Looking Glass, North Carolina
When the sun shines equally on both of Mother Earths’ hemispheres, chances are you can find me in North Carolina climbing on some sloped, featureless granite. Like a werewolf is to a full moon, the equinox of spring and fall seems to pull me toward a beautiful remote place in the Pisgah National Forest called “Looking Glass.” A massive rock that takes some imagination to formulate a way up. Something you look at a few times before you realize the hairline fracture up the piece of granite is actually the voice inside telling you, “go up, right here…”
The first time I arrived during the fall equinox the trees all over the forest were yellow, red, and green making for a stunning backdrop during the climb. I had the worst cold, and driving up and down the mountains to reach our destination was somewhat torture as my face wanted to explode. An hour before dark and I am suited up with a great rack, plenty of cams, nuts, slings, quick draws, beaks, knife blades, and the great hammer of Thor to help me negotiate this crack before me. The goal for the night is to reach this beach of a ledge, barely big enough for two tents to sit on as one always hangs over a bit. On the ledge we will have dinner and get some good sleep before the next pitch. The first two pieces of gear I place are solid beaks. With a few small taps of the hammer, my gut wrenching feeling begins to cease. I think to myself, “Glad that’s over with…” and then, “phiinnkk..!” the beak of solidity explodes out as I top step in my aiders. Just when I fall, I start to remember the other seemingly solid beak I placed before this one, my one and only piece to catch my fall. I see the rope get tight as I sink into my Cadillac of harnesses for a soft and thrilling ride. Time to move on and try again, it’s almost dark! As I get my rhythm down, the sky becomes dark and I am one with the rock. Like a Jedi with the force, and a head lamp, I flow through the next moves to an easy section and free climb the last little bit. To the ledge at last! The next morning we catch some beautiful fog rolling through the mountains, Mother Earths’ way of showing gratitude. As my partner begins the most intriguing pitch of the route, a super thin crack the smallest of cams will disagree with, requiring some other protection, pitons. As he makes it more than halfway we realize the crack needs gear we don’t have, so we bail. Slightly bummed about the bail, I knew we would come back for revenge and take care of business.
The next coming spring equinox, I find myself in the same situation as before. This time I made it to the ledge by lunchtime and my partner went ahead and tried until dark reaching the bail spot. With sleep and food calling our names he comes down, ready to finish business the next morning. As morning comes up and I unzip the tent with one pole hanging off the ledge, I see nothing but white, a huge cloud, like a sponge before my eyes being squeezed with endless water being released. I say to my partner, “how about some coffee and oatmeal, then we’ll give it another look.” As we wait, we watch and notice the crack isn’t that wet, so he begins. Back to the bail spot, he hammers in a few knife blades, a bugaboo, and some beaks before reaching a lonely bolt. “For Glory..!” He shouts and clips the anchors with a giant top step. With our trip time expiring we threw in the towel to save the last bit for the next fall equinox.
On the drive back and still itching to climb we decided to get in some sport climbing at the local Monterey crag. With the smaller cliff line here than North Carolina, the exposure and safety I felt like was all rated G and nothing was going to be impossible. I found a nice 5.10 roof that I fell in love with on sight. A few easy traverse moves starts you going left until reaching the start of the roof and only crimpy holds. Slightly feeling gassed and gravity pulling me out, I somehow maintain and stick to the rock in my horizontal position. Clip! Now it’s on, I got my first bolt clipped. Finally, a jug and nothing for my feet, as I walk them up, I clip the second bolt with the draw and think, “If I miss getting this rope clipped one time, I am going to take a big whipper,” and with ease and style I clip the rope and begin to power through. On a solid attempt to the third bolt, my fingers are numb and my forearms are burning as I let go and watch my belayer launch off the ground. We meet about eye to eye and spin in circles as we laugh. With the feeling back in my arms I soar to the top and clip my last bolt.
For me climbing allows me to put my everyday life into perspective. When you spend time away from friends, family, cold beer, and a nice bed, and go climbing, things in everyday life start becoming more meaningful. Climbing can scare you and overwhelm you if you let it, but when you take those feelings and befriend them you become humbled. Humbled in a way that the first real food and cold beer I get after a big trip, I could swear is the best of all time. That moment when I take a hot shower after freezing all week and getting dirty, I seem to melt down the drain with all the dirt and stench I accumulated over the trip, and then I know I am humbled. My meaning for life is to be humble and with climbing that becomes effortless because I’m going climbing either way!
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