Winter Hiking in Pisgah

Snow still covers the ground in much of Transylvania County, but 276 into Pisgah National Forest is quite clear. Yesterday I headed in to check out the snow in Pisgah and dust off my hiking boots.
Daisy and I set out on the Buck Spring Trail and criss crossed along the creek and bizare shaped icicles, eventually heading out the Mountains to Sea Trail.
There were some hiker tracks on the trail, which helped mark the way. The white blazes definitely blended in with the snow, but the trail was pretty easy to follow. The sunniest patches were completely snow free. About 85% of the trail was covered in snow that was just soft enough to punch through easily with decent traction. But, the northeast facing ridges were icy, and crusty and tiresome.

We had some great views of Looking Glass in the distance, with snow and ice dripping down over the North End, Hidden Wall and the Nose Area. It is definitely peaceful to hike in these conditions, but be very aware of how much more fatigued you get tromping through snow and how short the days are at the moment.

Winter Hiking Packing List:

Extra Layer- I stuffed my Montbell Parka in my bag in case of emergency
Water- It is easy to forget hydrating when it is this cold, but you still work up a thirst
Gloves- My Chameece Gloves were just the right weight
Hat- I took my beanie on and off as the temps and difficulty of the trail varied
Bars/ Food
Goretex Hiking Boots- Inconsistent terrain makes it worth it to wear true hiking boots to keep you ankles stable, keep out snow and help your feet stay dry
Trekking Poles - Keep you stable when the terrain is unpredictable
Watch- With the short days, it is important to keep an eye on the clock and adhere to a turn around time
Map - The trails look a lot different covered in snow, make certain you know where you are headed!
Happy Trails!


Snow Trail Running in Dupont

After more than a week of no trailrunning, mountain biking or climbing, both Daisy and I were going a little stir crazy. We finally ventured out with a beanie and gloves to Dupont State Forest for the first time since Friday's big snow.

We headed for the Reasonover Parking area near Cedar Mountain and found the parking lot to be a bit more than the Subaru wanted to handle.
But, the gate just down the road from the main parking area is perfectly suitable to park at without getting stuck or blocking access to Conservation Road.

We headed out Conservation Road and stuck to the Ranger's tire tracks. As we neared the Airstrip and headed down Camp Summit Road, the roads were quite melted and easily traversed. Lake Julia is gorgeous right now with the quiet banket of snow, although it appears to be melting quickly. The trails are particularly untracked at the moment, so we headed back to the car via Lake Julia and Conservation Road.

Daisy absolutely adores snow, so she had a great time while her sister, a thin-skinned Weimaraner who hates snow, stayed wrapped in a blanket at home. It felt great to get in some cardio and reminded me of snow runs in Teton Canyon and along the Snake River, except it is December instead of May!

Happy Holidays from LGO!


Top Climbing Destinations

As the year draws to a close and people start eyeing 2010 and making their lists, I can't help but think about my own top climbing destinations. Whether it is a world class destination that I have never been to, or a repeat tried and true spot, I know 2010 will be better if I get to climb in at least one of these places!

Smith Rocks, OR - Friends Peter & Natasha went here this past fall and reminded us that we must make the trip soon.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - I climbed here once in my very earliest climbing days. I hope when I return, I won't be as scared!

Indian Creek, UT - We visited Indian Creek for the first time in Fall of '09, and quickly started talking about coming back. We have lots more to learn from the Creek's splitters!

TWall, TN - We'd like to head back to TN soon and test out whatever skills we might have learned at the Creek. It's the perfect time of year for this sunny spot!

New River Gorge, WV - We just don't get tired of the New and our friends there always give us the best welcome.

Looking Glass, NC - OK, so it is our backyard, but there is still more to explore!

Thailand - Who isn't drawn to a place with beaches and incredible climbing? Must check it out!

Whitesides, NC - It has been too long since we climbed at Whiteside. Must work up the gumption to tackle it again!

Sierra Nevada, CA - Must get our hands dirty with the alpine free routes and ridge traverses.

