Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA

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FAQ - What the Hell are Eyebrows ^^ ?

By Steve Longenecker 

photo - a view of the eyebrows on The Nose"Whenever either "Climbing" or "Rock and Ice" mention Looking Glass, they'll refer to the distinctive eyebrow - like horizontal slashes that make the climbing there unique. I've been taking people climbing on this rock for a long time and am often asked about these features, nicknamed "eyebrows", that are visible on various faces of the rock.

From a climber's standpoint, the eyebrows will sandbag a first-time visitor to "The Glass" (as the locals call it). While the "brows" seem to present a series of stairsteps cut into the surface of the rock, climbers quickly realize that these are actually upside-down and require careful smearing and underclinging moves before progress can be made. If Question #1 is, "What are those funny things called?", Question #2 (from non-climbers) is, "What made them? or (from climbers), "Will they take pro?"

photo - Steve Longenecker on his route, The Nose 5.8I'm certainly not a geologist and don't even know enough to have a good theory about how the eyebrows were formed. Two fellows I met at "The Nose" recently told me they WERE geologists and answered the question this way...

Formations such as Looking Glass and the many rock outcroppings in the general area near it are called "plutons". A pluton is a big ball of molten magma. If it had expanded and reached the outside, it would have been called a volcano. However, the magma cooled before it made it that far. This big ball of granitic rock lay under the surface of the Blue Ridge mountains in their early formation. As time and weather slowly wore down these mountains, (mostly gneiss) these globs of stone became exposed. The geologists used a deck of cards as an analogy to explain what happened next...

The magma cooled in layers, like individual cards. Then, geologic forces caused the layers to shift, much as if you were to take a deck of cards and push the edge of the cards in one Direction. What we are seeing are the ends of the "cards", hence the layering effect. Simple, yes? Does it explain the "brows" to my (and your) satisfaction? The jury's still out, at least for me.

Regarding the "Pro" question, I CAN speak with a bit more knowledge...

The smallest "Tri-cams" (.5) are very useful in many eyebrows. "Aliens" and "Micro Camalots", (smallest sizes) often are perfect for stuffing in these strange-looking features.

What about simple, passive pro such as nuts? Usually not such a good idea here, though there are some good nut placements on "The Nose", "Peregrine" and "Sundial" (the three most-popular routes in the what is usually called the "Nose" area.) Practice, know your gear inventory thoroughly, then practice some more before counting on "Stoppers" and such to protect you amidst the world of "Brows"!

Photo by Wayne Busch - Steve LongeneckerFor climbers coming to Looking Glass for the first time, especially ones who are used to sport routes or trad routes with overhanging features, (Seneca, the Gunks, Sand Rock, Tennessee Wall, etc.) the moves on some of the routes can appear a bit intimidating. Truth is, there are very few falls on the dicey friction climbs here. It's almost as if the routes are self-selective. Lead climbers who are hesitant on our slab routes either (1) Back-off before things get sketchy or (2) Take a deep breath, clear their minds of extraneous thought, then step-up and become "Browmasters". These features are definitely unique! "

Submitted by Steve Longenecker 


Background - As a member of the first team to ascend Looking Glass Rock, there are few who know more about the climbing here than Steve Longenecker. The classic route "The Nose" 5.8, remains the most popular and sought after climb on this beautiful hunk of North Carolina granite. Steve continues to guide and climb on and around Looking Glass Rock, don't be surprised to run into him if you visit "his" mountain. Don't hesitate to drop him a line, he's always free to offer beta on some of the best routes. He's done the first ascents of many of today's classic climbs both here and in Linville Gorge, as well as other popular areas. A quick scan through The Climber's Guide to North Carolina will turn up his name on many pages. Top of page