The best things in life require a little work, like getting born. If you've found yourself drooling over the flawless 5.10 dihedral pictured on the cover of Shull's Southeastern Rock, it's time to put in a little grunt work and escape the Womb. A mandatory stop on the southeastern climber's granite training circuit.
P1: A 5.9 hand crack angles up and right to the route's namesake pod in a left-facing corner after 165'. Belay from bolts. Or break it up and belay from a ledge after 65 feet.
P2: Crux. To gain the corner, you must squirm to the top of the pod and convert from squeeze-chimney technique to laybacking the left-facing corner above. Fortunately, most of the conversion takes place while toproping from excellent gear. Kicking your belayer in the head at least once is de rigeur; twice, and you're buying the beer. Once established in the corner, stem and layback your way to glory for 50 feet or so and belay on a ledge from gear.
P3: Brows to the trees, 5.7.
The Womb dihedral is distinct as the right margin of the slabby left end of the North Face. Look for a right-facing, vegetated flake about 40 feet up, which in turn will take you to the right-angling hand crack that ends at the Womb.
DESCENT: Walk off to climber's left, or shwack over to the R and use the Safari Jive raps.
Standard rack and pants below the knee.
unknown climbers in the pod
Corey following the peerless 3rd pitch finger crac...
|By Bob Rotert|
Dec 22, 2006
This is a great route & probably the hardest free route on the Glass & probably the state when it was freed in the early '70s. I don't mean to take credit away from the first free ascentionests listed here and I am not one to normally quibble on route ascents, but when things are being historically recorded it seems right to get them as accurate as possible. I will also state that this occured over 30 years ago so my timeline memory may not be the most accurate.
This was freed very close to the same time by 2 different parties. Those parties were Diff Ritchie, Tim McMillan & myself. And Jeep Gaskin & Joe Meyers. I believe our free ascent was @ 1974/75 at the latest. Communication of what was happening on routes back then was only word of mouth as there were very few climbers active in the state. At the time none of us had met Jeep or Joe. There were also very few climbers in the state, that we knew of, that could come close to climbing at that level at that period of time. Jeep later told me that he & Joe Myers had freed this route and I told him about our free ascent as well and that I believed it may have predated his & Joes ascent. Checking the Kelly & Shull/Lambert guide books I can see that the FFA is credited to Jeep & Joe in both books in 1977. If done in 77, as listed in the guide books, then their ascent was most likely not the historical FFA.
I will say that both ascents were very close to the same time period. Between the 2 separate free ascents I don't know that either party is really sure who actually did the first free on this one. I do remember a little discussion with Jeep on this back in the day. Perhaps historical credit could probably go to all in both parties. Or at least Diff Ritchie & Jeep Gaskin as they both lead the crux pitch, not knowing it had been freed. Regardless of who actually got the FFA on this route it was a great lead & by two very talented, visionary, and bad ass southern climbers for that era!
A little historical trivia...
Apr 18, 2008
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c
Nice history dab!
Superb, albeit a bit dirty in the crux flare. Shull's new guide gives it 11b...the crux hold is nearly broken (my bad), git it while it's "hot"...
Did it much differently than the Gaskin photo! The upper crack is amazing and friendly.
|By Mike Anderson|
From: Dayton, OH
Jul 27, 2009
Great route! The first two (or one) pitches are much better than they look...and the end of the 2nd pitch packs a punch. The crux pitch tests a key trad climbing skill: the switch from chimney-ing to laybacking. Don't you dare step on those bolts!
We were a little confused by the bolt setup: If you get a case of vaginitis and decided to bail without sending the Womb proper, you get to rap off two nice stainless steel bolts. On the other hand, if you sack up and send it, you're rewarded with rapping off a dead tree. How about a bolt anchor at the top of pitch 3 or 4?
Oh, and what is this "crux hold" you speak of?
From: western NC
Sep 7, 2009
You're right about the dead tree. There should be some discussion soon about placing an anchor out to the climbers right at the top of Cornflake's 3rd pitch. I also agree that it would be ideal to have an anchor on top of the second pitch of Cornflake as well. This would facilitate a single rope rap from any route on the butress.
Update: There is now a 2 bolt anchor behind the dead tree at the top of P-3 of Cornflake.
|By Diff Ritchie|
Aug 19, 2010
In reading this, I like Bobby, have memory lapses, but my first free ascent of the Womb was in 1974 with David Shepherd on a lovely autumn day. While it took a bit to figure out how to get out of the womb, the worst part of the climb was cleaning out the crack leading up to the ledge on top. It was so full of vegetation and clutter one could barely climb it. Believe it or not, these routes were rarely climbed in those days, so the vegetation, moss ledges and trees (and briars on quite a few leadouts at the top) were in place. I climbed it two other times before joining with Bobby on another really wonderful day for our ascent in 1975- as he rightly remembers. With various climbing partners, like Peter Prandoni, Peter Young, Brad Shaver, Stan Wallace and others - like Dave Shepherd, I spent the better part of 1974 and 1975 either putting up new routes or taking the aid out of some of the classics put up by people we knew and looked up to when learning the art. We just weren't much on putting pen to paper.
