The Womb History

compiled by Mike Reardon

Around Christmas of 1964, Steve Longenecker, Robert John Gillespie, and Bob Watts

walked to the base of the North Side of Looking Glass with rope and gear in hand. They

were the first known climbers to have ventured to the base of the entirety of Looking

Glass in hopes of an ascent. Their main objective was to find climbable routes that

would yield natural protection. Steve Longenecker recalled this early recon of failing,

flailing, and trying again;

“None of us knew anything about route finding, and had never heard of anyone climbing

in the region. We were, very honestly, looking for the easiest way to go to the top! We

spotted some cracks, broken by what appeared to be belayledges, leading from the

ground, up the face. This seemed like the place to begin, but we did not bring a route to

the top in that area for another 5 years.” They dubbed those potential belay points the

“lower” and “upper wombs”. Note: pictured to below and to the right, the belayer is

inside the “upper” womb. After gaining skills on several other faces throughout the

state, Tony Pigeon, Steve Longenecker, and Robert John Gillespie completed the route

with several points of aid in 1970, a major achievement in early Looking Glass climbing.

Just a few years later in 1974, Diff Richie repeated The Womb and freed every move

with the exception of standing on a bolt at the crux in order to clean the wide crack of

leaves and debris. This ascent was a milestone in its day. In 1977, Jeep Gaskin and Joe

Meyers made the first known free ascent without the bolt stand (see photo, lower right).

Both the Gaskin party and Richie party completed this with only passive gear and EB’s

for shoes.

Heather Phillips