Squamish, Canada - Newlyweds Brian and Amy made us jealous with their honeymoon pics from Squamish! Yes please to granite crack climbing...

Here's to happy & safe climbing in 2010!

Looking Glass Outfitters is a full service gear shop open 7 Days a week at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and around the corner from Hendersonville, Brevard & Asheville.


The Snow Storm of 2009

Wow what a white weekend we had! Friday we woke up to a white, fluffy world and lots more big lovely flakes fell throughout the day. Brevard and Western North Carolina got between 9-15", causing locals to dust off what snow plows and shovels could be found. Despite a slew of cancellations, most of the main roads are now in good shape. It is perfect driving for Subaru lovers and 4x4 drivers! More pics to come from our escapades snow boarding on See Off Mountain aka in our back yard!

Warm sunshine seems to be here today, perhaps dashing the hopes of ice climbing on 215, but let us know if you head up there and find that the ice is in! Happy sledding!


Dear Santa

Here is my wish list for this Christmas. You can find it all at Looking Glass Outfitters in Pisgah Forest, NC. I hope you like the cookies!

I have been extra good, so please note #10!!

1. An LGO SportScience Tee so I can support my favorite local business!
2. A Petzl Tikka Plus because my old headlamp bit the dust.
3. Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles because the mountain approaches can be steep!
4. Darn Tough Socks so I can throw away my old "holy" hiking socks.
5. Chameece Cord Cap for blustery days in Linville Gorge
6. Mountain Khakis Teton Twill for crag to dinner and back in style!
7. Mountain Hardwear Boy Shorts well, my girlfriend has been gooood tooo!
8. 5.10 Guide Tennie so I can dash up The Nose like a rock guide!
9. Skeletool for 1001 emergency situations
10. Black Diamond Viper Ice on 215 anyone?


The North Face Coupon

Get 25% off the super snuggly Oso Hoodie for Women. This toasty fleece hoodie is perfect for holiday giving and wintry outdoor fun! Available in black and pink.

Use Coupon Code: hoodieholiday
for 25% off The North Face Oso Hoodie

Expires 12/31/09


Rumbling Bald Bouldering Project

Help the Carolina Climbers Coalition Save the Boulders of Rumbling Bald!

Click here for a sweet bouldering video about the project

Photo by Adam Bernero


A Little Hawksbill Fun

From a few weeks ago. Here is Peter Eiland hashing out Solace of Open Spaces, then onsighting The Diving Board. We had great weather and zero crowds for a great day in Linville Gorge.


Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope you have a happy and safe holiday! Stop in the shop for 30% off outerwear and apparel through Sunday.

Photo by Mountaintree Studios


Rumbling Bald Parking Access Alert

Chimney Rock Park has mandated new parking rules for Rumbling Bald. Parking is restricted to gravel and paved parking surfaces only. Please comply with their wishes. Even with a new parking area, the popularity of the Bald is continuing to cause parking issues.
Please get an early start and carpool at the community center in Lake Lure. For more information please click the below link. Even better, join the CCC if you can.



5 Things we Love about Darn Tough Socks

1. Despite oodles of socks and brands bursting out of our sock drawers, we are constantly picking Darn Tough out of the pack because they are just right.

2. They are made in USA. What a rarity!!

3. Wool regulates your foot temperature like no other material. The sheep know what they are doing when it comes to staying comfortable in summer and warm in winter.

4. Even though we abuse them, they keep looking just as great and feeling just as cushy. They don't unravel or get threadbare like the rest of the sock flock.

5. They are again featured in Backpacker Magazine's Gear Guide, so you don't have to just take our word for it. These socks are the best!

Looking Glass Outfitters is a full service gear shop open 7 Days a week at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and around the corner from Hendersonville, Brevard & Asheville.

Happy Exploring..........


Montbell Burrow Stretch Bag - yummy!

