Happy 4th of July!

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Looking Glass Outfitters
69 Hendersonville Hwy
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768


Organic Farming on See Off Mountain

Although there is a perfectly fabulous vegetable stand called Whistle Stop about a mile and a half from our house, I decided I wanted to put a sunny corner of our yard to good use and try a vegetable garden. Early in spring I planted seeds indoors, and watched for what seemed like ages as they grew to be 2 or 3 inches tall. Some took off fast and quickly fizzled out. Others, like the miscellaneous peppers, were slow and steady.

By late April and May, the survivors were in the ground and clinging on to the soil despite the heavy rains that sometimes move through the area. I frequently use water from the stream bordering our property to water the plants to minimize using the hose, and summer's afternoon rain showers are helping me out as well.

I am happy to say, that the garden is in full force right now. Currently, we have an abundance of fresh arugula, which is fabulous. The tomatoes look like they are trying to take over the universe, and are just starting to flower.

We have one cucumber/ squash like plant that was growing so determinedly from our compost, I decided to give it a try. This mystery plant is now growing like mad and flowering as well. It looks like in a few weeks, we will be having daily gazpacho parties. Yum!

Climb Globally, Shop Locally
Looking Glass Outfitters
69 Hendersonville Hwy
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768


New River Gorge, Bolting and Bushwacking

After a family trip to the beach fell through, Phil and I found ourselves with a long weekend on our hands and nothing planned. Despite a forecast full of 90 degree days, we packed up the trusty Subaru, 2 dogs, plenty of gear and a cooler full of goodies and headed to the New River Gorge, with our fingers crossed that the rain-free forecast would be accurate, and hoping the temps would magically be lower than expected.

After arriving late into the Wild & Wonderful state of WV (formerly OPEN FOR BUSINESS,) we woke up and headed upstream on the south side of the Meadow River. Our friend Jay was determined to "re"discover some forgotten trad routes. Alas, the Meadow did not disappoint. We "found" some stellar routes that simply needed some anchors to make them more accessible. I say simply lightly, because it is actually fairly involved to add anchors to a route like this, since it involves bushwacking with a drill in tow both on the ground and on the rock. As we headed back to Jay's, we realized that our little spot was at least 10 degrees cooler than less shaded areas of the gorge and slapped ourselves on the backs, even though we logged a pretty low number of routes for the day.

Thanks to long summer days, we rallied our motivation and realized we had time to head to the Bridge, where Jay was on a mission to replace the anchors on Two Edge Sword, then finish off the day on Butter Beans. This day was a good lesson in being very thankful for folks like NRAC who take the time, money and energy to make climbing accessible and safe by replacing bolts and anchors when needed. Next time you hike in on a nicely cleared trail, climb a moss and lichen-free route, and clean a nice shiny anchor at the top of a route, remind yourself to volunteer or donate some dough to one of these worth efforts. I am certain it can be a pretty thank-less job.

Day 2 was spent just like a million other climbers headed to NRG- hoofing up the classic Butcher's Branch sport climbs of Kaymoor. After a spring full of trad climbing in North Carolina, it feels indulgent to simply clip bolts while climbing on actual holds! Who doesn't love a day that includes Mo Better Holds, Hard Core Female Thrash and Lost Souls? The day was certainly hot and humid, but perhaps not 90, and an unexpected thunderstorm cooled things off before we could scarf down pizzas at Pies & Pints.

Day 3 was a mixture of somewhat damp starts, trad & sport, humidity, random locals on four wheelers and long, pumpy routes at the lower Meadow. Morale was good even though friction was a little less than ideal. Still, this area is a blast and Toxic Hueco always beckons.

Add a second trip to Pies & Pints, and the weekend was a rap.

Climb Globally, Shop Locally

Looking Glass Outfitters
69 Hendersonville Hwy
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768


Mammut Needle DLX Approach Shoe

I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Mammut's new approach shoe line. Not only do they make some of the finest and most coveted soft goods and ropes in the business they have hopped into the ever flooding shoe market. Bring your "A-Game" Mammut, your gonna need it. With 5.10, Evolv and La Sportiva front running the technical approach shoe race, competitors will need to innovate to challenge the field. Has the Needle DLX made the grade? Lets find out.
The Mammut Needle DLX comes in both Men's and Women's styles and is dubbed by Mammut as "Casual/Urban Approach". As we know from Mammut, casual is not in their job description. I expected to find the famous Mammut technical performance.

Staying as short winded as possible here is my gauntlet for approach shoes.
Sticky Rubber or De-lamination Damnation?
Construction or Destruction?
Support or come up short?

