Views from Looking Glass Rock

Sometimes here at Rockbrook, there is so much going on, it can be hard to choose between all the offerings. I often hear campers deliberating whether to sign up for trips, or to stay at camp to enjoy all the activities here.

Groupshot climbers

This morning, while a daring group of young ladies was heading down to the lake to take a special early morning “Polar Bear Plunge” into Rockbrook’s chilly waters, girls were packing out for an overnight rafting trip, kayakers were preparing to try their paddles on the white waters of the Green River, and a van was driving off camp for a climbing trip to Looking Glass Rock. Rockbrook girls were having to choose between all these fabulous opportunities before the girls had even eaten breakfast! The best part about camp is that no matter which experience a girl chooses each day, whether wet or dry, on camp or off, scheduled or spontaneous, it is sure to offer her a fun chance to challenge herself, to make new friends, and provide her with a new story to share about her adventure.

Today’s group of devoted young climbers rose before the rising bell, ate a quick breakfast, packed lunch and climbing gear into back packs, and drove off to Looking Glass Rock. This group of six campers—all of whom already had a chance to climb Rockbrook’s own Alpine Tower, climbing wall, and live rock-face, Castle Rock—traveled into the Pisgah National Forest with three climbing staff to test their growing skills on another natural rock.

Looking Glass Rock view

Looking Glass Rock, is a local monolith just shy of 4000 ft in elevation that hosts a wonderful variety of climbs, accessible to many skill levels. Well earning its name, Looking Glass is a massive granite rock jutting out of the valley floor whose many reflective faces offer climbers dozens of multi-pitch, free bouldering, and top-roping routes. After a brisk hike up the mountain from the parking area, we arrived to the rock face to find it was an exceptionally quiet morning for Looking Glass. We had the pick of the mountain.

girls climbing

Adventure Director, Clyde Carter, and climbing counselor Rita Keil, deftly scrambled up to set up an anchor on a pair of climbs well suited for today’s group. They set two routes that exposed the girls to different qualities of rock, challenged their skill level, and offered opportunities for success. After everyone had the chance to climb both routes, we moved anchor to try another part of the rock. These climbs were a little more challenging, inviting the girls to explore the limits of their skill and stamina. One of the important things about trying new things at Rockbrook is that we provide a great place for girls to safely push themselves. We create the environment to give them the confidence to try new things, and cultivate the knowledge that even if they are not able to reach the top today, they have reached new heights. At the end of the day, everyone feels good about their own experience, is inspired and supported by those around around them, and is granted the gift of a stunning and well earned view. If you stand on the hill at Rockbrook, you can look across the valley and see Looking Glass glinting in the sunlight. What fun for this group of veteran climbers to now come back to camp, look across the valley and get to say, “I climbed that!“

smiling rock climbers

Castle Rock Climbing

What’s that red dot in this photo? Amazingly, it’s a Rockbrook camper climbing Castle Rock! You may have heard that Rockbrook is lucky to have a great rock climbing area right on its property, and that this makes it incredibly easy to rock climb while at camp. It’s true, and here’s the proof! You may not, however, have a sense of just how BIG Castle Rock is. Well, it’s enormous… the exposed rock face being easily 250 feet tall.

Our friend Bob Twomey, who is a helicopter pilot and the owner of Wolf Tree Aviation, helped a photographer grab these shots last summer. Bob passed them along to us, and we just had to share.

Ready for some rock climbing? That red dot could be you!

Camper rock climbing on Castle Rock at Rockbrook
Camper rock climbing Castle Rock North Carolina
Rock climber taken from helicopter

Let’s Go Rock Climbing!

Kid Adventure Rock Climbing

When kids come to Rockbrook for camp, they know there’s going to be outdoor adventure happening, things like backpacking, kayaking and whitewater rafting, but they are sometimes surprised about all the rock climbing available. That’s mostly because there is simply so much rock to climb right here on the camp property, not to mention some of the famous rock climbing areas nearby in the Pisgah National Forest. But it’s also because learning to climb is so popular! No matter how old you are —yes, even the youngest kids— you can climb a real rock just about every day at Rockbrook.

Here’s how it works. Usually at breakfast or at dinner the night before, the rock climbing staff will announce a trip they have planned. Like for all of our adventure trips, the campers can then decide if they want to go. They make their own decision weather to go.  It means giving up their regularly scheduled activities, and that can be a hard choice if you really love horseback riding or archery for example, but it also means enjoying the thrill of getting up on the rock. It helps to have experienced the fun of rock climbing to realize these trips are worth signing up for, but even after just one outing, campers learn how much of a treat they are. Some of these trips are short hikes up to a couple of the routes on Castle Rock, while others will be all-day adventures to one of the climbing areas on Looking Glass Rock.

The Rockbrook Camp rock climbing program is a big part of the adventure activities around here. Hey, let’s go climbing!

Looking Glass Rock Climbing

One of the best rock climbing areas in the Southeast is Looking Glass Rock. Rising almost 1000 feet from the forest floor, Looking Glass is a dome-shaped mass of granite near Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest. It can easily be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby. For rock climbers it offers a fantastic variety of sport, friction, face, crack and even aid climbing routes suitable for the beginning, intermediate and advanced climber. Circling the domed rock are well-known climbing areas: the Nose, South Side, Sun Wall and North Wall. On the southeastern side of the rock, there is a popular tourist trail for hiking to the summit.