The funny thing about Montbell, is once you try it, you are hooked. We have definitely found this to be true with our Thermawrap Parkas, which were our first true intro to the brand. Since Looking Glass Outfitters is one of a very small handful of Montbell dealers in North Carolina, we have quickly discovered that the brand has a loyal following, and with good reasoning.

Like a Snow Peak Stove, Montbell products immediately shine thanks to superior craftsmanship and design topped with reasonable prices. On a recent trip to Indian Creek, I took my new Spiral Down Hugger Sleeping Bag, eager to test out the bag's stretch system and award-winning design. I like to sleep with my legs in a bit of a pretzel fashion, so the stretch was a hugely important feature when picking out this bag. Phil was also motivated by the way I always borrowed his bag since my other bag is only rated at 40 degrees, making it perfect about 4-6 months of the year.

While the nights at Indian Creek were not as cold as we had envisioned, I was generally eager to pop into my bag at night once the sun went down and the temps began their rapid decline. The pillowy down is such a treat compared to synthetic bags that tend to be a bit more utilitarian. On a good night, I felt like I was surrounded by my down comforter at home. When it did dip below freezing, the neck waffle was a helpful feature to trap in heat around my head.

The other noticeable difference between a down bag and a synthetic sleeping bag is the ability of down to regulate temperatures better. The natural fiber of down simply seems to be superior for keeping you comfortable whether temps dip or not. Still, on the warmer nights, I unzipped the bottom zipper of the bag to let my feet breathe.

I don't feel like I tested the stretching ability of the bag to the max since I have plenty of room in it, but I was able to contort into a pretzel and do a few basic yoga moves in the morning to stretch out my back. I must confess, I am eager to take my Spiral Down Hugger out on colder nights, when it will really excel. This bag costs a pretty penny, but I am totally confident this piece will be in my gear arsenal for years to come. Come feel these Montbell sleeping bags for yourself, and you will likely be hooked as well!


Indian Creek Crack Climbing

Having mumbled repeatedly about my lack of crack jamming skills, Indian Creek has long been high on my list of top climbing destinations. Despite the repeated tales of being smacked down and humbled by Indian Creek's splitter cracks, I felt a strong pull to lace up my most comfy trad shoes and give desert sandstone crack climbing a try.

Phil and I spent a week throwing ourselves at every classic we could jam our hands and feet into after flying into Grand Junction, Colorado. Despite many gobies, scratches, knicks and cramps, we made our way up classics like 3am Crack, Super Crack, Chocolate Corner and Mr. Peanut.

Hands down, my favorite climb was Deseret Moon, a 140 foot crack that slurped down every number two we shamelessly borrowed from friends and every ounce of gumption we could muster.

We stumbled into Moab for more supplies and a supposed rest day, but we grabbed our gear and headed to Wall Street in the afternoon. While Wall Street pales in comparison to Indian Creek in respects to scenery and quality of routes, it is a fun place to send a few routes, and the bumper belays pacify the most approach-adverse climbers.

Once we were completely spent, we took a spin aroung Arches National Park and headed back to Grand Junction for a true rest day tooling around the Grand Mesa. With one last day to spare, we headed to Rifle to rest the cams and clip some bolts.

It was a week well spent, and one that already has us dreaming about the next climbing trip. Check out Dan's blog for the best pics!


An itsy bitsy teeny weeny carabiner

It is hard not to want to pick up the FS Mini Wiregate Carabiner by Metolius. It's green and shiny, yes, but mostly it is amazing for its sheer lack of size. With a strength of 23 KN, this is not some silly keychain, though it would be perfect for keeping miscellaneous items on your Black Diamond Chaos. I climbed with a friend Sunday at Rumbling Bald who loved using them on each cam on her trad rack- definitely shaves off some unecessary weight.

Heavy gear is so 2001. You will be thanking us when you send your project feeling like a leaner, meaner you!

Available at Looking Glass Outfitters here


Thank you!