There were no cams and we had only recently stored the Chouinard pins for a variety of chocks so it made life- especially on the glass very interesting.
I was also with David Shepherd on a rather cold winter day when we put up the Great Boulder Move in the Sky on Whitesides. The weather was bad and we were looking for somewhere to climb and, given the entire route is under a very large roof, it seemed the only option. Strange as it may sound, I was climbing in wool plus fours, long wool soxs and a wool jumper. Looking at the photos, we more closely resembled prewar climbers than the hip guys we thought ourselves to be at the time!
As Bobby also said, one rarely saw another party of climbers anywhere in Western NC when out and about.
|By Bob Rotert|
Sep 12, 2010
Very cool to see your comments and recollections on this site Old Friend. All of this was a very long time ago and apparently your memory is a bit different from mine. For the Womb what I thought was probably important is to recognize you most likely did do the First Lead FA out of the Womb. It doesn't matter that much to me if it was previously with Dave Shephard or with Tim and I.
As for the comments on the Whiteside route. What I remember is you and I completed the FA of Great Boulder Problem in the Sky together. Maybe your remembering something I had forgotten. Thinking back, maybe Dave was there with us that day. I know the route had been named & started before we went & completed it. It was your suggestion that we go up and try and complete it the rainy day we did it. As you mention it was the only thing dry you could think of that we could get on. I do remember there were other folks with us that day, which probably could only have been Dave or Lyndon or both, and Mc Millan was there. However, we were the only ones that completed the route that day. That was one of our first ascents I remember well and hold precious. What a wild route! There are some things I don't think I will every forget. I did put pen to paper for some stuff back then. I'll send you some details of my recollection of our ascent of that route and maybe it will jog more of your memory of timing and our ascent.
|By Diff Ritchie|
Oct 2, 2010
Apology to Mr. Rotert - I had occasion to go to my parents home and pulled out my old guide of all the routes we climbed during the period and did finish off Great Boulder with you. Peter Prandoni and I had worked on it previously but it was so wet on top we could not make the last move out from under the shelf. Sorry for bad memory. I should also add that (and I can't remember I got that wrong, none other than Bilbo Baggins (also known during those days as Brad Shaver) was along with Dave in 1974 when I got out of the womb free. I guess so many years later, no one really cares. It was always fun to climb with Brad and we had a period between his trip to Switzerland and his fatal venture to Nepal when we did several routes together, including a pretty radical one on Wildcat Cliffs in Cashiers. I also found some very funny photos of that first ascent of the Boulder Move, with the 1974 date on the photo.
From: Red River Gorge
Aug 28, 2011
How do you do this route? I was trying to jam in the roof crack and scum with my knees, but I never got farther than the lip of the roof crack. Any beta for a poor, confused climber?
|By Mike Holley|
From: Boone, NC
Oct 18, 2011
Unreal climb!!! If you have ever wished for a whole pitch of nothing but finger jamming, layback/stemming, corner cracking, mind blowing, fantasy tickling, quality climbing then the third pitch of this route is for you! The business is the last couple moves of the second pitch and the very first sequence of the third, but that is obvious when your standing on the deck looking up! Don't let the crux get to you, the climb is worth every bit of frustration you will encounter!
- Great Pro all the way through*
|By Ryan Williams|
From: London (sort of)
Oct 24, 2011
rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ E3 5c
WOW! Climbed this today and am still regaining feeling in the right side of my body. The Womb move is hard. I did it like a chimney, got my right hand and foot/leg in the crack, kneebar/scum w/ my left leg, and sqirmed up until I could get a shit fingerlock w/ the left. Lay back a bit and get the jug out right. It's not over yet though...
Excellent route. We did the first pitch of Safari Jive and traversed left to the start of P2 of The Womb. Traverse on P2 is balancy and a lot of fun. P3 is madness!
We traversed right at the top of P3 to bolts, then rapped to the bolts on Safari Jive. From here, we rapped down and left to the sling anchor atop P1 of Safari Jive (before the traverse). It's hard work getting over there. Better for the first person to place a piece in the crack and go direct to that and the lower tree. Then the second person can rap down, stay on rappel (and get a fireman's), place a directional high in the crack and climb up to the bigger tree w/ slings. Set up the rap and let the lower guy go first. This way you don't have to take a second rope. There are other, maybe better ways to get down w/ one rope.
|By Don Hunley|
Apr 29, 2014
I just learned about this site from Grover Cable and enjoyed visiting it and reading the FFA discussion. I have some strong memories about the Womb in the time frame discussed by my other friends and associates, Bobby and Diff, though I can't ascribe Jeep and Joe's ascent to a particular year off the top of my head.
The reason that Jeep Gaskin (with Joe Myers) was credited with the FFA was based on the understanding that previous free ascenders stood on the bolt. I am clear that Brad Shaver used this technique and it was understood that others had also.
I've never thought Diff has gotten enough credit for his explorations and various ascents and if he both gardened it and freed it sans bolt, he is even more impressive. My other Womb memories are swinging off the crux trying to follow Jeep and Joe Coates up it on a different day and then blacking out hanging there because we were wearing the red swamis of 2-inch webbing in those days. I came back later to lead it with Whitney Heurermann on a better day and experience the thrilling dihedral above the alcove.