Rockbrook camper Joanna climbing looking glass rock
Rockbrook Camp Girl Joanna on Looking Glass Rock

Here’s a photo of a Rockbrook camper on the Nose (5.8).  Rockbrook is located only about 15 miles from Looking Glass.  After topping out our own climbs on Castle Rock, our camp rock climbing program brings girls to Looking Glass, as well as other climbing areas in this region of North Carolina.  There’s a lot of rock to climb around here, and the girls love it!

Learning to Climb at Camp

Kids learning to rock climb while at camp

When girls first begin to learn rock climbing at Rockbrook, they start on our high ropes course climbing tower. It’s an “Alpine Tower” and you may have seen photos of it before here. It’s really the perfect place to learn how to climb because it makes so many different elements of “real rock climbing” so accessible. The girls can quickly learn important safety principles like the belay commands. They can begin to feel comfortable using the basic rock climbing gear like the harness, helmet, carabiner and rope. And, they can actually climb! A lot! The Alpine Climbing Tower provides close to 100 different ways to climb to the top; there are poles, nets, ropes, cables, climbing holds and rock walls to allow a whole range of difficulties and challenges. Girls can sign up for climbing instruction every week at camp and climb a couple of different routes every time they come!

But what do you learn when you first start out rock climbing? The importance of stretching and warming up is a good start. Everyone does better if they are flexible and a little stronger after warming up. After that the first lesson emphasizes the importance of balance, of being able to hold still balancing on one foot, for example, and moving the other leg or arms to reach a certain spot. Next, the girls learn footwork is central to rock climbing. It’s not mainly about finding grips for your hands, but rather about learning to use your feet and legs to move up the rock. Your hands and arms mainly help with balance, and your legs keep you moving. The other beginning rock climbing lesson to learn is more mental than physical. It’s learning to stay calm and focused. Rock climbing is a series of puzzles that requires concentration, and a calm, clear attention to details the rock presents. If you aren’t relaxed on the rock and get in a hurry, you might miss a hold or skip right over the perfect foothold making your route more strenuous and less enjoyable.

All of these lessons can take some practice to master, but there’s so much rock climbing going on at Rockbrook, the girls easily learn them. It’s really not hard to learn how to rock climb at camp, and the girls love it!

Balancing on the Rock

Kid Rock Climbing Summer Camp

You’ve probably heard that “balance” is one of the most important skills to have for rock climbing. It’s true; a lot of the technique involves balancing on your feet, and usually one foot, as you move up the rock.

But it’s not only that simple. It’s also important to learn how to hold yourself still, to use your muscles to shift your weight from one foot to the other slowly and smoothly. Generally, as you climb, you’ll keep your torso stationary and move a hand or foot up to the next hold. This is sometimes called the rule of “3-point contact” and refers to the practice of only moving one foot or hand at a time while your other limbs stay on the rock.

For example, you might keep both feet on the rock, hold on with one hand, and shift your weight to the left or right to reach a new handhold.  Likewise, you might hold on with both hands, keep one foot set, and lift your other foot up to a new hold. The trick is to stay smooth, keep your body still, and shift your center of gravity from left to right and up. It’s this deliberate and precise moving that we meaning by “balancing.”

Are you rock climbing this summer?

Camp Lets You Really Rock!

Girl Rock Camp

For many of the girls at Rockbrook, especially the older “seniors” (teens thirteen to fifteen years old), rock climbing is one of their favorite adventure activities. For these girls, RBC can be a girls rock camp. That’s because there are so many opportunities to climb. Not even counting the climbing wall in the gym (which has 6 different very cool routes on it: four face routes, a sweet corner for stemming, and a hand crack route) and the Alpine Tower (which easily has more than 100 different rock climbing challenges), the girls have plenty of rock right on the camp property.

Castle Rock is the huge granite rock towering above camp where girls have six different rock climbing routes to work on.  It’s so nice to just hike up the hill behind the dining hall to our very own private rock climbing spot (no driving!).  And the rock is excellent! There are nice deep hand cracks, a finger crack, delicate face routes with some serious exposure, and of course plenty of chances to work on your friction climbing. The rock provides a variety of climbing challenges that beginners and more experienced girls will find just right.

With all of this climbing right at Rockbrook, and then with the great rock nearby in the Pisgah National Forest, camp has the kind of adventure where girls can really rock!

Rockbrook Camp’s Ropes Course

Youth girls climbing adventure ropes course

“Does Rockbrook have a ropes course?”

Yes, we have an Alpine Tower. This is a special challenge course camp structure that combines both low ropes course elements and really cool high ropes course events. If you haven’t seen one of these, they are amazing. From this photo you can see a little that they are made of huge telephone poles bolted and lashed together in the shape of two inverted pyramids. This allows the youth girls to climb up three different sides, swing on ropes, balance on logs, scramble up cargo nets, and pull up on all sorts of climbing holds. There’s the “corporate ladder,” the “missing link,” the “swinging logs,” and the “bump out” to name just a few of the ropes course climbing elements on the Tower. You can imagine how popular climbing is at camp, and with all these different ways to climb, girls can come back all the time and have something new to try.

P.S. Did you know Rockbrook’s Alpine Tower is unique among youth camps because it is the only one with a roof?!