thin hands past a bulge and then on to finish the crack up on a slab. You will eventually run out of crack and slab climb up to the top on easy terrain which can be wet if it has rained recently.

I hope this topo information is helpful to all that use this site. Remember, this is how we did it and you may do it differently so you may disagree with my beta.

Location 

North Face of Looking Glass. Hike in from the obvious trailhead at the parking area heading south towards the North Face. It will be the first route you come to once at the wall.

It is possible to retreat from any pitch but you may have to leave some biners on the raw bolts. It is best to walk west towards the Nose and rappel it to get off the wall.

Protection 

We took a pretty full kit so we could work out the free moves. A nice set of cams along with some stoppers and offsets+brass will suffice. Bring along a lot of runners and at least 8 draws. We took some light weight steps to aid the roof and clean the holds before we free climbed it. A portaledge is nice to rest on if you are trying hard to redpoint. Hauling is a breeze due to the steep nature of the wall.


Photos of The Glass Menagerie Slideshow Add Photo
Fritz luxuriates at the belay.  (We were a bunch of nancy boys and aided the route)
Fritz luxuriates at the belay. (We were a bunch o...
Some of the older fixed pro on P-1. The pin is definitely not an original but it still broke with only a tap or two as it was being removed. A single bolt (#2) was used to replace these two pieces (summer of 2013).
Some of the older fixed pro on P-1. The pin is def...
p3 got strange for us we stayed right for too long and ended up in this flaring chimney which was off route i think a2+ and busting some free moves not ideal with a full aide rack. we ended that pitch 15 feet up and 15 right of that anchors and built a belay and got back out route the rocks a little brittle left above that chimney
BETA PHOTO: p3 got strange for us we stayed right for too long...
For those of us not cranking 5.13 this still makes a great aid line.
For those of us not cranking 5.13 this still makes...
second pitch we chose the roofs variation it was fun and easy
second pitch we chose the roofs variation it was f...
start p5 in the dark while its raining
start p5 in the dark while its raining
someone rapping off in the rain routes overhung for sure and that guys rope was like 10 feet short of the ground
someone rapping off in the rain routes overhung fo...
Chad and Lee racking up for a go on the crux 5.13 pitch of the Menagerie. Lee cruised this pitch second go.
Chad and Lee racking up for a go on the crux 5.13 ...
Thomas Skinner aiding out the 3rd pitch of GM(picture and belay by Alex Willis.
Thomas Skinner aiding out the 3rd pitch of GM(pict...
drew climbing the last pitch 5.9
drew climbing the last pitch 5.9
Scott aiding the 3rd pitch, GM.
Scott aiding the 3rd pitch, GM.
p1 of glass menagerie
p1 of glass menagerie
Lee "Tator Man" Robinson redpointing the second pitch with ease.
Lee "Tator Man" Robinson redpointing the...
above the p3 anchors where we should have ended p3
above the p3 anchors where we should have ended p3
Pitch 5, So great!
Pitch 5, So great!
anchor on p1 nice new bolts
anchor on p1 nice new bolts
nate jugging the haul line
nate jugging the haul line
Chad Umbel below the second pitch of The Glass Megagerie 5.12+. Sent it second go.
Chad Umbel below the second pitch of The Glass Meg...
hanging out at the top of p4below the huge roof (our bivi spot)
hanging out at the top of p4below the huge roof (o...
Aiding out the Roof
Aiding out the Roof
above and left of that chimney
above and left of that chimney
to the right of p4
to the right of p4
Awesome P3 dihedral
Awesome P3 dihedral

Comments on The Glass Menagerie Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 24, 2014
By Dirk
From: QUEENS NEW YORK
Sep 15, 2007

Not all free lines are worth aiding. This one is.
By Bob Rotert
Nov 24, 2007

The vision of climbing this route free was Jeep Gaskin's in the Mid 70's. The iconic hardman of that era, Henry Barber had been out visiting & recently freed Cornflake Crack. That really opened our eyes to what was possible & might be possible from a free climbing perspective at the Glass.

Shortly after Barber's free ascent I managed to lead the second free ascent of Cornflake Crack with Jeep & some other friends. That was a quantum leap for us & inspired us to believe we might be making some headway in our own free climbing efforts & abilities.

After our own free ascent of Cornflake, Jeep was really fired up & told me he had been working on freeing the first pitch of Glass Menagerie. It was an abandoned Brad Shaver, rainy day, aid project called "Rubber Ducky" at that time. This uncompleted aid route went up about 100 feet on some of the steepest climbed rock at the Glass. To think of free climbing up there was a wild idea! Jeep had already freed most of the pitch & encouraged me to go give it a try.

