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Free Climbing Glass Menagerie with AMT Laban Swafford: A Photo Journal

All Photos by Fixed Line Media

In late March of 2018, Rock/Creek All Mountain Ambassador Laban Swafford and his climbing partner Sam Dospoy accomplished their long-time goal of free climbing Glass Menagerie, a route on the north face of Looking Glass in North Carolina. The 900-foot trad route is divided into 7 pitches and is rated as 5.13a, making it a challenging but popular Southeastern climb. Here’s Laban’s description:

“Looking Glass Rock is a pluton monolith in Western North Carolina that rises above the Pisgah National Forest. The most iconic hard free climb (to climb using hands and feet only; the rope is used only for safety not for upward progression or resting) on this over five hundred foot monolith is the Glass Menagerie.”

This incredible feat is something that many climbers only dream of. But don’t take our word for it– we’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

“On the last weekend of March my friend Sam Dospoy and I went out to take care of one of our life goals.  We fortunately made quick work of figuring out beta on the route as the small holds can thrash the skin. With thinning skin we sent both of the crux pitches (on the) second go.” 

“The weather was superb although a little too warm for thin skin until about noon, thus we sent the Thru the Open Book pitch (5.12d) and set up a porta-ledge under the roof pitch (5.13a). Stayed Saturday night on the wall then fired on to the top Sunday afternoon.” 

“The route is rather chill compared to most North Carolina climbing standards as there’s very few runouts and especially on the harder sections.  Overall I think people hype this and many other routes up in their heads and thus make a mountain out of a mole hill.” 

“Mad respect for Jeep Gaskin and John Borstelman for making the first ascent of this beautiful route up the north side of Looking Glass. Also mega respect for Pascal Robert, Arno Ilgner, and Kris Kline for the first free ascent of the route. Thanks to these and many more for being visionaries of the beautiful climbs we do.” 

Congratulations to Laban and Sam on this amazing achievement, and a huge thanks to Bryan Miller at Fixed Line Media for capturing these photos!

Laban Swafford – Rock/Creek All-Mountain Team – @sandstonemaniac

Bryan Miller – Fixed Line Media – @fixedlinemedia