Probably the most important factor in a technical shoe is how well it will grip a variety of surfaces. Most approach shoes focus on tacky grip on exposed rock-- super important for guides, scrambles or alpine climbs. Where approach shoes often suffer is getting to and from the rock. Lack of a lug or relief sole creates a slip and slide hazard on wet ground, dead leaves, mud, descending trails, you get the idea. What the Mammutec sole lacks in stick it make up in aggressive grip. Its not the stickiest rubber in the world but the tread pattern is AMAZING. It is incredibly secure in all conditions and the sticky rubber rand is low profile, allowing foot jamming in steep scrambles. Having said that, I don't think I would lead climb in this shoe but that's what rock shoes are made to do.

The leather upper comes all the way down to the rubber sole which would lead me to believe that delamination could be right round the corner but as of yet I have had no such issues.

Construction or Destruction:
At a glance this performer looks solid, which is what I have come to expect from Mammut. The full leather upper is supple and feels great on the foot. Double stitching around the eyelets will support the constant tightening of the shoe, resisting an eyelet blow out. This is key as the eyelet is simply a hole punched thought the leather. The cuff of the shoe is two piece nylon covering a thickly padded insert around the ankle. The ankle cuff is low volume, so if you have weak ankles this might not be the shoe for you. However the support is generated from a leather "X" design with an active webbing piece that is similar to the Scarpa Techno heel lacing system. This allows you to snug the back of shoe up for more technical, active movement- a nice addition to the to-the-toe lacing system. Brand recognition logos are placed on the toe rand, heel, tongue, and a very nice subtle Mammoth ingrained in the outside upper. Look close in the photos and you will see it.

Support or come up short?

Primarily a crusty trad climber, I usually carry too much stuff in my pack, around 20-30 lbs. Combine that with two knee surgeries and the shoe choice becomes pretty important. The cushion is perfectly adequate in the Needle DLX. The heel support feels a bit tall and as I mentioned above, the heel cuff is low volume so the ankle support piece is something to think about.
Providing awesome support is no issue with a large pack on your back. The Needle DLX is quite predictable and sure footed underneath the load. Moderate stiffness is how I would describe the edging performance and the rocker is casual as well.


The Sickness!
Tenacious tread pattern for grip on a variety of surfaces
Supple leather upper
Technical lacing system
Comfy padding

Bummer list:
Weak ankles need not apply
Could be stickier for technical rock climbing

Bottom Line:
Solid, predictable all around performance in a price friendly (98.99) sharp looking approach shoe. One more option in an expanding gray area of approach/climbing shoes.

Mammut Needle Approach Shoe Available Here

Climb Globally, Shop Locally
Looking Glass Outfitters
69 Hendersonville Hwy
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768


Climbing Safety - 10 Lessons Learned

I was unfortunate to witness a ground fall at the Red River Gorge a few weekends ago. Thankfully, the climber was unscathed after a scary loss of consciousness and evacuation to Lexington. The up side of witnessing an event like this is the blatant reminder to pay attention to safety at all times. I think all who were at the crag that day left with some important lessons learned. Here are a few of mine:

1. Anything can happen on any grade of climb. Remember this before you leave the ground, as you make your clips, and as you grab for slack. Remember this every time you climb.

2. The belayer's job is to keep you off the ground and keep you from harm if at all possible. As a belayer, analyze potential hazards- awkward clipping stances, poorly placed bolts, ledges and potential ground falls and make a mental plan for avoiding the hazards. Do this BEFORE the climber leaves the ground and CONSTANTLY as the climber progresses up the route. Communicate with your climber about these hazards- even if the grade is far beneath their ability.

3. You the climber must constantly make judgment calls and communicate them with your belayer. The climber too must analyze potential hazards and point them out to the belayer. Both of you must be on your toes to ensure your safety. Is your belayer distracted? Don't be afraid to get their attention. Don't keep climbing if you suspect the belayer is not paying attention. Say "watch me" when you feel unsure or unstable to alert your belayer.

4. The first 3 bolts often have ground fall potential. You may not have hit the crux yet, so this may not be on your mind, but you can easily slip, misjudge, sneeze, get stung by a bee, etc. Belayer and climber must be on high alert through this section of every climb regardless of the grade. Of course, both should be on high alert for the entire climb, but always be aware of the fact that slack in the system and the dynamic nature of a climbing rope can equate to hitting the ground in many scenarios.

5. Keep yourself on belay the entire time you clean a route. I see so many climbers NOT doing this, and it leaves little margin for error. Learn how to clean a route properly and safely, which means you should be on belay the entire time.