A Big Thank You to all who helped us celebrate our 25th anniversary! The beers were gulped, the burgers were devoured and the cupcakes depleted. Steve Longnecker's menagerie of hawks and owls were a big hit and Ron Sanga's Mount Everest Show was wonderful. Thank you to Elaina Smith, Tres Binkley, Sigg, Evolv Footwear, Mammut, Joshua Tree, Mountain Khakis, Mountain Hardwear and Darn Tough for donating time and goodies for the event. The proceeds go to the CCC to protect our Carolina climbing!

Sunday gave way to a perfect climbing day, and we hoofed it to Rumbling Bald for a great day of climbing. See you at the crag!


Looking Glass Outfitters is 25!!!

A Quarter Century and Climbing Strong!

Come help us celebrate Saturday October 24th

2-4:00 Evolv Climbing Shoe Demo with Elaina Arenz-Smith of New River Mountain Guides
Brevard Rock Gym - Brevard, NC

6:00- 9:30
Food, Drinks & Raffle to Benefit the Carolina Climbers Coalition
Raptor Show with Steve Longnecker
Mount Everest Slideshow with Ron Sanga
Looking Glass Outfitters - Pisgah Forest, NC

Grab your friends and help us celebrate! Call for details!


Want to Minimize Your Carbon Footprint? Go Camping!

There is a lot of advice these days on how to minimize your carbon footprint - from composting kitchen trash to unplugging phone chargers and coffee makers. But one of the most enjoyable ways to minimize your carbon footprint can be backcountry camping. Whether headed into the woods to tick off the Art Loeb Trail, or simply spend the weekend in western NC relaxing, camping can mean a few days off for your gas chugging vehicle and countless other carbon producing habits you may have. Your carbon footprint will be minimal because:
  • Less water consumption since the great outdoors does not flush the toilet or run the dishwasher
  • Less electricity by using the sun to guide your days
  • Less fuel consumption running errands & heading to the bar to meet your friends
  • Less utility consumption since you can leave the thermostat super low while you are gone and you will be stepping away from the tv
  • Less trash produced since you will be drinking and dining on reusable cookwear
  • Less trips to the therapist, since the great outdoors works countless benefits on your stress level
Here are a few tips for saving even more while camping:
  • When compatible with your stove, use a windscreen or aluminum foil-covered cardboard to shield your stove from the wind and help retain heat. You will boil water faster and use less fuel. Any leftover hot water can be used for washing dishes.
  • Use food containers and grocery bags for your trash instead of a brand new trash bag.
  • Filter water or bring water from home instead of purchasing bottled water. It takes fuel and resources to get that water bottle to you!
  • Minimize use of lanterns, headlamps, and campfires. Ever seen the smog over Yosemite's campgrounds? Your camp fire does make an impact.
  • When you need a fire. cook on it. A little creativity with aluminum foil or twig spears can make a tasty meal, get the most from your fire and avoid using more stove fuel.

Snow Peak Stove $50
Bag of Oatmeal with Fruits & Nuts Added $2
Power Bill for LNT Bathroom $0
Hot Rum Chocolate $2.50
Weekend in Mountains $Priceless

Happy Camping!



Glossary of Climbing Terms

As a beginner climber, the inherent terminology can be baffling. You are eking your way up some of your first climbs or boulder problems, and your buddies begin yelling in another language "flag your foot!" "there's a gaston on the left!" "press it out!!" Here are a few terms and techniques you will see often when climbing and bouldering to help sort out the beta.

Jug - Everyone learns this word quickly. It is a joyously large, and easy to hang-on-to hold. Chicken Head City is a great example of jug climbing at Rumbling Bald.

Crimp - Crimps require a lot of finger strength, as they are tiny holds which usually require you to bend your first two knuckles extensively. Try Tips A Hoy at Hawks Bill and you will get a good idea of a crimp- ouch!

Heel Hook- Heel Hooking is extremely useful when your are on steep climbs. Tossing your heel onto a jug or ledge can take a lot of weight off your arms, and give you a little more juice to send. A heel hook can be a Godsend on steep routes at the Obed like Solstice .

