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5.10a R, Trad, 550 ft, 4 pitches,  Avg: 3.8 from 39 votes
FA: Percy Wimberly & J. Seay, @ 73 FFA Grover Cable, Dave Black, Diff Ritchie, & Direct Finish Bob Rotert & Tom Kimbrell, @ 75
N Carolina > Looking Glass Rock > Nose Area


This was one of my favorite routes, for the grade, at the Glass. It was originally called Five Easy Pieces by the first ascent party that did it as an aid climb. Sometime afterwards we started calling the route Hyperbola and the name stuck.

My recollection of this route is it has a very hairy first pitch that involves some thin, hairball, 5.9 Carolina slab climbing where a fall would not be good for the leader, to reach the base of the arch. To start the route you climb up on some large flakes that are below & to the left of the arch. The tricky slab climbing starts off of the flakes and heads up & right to the base of the arch crack system. Since the first ascent, a harder, but better-protected direct start has been added. Getting thru the hairy slab climbing is the psycological crux of this route. A rest can be had afterwards at the base the crack system. Here the leader can rest & recoup for the pumpy technical crux under cling & pull-over move to reach the beautiful arching dihedral finger crack. Be sure your pro is set good before heading up here.

On one memorable ascent, a good friend of mine, was launching out on this move when his pro pulled out while in the middle of the crux pull over. Cams were not on the market at that time and he had only placed this one hex to protect the undercling. This left nothing but the bolt on the slab as his last protection and he was caught looking at a potential 50-plus-foot ground fall. He looked down at me, trimbeling, wild eyed, like a deer caught in the headlights!! I shouted out my encouragement and sent up all the positive energy I could thru the rope that ran between us. Shaking, scraping, and breathing like a locomotive he managed to barely pull over the crux move!! "Are you alright Peter!!??" I called up. After a quite a few minutes, where I think he was digesting seeing his whole life flash before his eyes, he replied "Yea!" He finally regained his composure and, like the true hard man he was, finished up the rest of arch.

Most folks will rap from the top of the arch, but there are 2-3 more pitches to finish the route to the top. Second pitch being around 5.9 with one, guide book says two bolts, but I only remeber placing one for pro and the crux moves would be getting off the top of the arch. The third & fourth pitches follow an indistinct line and are probably 5.7-5.8. Dave Black and Grover Cable did another route going further right from the top of the arch.


About 300 feet to the right of Sundial on top of some large flakes below the very obvious beautiful Yosemite-looking arching crack.


Light Looking Glass trad rack.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Eddie Begoon tightens the first bolt on Direct start to Hyperbola,Sea of Brows by The Waste Side & The  1988.
[Hide Photo] Eddie Begoon tightens the first bolt on Direct start to Hyperbola,Sea of Brows by The Waste Side & The 1988.
Hyperbolic trip to the moon!
[Hide Photo] Hyperbolic trip to the moon!
[Hide Photo] Hyperbola
Dave resting after taking the big swing off the traverse. He was forced to climb the top of the direct start
[Hide Photo] Dave resting after taking the big swing off the traverse. He was forced to climb the top of the direct start
Dave Pearson mid-traverse
[Hide Photo] Dave Pearson mid-traverse
Wyatt hiking the traditional start!
[Hide Photo] Wyatt hiking the traditional start!
Dave tackling the crux roof move
[Hide Photo] Dave tackling the crux roof move
Safely through the run-out!
[Hide Photo] Safely through the run-out!
JP starting the slab runout
[Hide Photo] JP starting the slab runout
Mary cranking through the crux
[Hide Photo] Mary cranking through the crux
Dave motoring through the arch
[Hide Photo] Dave motoring through the arch
Dave making the reach for the thank god hold after the traverse...he missed it
[Hide Photo] Dave making the reach for the thank god hold after the traverse...he missed it