I was skeptical that this would go free but decided to give it a go and to my suprise and delight was able to completely free the first pitch up to the big ledge. This was done with Randy Mann probably @ 1976/77 and at that time was probably the hardest free climbing pitch at the Glass. We thought it was an amazing pitch and was atypical of most of the climbing at Looking Glass. It was very steep climbing with some very hard climbing around some kind of questionable pro. Not much like it had been done in the state at the time. We thought of the first pitch as a free climb in itself & named it "Contemporary Insanity" and thought it was probably 5.11.

Later, we tried pushing more free climbing up a second pitch from there & Jeep & I, on different attempts, freed most of the next part up to the original belay in the dihedral. Sounds like this might have now changed some from the above description. Jeep later went on to complete the route to the top as an amazing aid route. We really never imagined back then that this "whole climb" would actually go free some day. I sure wish I had the strength & ability to do this one free to the top. Maybe in my next life. What an awesome route!!
By Tea
Jan 5, 2008

Killer bit of History there Bob. Thanks.
By superjosh
Feb 7, 2008

One more piece of crucial beta: do a lap through Brevard College just before the final push. If a white squirrel crosses your path, you'll know that the send is near.
By mike williams
May 25, 2009

All sounds fairly accurate. I guess Elissa and I lucked into some crucial beta for the downclimb traverse on pitch 5. She left the belay and downclimbed down and left so essentially she was on toprope. When she hit the crack out left she just climbed straight up the good hand jams until she was well above me before placing any pro. Then she punched it all the way to the bolted belay before the last pitch.
So when I left the belay after the crux pitch, I was on toprope as well. It worked out great. Just for the record, we freed every pitch except the pesky "10d" downclimb which is actually the crux and a good bit harder than the 13a and 12d pitches. Fortunately you can slightly weight the rope and do a psuedo free/aid pendulum that makes you feel like you're freeclimbing so that you can convince yourself: "Well yeah, I mean I freed the 13a pitch so why go back for that shitty 10d downclimb?"
By Brannen
From: Flowery Branch, GA
Jul 1, 2012

Does anybody know how you're actually supposed to get down off this route. Did it yesterday and we had to bushwack through the woods following no discernable trail, and then by some miracle found the tourist trail at the very top.

Is there an actual trail that leads to the tourist trail from the top-out or is that basically what you're supposed to do.

Also on pitch 4?? you have to traverse about 30 feet left from the fixed nuts to gain the crack. Or at least that's how we did it.
Try to back clean along the traverse so your partner can lower out from the nuts otherwise terrible rope drag for the crack above.
By andjoely
From: Menlo Park, CA
Jul 1, 2012

Basically just bushwhack from the top or just above the top east to get to the gulley between the hidden wall and the north face. It will be obvious when you get there because you will see the hidden wall. You can reach the same gulley by bushwhacking down from the tourist trail a couple hundred feet east of the highest point of the trail.

I think I belayed at the end of that traverse off medium cams in the vertical crack. to avoid the rope drag and such so that there was no need to back clean.
By csproul
From: Davis, CA
Aug 13, 2012

Up and left from the top there is a trail that puts you in the gulley between the N face and Hidden Wall. I have not been on it in a year, but there was a real trail at that time.
By furrymurry
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 11, 2012
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b PG13

Linked P3 and P4 (short 11a pitch and crux roof pitch), would highly recommend this approach. Eliminates that awkwardly short 11a pitch and less comfy belay stance, gives you more rope out for softer catches in the cruxes, and is easier to lower back to if you are working the pitch.
A quick word on aiding: A hold recently broke on the 12+ open book pitch (the clipping hold for the first bolt). Its unclear whether this was from aiding or not, but from the nature of things seems likely it could have been a hooking-induced break. Please don't hook on free routes, especially those of such exceptional quality with thin, fragile holds such as the Menagerie.
By NOFF
From: Big South Fork, TN
Jul 17, 2013

Thanks Nate,

Planning on climbing it again in September.
By Abel Jones
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 23, 2013
rating: 5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c

Definately a "must do" for NC free climbers IMHO
By michael s...
From: Asheville, NC
Feb 28, 2014

I was just on this thing and the above comment about not hooking on free routes is pretty interesting.