Mantle - Many bouldering problems end with a mantle onto the top of the boulder. Mantling is when you put one or both arms on the hold and press your body up onto the ledge or holds. It can be daunting on high problems, but it is essential to finish the problem! You will use a lot of mantling to finish boulder problems at Grandfather Boulders.

Lock Off - Locking off requires core and hand strength, and it allows you to reach another hold while keeping your hand firmly fixed on another hold in a calculated, static movement. You will lock off a lot if you start bouldering at Rumbling Bald this winter.

Jam - Jamming is the word of choice when crack climbing. You use your fist and hands in countless contortions to hold yourself on the wall. Jamming your feet in a lace up shoe like the Scarpa Techno often means turning it a bit sidewards to maximize the width and holding power of the jam. A great route for learning to jam in New Yosemite at the Junkyard Wall of the New River Gorge.

Finger Lock - Finger locking is just what it sounds like. You use your fingers in a crack or constriction to hold your hand in place. Often, this includes taking advantage of big knuckles in just the right spot. Try this technique on Shredded Wheat at Rumbling Bald's Cereal Buttress.

Smearing - Smearing is common in western North Carolina, where the slab of Looking Glass mandates this technique. Smearing is when you stand on a relatively featureless part of the wall. Smearing is easier as the angle of the wall lessens. Try Sensemelia Sunset at Looking Glass in some comfortable, sticky shoes to try the calf-burning technique of smearing.

Looking Glass Outfitters is a full service gear shop open 7 Days a week at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and around the corner from Hendersonville, Brevard & Asheville.

Happy Exploring..........


Leaf Season in Brevard!

We have been getting calls and questions about how the trees are looking this fall and the answer is fabulous! From the Blue Ridge Parkway to Dupont State Forest and all around Brevard and western North Carolina, the leaves are on fire with every imaginable hue of amber, sienna, ocher, ember and more.

I went for a trailrun yesterday along Mine Mountain Trail in Dupont and the ridgelines were incredible amidst the gentle fog. Don't let any weather forecast deter you, leaf season is magnificent whether combined with bursts of sunshine or the mystery of fog and clouds.

We can deck you out with gear and outdoor clothing at Looking Glass Outfitters for a host of weather conditions and destinations, and point you towards a great area hike or climb. Enjoy Brevard leaf season!


A Lesson on Baselayers

As fall ushers in the breezy temps and I dust off a heftier sleeping bag, I am finding myself grabbing baselayers again. Just what are you looking for in a good base layer?

- Warmth
The main reason you wear a baselayer is to add warmth. So, it must contain a synthetic or wool combination if it is going to keep you snug. On the other side, a quality layering piece also wicks well, ensuring that perspiration does not come back to haunt you as you cool down. Today's baselayers are good looking enough to wear alone once the day warms up, keeping you cool and dry once the cold weather has passed, or enabling you to enjoy a microbrew when the day is done.

- Comfort
A baselayer can be terribly irritating if tags or seams rub you the wrong way, or if the fabric feels abrasive in any way. A versatile baselayer should be easy to forget you are wearing it. If you think that a merino wool baselayer would be scratchy against your skin, think again. Today's merino wool is soft as can be, and does not make you itch like your decade old big sweater that mom knit you.

- Versatility
I tend to use my synthetic baselayers when I am likely to get hot or sweat, like heading up The North Slope for a trail run in Pisgah. I grab my wool baselayers for blustery days climbing at Rumbling Bald or the Obed, when I am really looking for extra warmth. Realistically, both types of baselayers serve well in both conditions. But with synthetics, I never bat an eye to wash them repeatedly. Natural fiber wools may show their age quicker if you toss them in the washer and dryer. But, all good baselayers dry quickly, so you will do fine to skip the dryer. Plus, I often forget to treat my wool layers differently, and so far so good going in both cycles!

In short, baselayers are great for running, climbing, skiing, backpacking, iceclimbing, camping, treeclimbing, paddling, biking, traveling, bouldering, tailgating....well, you get the picture!

