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.
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.
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.
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!!
Jan 5, 2008
Killer bit of History there Bob. Thanks.
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?"
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.
From: Clemson, SC
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.
From: Rancho Cordova, 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.
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 11, 2012
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 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.
From: Big South Fork, TN
Jul 17, 2013
Planning on climbing it again in September.
|By Abel Jones|
From: Hickory, NC
Oct 23, 2013
rating: 5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 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)
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 22, 2014
rating: 5.12d 7c 28 IX 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.