6. Even if you rarely lead routes, you need to know basic safety for climbing outdoors. It may look and feel like the gym, but climbing outdoors brings into play countless additional factors. Knowledge is power for keeping you and your friends safe. Be proactive about learning to climb safely.

7. Back up your belay device if you need to go hands free. I see people going hands free with grigris often or letting go of the belay while a climber is clipped in direct. Your brake hand is always on duty.

8. Tie a knot in the end of your rope. If you do this, you will never lower a climber off the end of a rope or rappel off your own rope. Both incidents happen frequently for no good reason.

9. Understand the limitations of a Daisy Chain. This is a useful piece of equipment when used properly. Make sure you are aware of how NOT to use a Daisy Chain.

10. Be careful who you let belay you. Even a good friend can give you a faulty belay. Be careful before accepting a belay from a stranger- your life depends on it. Period.

Many of these lessons are paramount to multi pitch trad climbing, and are often skipped or ignored when sport climbing. I see more than ever why to use these practices when climbing trad or sport, climbing or belaying- ALL the time.

Climb Safe!!


Ship Rock in Summer

Saturday we headed to another great summer climbing destination : Ship Rock. When much of the southeast is getting steamy and the friction is disappearing, Ship Rock, nestled right next to the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is usually breezy and balmy. It looks like a relatively small cliff line from the road, but the two climbing areas contain excellent trad routes.

This past Saturday was no exception. Despite passing clouds and dashes of light rain, the classic climbs of Ship Rock remained dry and pumpy as ever. We started off with Hindu Kush on the main tier, then moved up the hill for Welcome to Watauga. Mike Grimm of NC's own Misty Mountain and Phil traded stories about past climbing partners leaving gear behind on this outstanding route.

The mashed, fixed tri-cam reminded us that we need to replace some of the tri-cams on our rack, since they have succumbed to other routes this year. They seem to be one of those pieces of climbing gear that seems to collect dust for a little while, and you wonder why you keep carrying it, but then you hit a rash of situations were they are indispensable.

By the end of the day, we finished on everyone's favorite 5.10a - Harpoon plus a run up The Anguish of Captain Bligh. If you haven't headed to Ship Rock to check out these amazing climbs, we'd highly recommend it. Stop in and say hi to Mike at the Misty factory while you are at it and enjoy!

It would be an understatement to say the dogs were whooped on the way home!


Ed Maggart's Sabbatical

We've gotten a little backlogged on blog posts lately, but we wanted to make sure and mention how great Ed Maggart's slideshow was a few weeks back. We had a fun crew of people who gobbled down the fresh cookies and cold beverages, and gathered to listen to Ed's travels across Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal & Tibet during his fall sabbatical. The pictures and stories were fascinating, and it sounds like Ed encountered amazing people. We were particularly intrigued by the crew Ed met who hunt wolves with eagles!

Ed's summit attempt of Ama Dablam was a great reminder that your climbing safety is more important than any peak, send or summit. When the odds stack against you, it is time to re-evaluate your goals and save it for another day. Kuddos to Ed for being able to make that decision and for realizing that a trip like his is worth so much more than simply achieving a certain elevation.

Thanks to all who participated and made it possible for us to send $150 to the Carolina Climbers Coalition to protect our NC climbing areas and Climb Safe!

Looking Glass Outfitters is a full service gear shop specializing in hiking, climbing and camping equipment located at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and around the corner from Hendersonville, Brevard & Asheville.


Hawks Bill Classic Climbs

Phil & I took a friend to Hawks Bill for his first time on Saturday, and were lucky to have the crag to ourselves. Although the trail into the main wall was wet in spots, most of the climbs were dry. We had to wait out a 10 minute ominous cloud that only spitted on us after looking much more serious, then headed up Winged Mongrel. This stellar climb has some steep moves for 5.10a trad, but includes great jugs!

We did a quick run up the direct start to Eros , then headed to the lower wall so Joe could give a shot on the Fat Lady. This 1 or 2 pitch classic is a fantastic 5.11a line with great views of Linville Gorge once you finish the pumpy ending. You can surprisingly do this entire route with one 60 meter rope, but tie a safety knot at the end of your rope to be sure.

Lastly, we hopped on King of Kings as the sun began to recede and more rain clouds loomed overhead. Another great, pumpy climb that includes three bolts and a few small cams at the top for 5.11d rating. We couldn't believe we had the crag to ourselves, but the rain held off and made for quite good climbing temps and comfy car camping. Who doesn't love climbing at Linville Gorge in the summer??