How about free climbers adding bolts? (Rhetorical question)
By furrymurry
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 22, 2014
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b PG13

To answer your rhetorical question: free climbing > aid climbing.
By Alexander Blum
From: Charlotte, NC
Apr 9, 2014

Furry fellow, that's an interesting generalization. When put up Glass Menagerie was a fairly committing aid route. Only with the addition of many bolts which totally changed the character of the climbing did it begin to see free ascents. Who is more "bad ass", the parties with the vision to meet the rock on its own terms, or the ones who pull out the drill to bring it down to their level because "free climbing is way more rad than aid climbing"?

Now, I am not saying that isn't true, but there is an important caveat: bringing a route down to your level to free it isn't more rad than the original aid ascent. It's a step backwards. The Menagerie would be a much prouder free line if it was sent free in its original form, without changing the fundamental character of the route first.

All that being said, if you're aiding this route and a hook move is necessary for upward progress then by all means, hook away. If you can avoid hooking then you should certainly go out of your way to do so as a kindness to all future free climbers on this route.
By Abel Jones
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 6, 2014
rating: 5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c

The only thing that is changing the character of the route is the hooking. Bolt holes can be filled and patched (and some should be on the glass). If a route is clearly a phenomenal free climb it should be protected as such... With FAist blessings. Leaving long hooking sections on a ergonomically featured route would be lame.
By michael s...
From: Asheville, NC
May 15, 2014

"Bolt holes can be filled and patched"

Not exactly what I'm talking about. Not the holes. The many many existing hangers attached to many many bolts. Game changers.

"free climbing > aid climbing."

So 'Rado.
By Alexander Blum
From: Charlotte, NC
May 15, 2014

Abel, do you believe that the route would have the same character and flavor if there were less bolts on the crux pitch? I don't think the question about hooking is as black and white as I made it sound, but the idea that turning what should be a fairly bold pitch into a clip up doesn't alter the nature of the route is absurd.
By Scott Gilliam
From: Raleigh, NC
May 21, 2014

Neutering a bold aid line with bolts and defacing a free route with hooking, these are not the same. There are some interesting similarities, but that is good fodder for a rousing face to face conversation, over beers, no doubt. The issue here should not be clouded.

Yes, hooks ARE sexy (if you think spicy is sexy). From Supertopo.com:

"Hooking is the spiciest part of aid climbing. Small hook moves are scary. Bomber hook placements are still scary because after you move off it you donít have it as protection."

That kind of talk sells me on the sexiness. We all want to be badasses. Really, though, on the GM, hooking is unnecessary. While there are definitely some solid camhook placements in the book -- no danger of breaking the rock with those -- I remember no necessary down-pulling hooks (and I suck at aiding).

Sadly, though, here's the part about hooks that that often gets overlooked. Again, wise words from a man that has probably hooked a lot more than anyone debating here:

"Like cam hooking, the key with hooking is to make 50 to 100 practice placements a few feet off the ground. Donít hook on established boulder problems because you can break off holds."

Seems like the best choice is not to hook.

And for those of us that feel that free climbers should raise their game and not neuter a bold line with bolts, only need a bit of introspection is required to see that those of us aiding the route can raise our own game and leave the Talons, Cliffhangers, and Grappling Hooks on the ground.
By David Barbour
From: Denver
May 21, 2014

It would be X rated without the bolts, as a free climb. It's still not a clipup - the open book is scary no matter how much you aid, or don't aid.
By Rush
From: Boulder, CO
May 21, 2014

From what I understand, the notorious "mandatory" hook move is right off the belay at the end of the diorite traverse (moving into the open book).

I've seen a couple of tactics for avoiding this: (a) using a trekking pole to stick the first bolt, (b) doing the P2 variation directly above the P1 anchors.

We chose the P2 variation, which would be the way to go for anyone looking to aid this route; however, if you really need to go the original version, stick that bolt. It's better style than being that guy that breaks the hold.
By Scott Gilliam
From: Raleigh, NC
May 21, 2014

Yeah, that's definitely not mandatory. We chose to do the rising rightward traverse on brass and such instead of walking across that choss. More fun anyway if you're looking for the kind of spice that comes from hooking.
By Abel Jones
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 22, 2014
rating: 5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c

Heres a vote for removing at least a couple bolts from the crux pitch. As far as I can tell, aiders are the only ones that actually use them all. A couple of the rusty ones are so easy to skip when freeing most will do so even on their first attempt. We should ask Jeep though. Although if it results in aiders doing some sick hooking that could potentially alter the route... then maybe we should leave the old relics in place.
By Adam Tripp
May 23, 2014

Actually, someone replaced the old rivets on the roof pitch with big stainless steel bolts sometime last year. The pitch was well protected for free climbing since every other piece of fixed gear had already been a stainless bolt, spaced at appropriate clipping stances.