Get your gear at Looking Glass Outfitters!
Serving outdoor enthusiasts of Brevard and beyond since 1985


Climbing Helmets

After years of loathing climbing helmets thanks to being the (un)lucky recipient of Phil's old hand-me-down, I broke down and bought a new helmet. I will admit the green flowers on the green version of the Petzl Meteor III had SOME impact on my decision, but hey, if it isn't fun to wear something, you are less likely to use it. I was pretty amazed at the difference when my helmet arrived. Not only did I no longer have to jut my chin out to hold it in place, but it was light and comfortable. Suddenly it was not such a chore to protect my noggin.

I seem to have a penchant for sports that accompany helmets, so my collection of helmets (riding, snowboarding, biking, climbing...) is getting extensive. But, I have been getting a lot better about wearing my helmet when climbing ever since spending last summer flirting with disaster in the Tetons, where chossy rock is a given.

You will note that Phil soon got helmet envy, bought a Black Diamond Tracer, and now sports his helmet pretty often as well. I would highly recommend giving a try to one of the the latest helmet models, it is likely a lot different than that crusty, stinky one you never wear.


Hound Ears and Linville

What a great weekend up near Boone! The October weather gave us crisp climbing days, cool nights, and lots of fun times. The Hound Ears Bouldering Comp was well attended, from Lee Means cranking out the rhymes on stage, to countless boulderers hurling themselves at fantastic problems. We had a blast and will return again for sure! The whole Triple Crown Crew really does a great job putting on a top notch event. Sunday, we were tired and sore, and headed for our first time up the Mummy in Linville. What a fun, low-key multipitch climb!


Mountain Khakis - Best Pants Ever

For about the last two years, whenever you see Phil wearing a pair of pants, it would be safe to bet he his wearing Mountain Khakis. Phil had a beloved pair before I started work at MK, but since then, both his appreciation and collection of MKs has increased rapidly. My brother said "I'm afraid to admit I wear them every single day." Mountain Khakis do certainly have a cult-like fan following, and the primary reason is their incredibly comfortable fit. Add the fact that they last forever, can stand countless hours, days, and years of abuse, make even the scrubbiest of dirt bags look presentable out on the town, and accentuate le derriere, and it is easy to understand why these pants truly are a man's best friend.

Just in at Looking Glass Outfitters:
the best climbing, hiking, lounging, working, flyfishing, coffee sippin, boot scooting, hay throwing, golf driving, wood chopping, client greeting, funds raising, banjo picking, fence mending, microbrew chugging, tweet postin, wncw listening, road trippin, jet setting pants you can find bar none.

Mountain Khakis!!

Phil Climbing 5.12 in MK Lake Lodge Pants at the North End of Looking Glass, NC
A well-loved and abused pair of MKs at the Lucky 7 New River Rendezvous, Fayetteville, WV


Heading to Hound Ears

We have been trying to gain a little power prior to Hound Ears. After a summer of little to no bouldering, we should have started sooner! Friday at Dixon School Road was hot and steamy, yet it was chilly enough Sunday in Linville to wear a light, Mountain Hardwear softshell (thanks Tres!) all day in the shade. The sudden, crisp fall air makes it a perfect time to head to Boone and get your annual chance at the Hound Ears boulders near Boone, NC. Last year was quite chilly, so grab your fuzzy fleece and see ya Friday night at the CCC meeting!

Looking Glass Outfitters is a full service gear shop open 7 Days a week at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and around the corner from Hendersonville, Brevard & Asheville.

Happy Exploring..........


Dixon School Rd Bouldering

My buddy Steve has been raving about the newly opened bouldering area, Dixon School Road, near Crowders Mountain State Park. Not being much of a boulderer but still intrigued, I decided to go check it out with Jessica one weekend. We found great problems on quality stone of varying difficulty. Check out the pictures and even better, go for a visit this fall and winter because that is when the friction and conditions will be excellent. Big thanks go out to the NC Park Service and The Carolina Climbers Coalition for putting in the hard work to finally get this area opened.