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Bob Rotert
[Hide Comment] I added Diff Ritchie in on the FFA of this route as he had also freed the first pitch of this route close to the same time period. Dec 23, 2006
Brent Roaten
Anchorage, AK
  5.10a R
[Hide Comment] Climbed in September 2005 with Dave Pearson. One of the best routes I have ever climbed anywhere. The traverse definitely tightens up one's sphincter. Probably best to tackle the 5.11 start if you are not a solid slab aficionado.... a fall in the difficult section beyond the bolt will not end well. Mar 22, 2007
[Hide Comment] The way I remember it, Dave Black and I climbed the entire route before anyone at the end of July or beginning of Aug 1977. Bobby and Tom, not knowing we'd done it, made the second ascent a few/several days later. Personally, I don't think it makes any difference. It wasn't like years passed before the second ascent. Both parties essentially climbed it the same time. The first pitch --left side, via slabs -- had been climbed several times. While the first pitch might be more technically difficult and aesthetically pleasing the second pitch is geniunely one of those Looking Glass "what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here / I'm-going-to-die" pitches.
It was a typical hot, muggy, thundershower-interrupted Transylvania Co. summer afternoon when Dave, his fiance, Kathy, and I arrived at the parking turnout for the Nose. As usual, we got there mid-afternoon and had to wait out a rain shower or two. I think we intended to do Odyssey but ended up on Hyperbola. The tribe of copperhead snakes that used to sun themselves all over the slab below the starting ledge had mysteriously disappeared after the unusually cold winter of '76/'77. Jeep and the Hun will attest to the added objective danger of venomous, irritable copperheads. So we didn't have to sweat the snakes. We farted around on the first pitch, swapping leads. Dave made it on his last try to surmount the left-leaning flake, above which is the ledge at the bottom of the main dihedral. Suddenly we were committed to go to the top despite the lateness of the afternoon and Kathy doomed to waiting alone for us in the woods or at the car. "Drastic Dave" was (and is) a superb climber but not naturally gifted like Jeep, Bobby, et al. Dave was very athletic, intelligent, & stubborn /irresistible when willful --gifted and handicapped by incredible will. More of the Joe Myers/Henry Barber type that attracts or induces epics. He spent an hour wandering around the featureless section at the start of the second pitch: he actually went right few feet -- maybe four or five -- and managed to stay on the rock as he worked his way up. He was on the edge of falling every second for 30 minutes. As I understand it, Bobby took the route more logically straight up from the top of the first pitch --- and placed a bolt (he later regretted, I heard) several feet above the start of the first pitch: and understandably/justifiably -- the first part of the second pitch is intimidatingly featureless, a long fall both likely and unhealthy. I don't think Dave could have even placed a friend where he meandered. I'm not sure friends were even available then. Dave wouldn't have bought one anyway: he religiously stuck to his 1960s rack of hexes and a few wired stoppers -- fine for Tahquitz, useless for most of the Glass. Thank god he didn't place some protection out there in the middle of nowhere so that I would have had to go that way to retrieve it -- I went straight up. There were no bolts on the route before and just after we did it. Dave wore an ancient pair of Kronhoffer "climbing shoes" (a cross between blue Royal Robbins boots,Chuck Taylor high tops, and gray Hush Puppies) and I wore a cruel pair of EBs. Anyway, it was nearly dark when I arrived at the upper ledge with Dave belaying me up. We 3rd classed to the top and coiled our ropes in the dark. We yelled down to Kathy that we were at the top and on our way down -- wouldn't take long. We were on the/a trail for about 100 ft then lost it for the rest of the night. The next 4 hours was an epic bushwhack off the top of the Glass in pitch black darkness, crashing through cat briars, rhododendron hells, falling off boulders, and nearly stepping off into the black void once or twice. We stumbled out of the Stephen King National Forest and onto the dirt road not far from the fish hatchery around 3 AM. All along we thought we were descending the north side somehow. Some crazy sob and saint gave us a ride back to our cars(and a frantic Kathy) around 3:30 or 4 AM. No doubt Bobby and Tom's descent several days later was done in better style.