Now it is practically a stainless steel ladder. Not only is this a waste of bolts (shoulda replaced the open book bolts) but it took some of the spice out of the pitch for aids climbers. God forbid that there be a body weight only placement in between the existing bolts.
By Caleb Spradlin
From: Brevard, NC
May 31, 2014

So how much traffic does this route get during the summer?
By C Brown
Jun 27, 2014

As far as the open book goes - which, if any, of those bolts are original? If none or few, removing those bolts and replacing them in better locations for free climbing would help both aid rats and free prancers.
By JRJones
Jul 15, 2014

Any thorough beta on the 5th pitch "5.10+ PG 13" business? I'd love to hop on this route but not cause a scene 700 feet up. Any other NC climbing it could be equated to from Stone/Laurel/etc.?

Thanks!

(Also, summer ascent: good/fair/stupid idea?)
By furrymurry
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 25, 2014
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b PG13

C Brown: agreed. Those bolts on the book pitch are definitely hurting and could use some retro action. I'll happily contribute to the steel fund.
By Derek DeBruin
Sep 14, 2014

Descent beta:
Rappel the route with a 70m rope.
From the top of the exit pitch, one 35m rappel puts you at the top of the "meat grinder" off-width pitch. Watch your rope ends!
From here, one 30m rappel puts you at the top of the free roof pitch. (A 35m rappel could probably get you to the top of the aid roof pitch, but I've never tried it.)
From here, one 70m rappel gets you to the ground, rappelling all the way past the crux pitches. This rappel is long, exposed, and kinda fun.

With this beta, you can climb the route with one 70m rope. For the final rappel, fix the rope and send the first person down. This person can then grab the second 70m rope you intelligently stashed somewhere around the base. The other individual still atop the roof pitch can then haul up the second rope and rappel on joined ropes.

Some other notes about the descent (and hardware):
The fixed anchors after the roof pitch are older, but pretty good. They'll need replaced after awhile, though. The hardware on the anchors also needs some help. The anchors are standard hangers with single quicklinks on them. This means that rappelling as described above twists the hell out of your rope. The addition of another quicklink or a rap ring on each bolt would solve this problem. Also, the bolts atop the free roof pitch are offset and currently feature a fixed sling, but are otherwise good to go.

I have the hardware for all of this and plan to replace it as soon as I get another chance to get up the GM when it's not raining. I'll be replacing the sling with some chain and adding quicklinks/rap rings to the upper anchors. If you get there before me, I'd recommend bringing 4 quicklinks to save yourself and your rope a twisty headache.

Other hardware:
As for the bolt situation, I'd have to ask the folks who did the re-bolt, but maybe the bolts were placed as they are on the roof precisely to prevent the breaking of holds with hook moves as a kind of aid/free compromise? The position is still amazing either way (though I agree not as bold).

As for the Open Book, ideally I think it would be great to remove the current 6 bolts, clean out/enlarge the holes as appropriate, and install glue-ins. This would prevent putting any more holes in the rock (a shame on that pitch) and allow the bolts to be replaced indefinitely using the existing holes.

Regarding the bolt positioning, having been free climbing on it I think the bolts are actually pretty intelligently positioned. Maybe bolts 3 and 4 could be adjusted a bit (I find bolt 4 requires an awkward cross-clip for me). However, as I understand it, the original aid line actually followed the open book corner for the most part (not the bolt line on the slab), meaning that the bolts on the Open Book as they currently exist were installed with free climbing in mind. I say leave them in their current positions.

Finally, there is a "perma-draw" of sorts on bolt 3 of the Open Book. It features a thin quicklink that's rusted shut, a very faded yellow sling, and surprisingly, a nice wire gate 'biner. I'd like to see this either removed entirely or replaced with an actual perma-draw (steel cable or something).

Would love to hear others' thoughts on this.
By furrymurry
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 22, 2014
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b PG13

Sounds like you're being a thoughtful Samaritan, Derek. I for one really appreciate the stewardship. Everything you've suggested gets my thumbs up, particularly replacing the open book bolts. That yellow 'perma draw' was always kinda scary and it'd be nice to see it go/replaced.
By Derek DeBruin
Sep 24, 2014

Quicklinks and chain have been added to anchors as appropriate to make rappelling a more appealing descent option, as noted in my prior comment.