Grover Cable
Chapel Hill Sep 21, 2007
Decatur, GA
[Hide Comment] Thanks for the nice bit of history on this route, Grover! Keep the stories coming for other routes/areas.

JL Sep 21, 2007
[Hide Comment] That's a great story, Grover! Thanks! Hyperbola was my first ever 5.10 lead and holds a special place in my heart. Sep 25, 2007
[Hide Comment] How does this climb stack up to other climbs of it's grade? Is it solid, soft, or stiff. Just climbed last week with the direct start and trying to guage the ratings in the area for future visits. Stellar line though Oct 20, 2007
Bob Rotert
[Hide Comment] Great addition Grover. Sorry I didn't remember that you & Dave had done this to the top when you freed it. Hell it was only 30 plus yrs ago!! Oct 23, 2007
Mike Anderson
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] I didn't see anything mentioned here or in the guidebook, but it seemed to me that the direct 5.11 start relies heavily on the decaying tree at the base. There was chalk all over it, and freeing the moves without the tree looked every bit as difficult as the 5.11 crux, but with no gear. Do others use the tree? I think another bolt may be in order if that tree falls down. Jul 27, 2009
Dave T
[Hide Comment] Direct Start is every bit of 5.11a. Very insecure. Tree is definitely not needed but might be good to sling before first bolt. ( you can get gear before first bolt as well but not really inspiring) The business is definitely before and after the second bolt (which also could use replacing, it did not really seem flush with rock)

Great route, definitely exciting and probably warrants a PG-13 rating. Apr 20, 2010
[Hide Comment] Did the direct start to this today. If you add in the fear factor I think it bumps up a few letter grades. Stellar route though, no two ways around that. Had an interesting time working out the moves from the second bolt up to the finger crack. Hard tenuous, and scary. Amazing route. Apr 6, 2011
Ryan Williams
London (sort of)
[Hide Comment] I climbed this today and don't remember using/needing any tree. I also thought that the stoppers below the first bolt were bombproof, and the move getting to the first bolt is more like 10+.

The crux for me was after the first bolt, where I screwed up the feet and blew the on-sight. After getting the feet right the move felt normal 11- to me and I on-sighted the rest of the climb. Another 11- move after the second bolt, this one more straight forward but still hard. Get bomber gear and locks in the short splitter finger crack, then get bomber gear below the roof and the 10- move. 5.9 after that and lotso fun!

This was the first route of the day so was planning on doing the original start (5.9R), but after seeing the fall potential I decided to do the direct start. Way more fun and not nearly as scary! Oct 7, 2011
Wei-Ming Lam
Phoenix, AZ
[Hide Comment] Beta note, the bolt on P2 above the anchors was real rusted and not confidence inspiring. Guidebook said there are two bolts on this pitch, but I either missed the second or it's missing entirely. Cool climbing! Apr 6, 2014
Curtis Baird
Johnson City, TN
  5.10a R
[Hide Comment] This route is classic! The runout slab move is scary. All there but the mental crux for sure. If you slip there its not gonna be good. But once your in the crack its smooth sailing. Plenty of gear options and a nice technical crux. I wish it went on longer! A must do at Looking Glass!!!! Jun 22, 2015
[Hide Comment] Fun route! Replaced the bolt on P2 today. There was not a second bolt on this pitch as the guidebooks suggested. Jul 1, 2016
WNC/Broomfield, CO
[Hide Comment] With modern gear pitch 2 is very safe and much easier than the 5.9 grade suggests (most of the pitch is < 5.8). Cool funky spikes of rock to pull on too. Apr 5, 2017
Gabe Parker
Zebulon, GA
[Hide Comment] The slab isn't too bad. I blew it and decked on the flake in November. Abit busted up but nothing deadly, didn't break anything. Hoping to get back on it. 2 days ago