With my summer classes over, it was time for some R&R. I was invited down to New Paltz, NY by my friend Matt to visit family and friends–and climb. We embarked on our journey on the 19th, for three days in the Shawangunks, which are in the Mohonk preserve and Minnewaska state park.
I’d heard of the Gunks before, as a NE climbing mecca somewhat like Rumney, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for how epic it was. The rock is Quartz conglomerate, as opposed to MA and NH’s mainly granite. The place is huge–there is somewhere in the range of 1000 routes. There were endless routes upwards of 110ft of climbing.
We met up with Alyssa and Bob who lived in the area, and knew the Gunks well. Bob used to guide, and was brimming with know-how. Both were extremely gracious hosts.
We made breakfast and headed out for a full day of climbing at Peter’s Kill. We set up on some nice 5.6’s near the parking lot, and I immediately realized I’d forgotten my camera at the house. Luckily Matt’s phone sufficed. Bob soloed up an easier face and dropped ropes down.
It was a good warm up, during which I came to realize almost all climbing in the Gunks was done Traditionally, with a leader placing gear (protection) and then having a second following, cleaning it.
I expressed interest in placing gear and leading to Bob, since in my mind that’s what true climbing is–doing multiple pitches and placing your own protection. I wanted to start down that road, and so I belayed him up an easier 5.3 that both Alyssa and I pinkpointed. From what I’ve gathered, pinkpointing isn’t a term used too much anymore, with the advent of bolts and pre-placing gear, but in this case it was the right definition. Bob placed the gear, and then we pulled the rope and each lead it again, in some cases pulling and re placing gear to test out using cams.
It was a great introduction, getting the feeling of being of “on the sharp end of the rope”, and using trad gear, without very much danger. Matt gave the climbs a good try, this being only his 2nd or 3rd time on a rope.
I got a little bored after climbing the routes, so Bob directed me to check out some bouldering down the path. This lead to an over zealous attempt of an inverted V0 problem, which I clearly couldn’t figure out the last move of. After trying to muscle my way up, I was left with a bunch of scratches for the rest of the weekend. …A problem for another time I guess. Eventually it was getting towards the afternoon and we broke for lunch.
But the climbing wasn’t over! We headed back and set two more routes. These were harder. Bob lead a 5.7-5.8 crack with a blocky roof, and then set a toprope on that as well as a similarly difficult face climb with a flake move crux.
Both routes were maybe 50-60ft. And after ascending them, and then climbing the crack again, to clean the gear, I was getting pretty wiped. Alyssa sended them as well, and Matt got pretty far. We pulled the ropes and headed back for dinner and beers, a great end to an awesome introduction to the Gunks.
…Was mostly rain showers. I don’t have any photos, since we didn’t climb all that long. I heard Saturday was just the beginning–there was tons more rock to be climbed. We hiked a few miles in New Paltz to a more “locals only” spot and did a bit of bouldering, but as Bob got ready to lead a route, the skies opened up. We called it a day and hit the rock store for some gear purchasing. Bob helped me pick out a starter rack, after kindly donating a bunch of nuts. I bought 2 tri-cams and 2 more nuts, as well as 6 runners with ‘biners for quick draws. Despite the rain we took advantage of Bob’s hot tub–an actual wooden tub, which you don’t see much. The last one I was in was up in Bethel, ME, at the Sunday River Inn.
You guessed it, more climbing! I was psyched, I’ve never climbed three days in a row. We headed to the Trapps, where the cliff ran alongside the carriage roads in Mohonk preserve. We set up some easier warm up routes, two 5.6’s, with a larger group. They were a blast. One was a 90ft pitch with 2 small roofs, and a ton of good holds. The other was a face climb into a big roof .
Once we’d tackled this area Matt, Alyssa, Bob and I walked further down to some more nice routes. Bob lead a nice 5.7 crack climb for Alyssa and Matt.
Bob then told me he’d take me up a 2 pitch 5.5 climb called Horseman, one of the classics in the area. The easier grade made sure there’d be no incidents while I was wrapping my head around all the pieces involved in multi-pitch climbing.
When climbing a multi-pitch the climb goes as follows: The leader leads the first pitch, placing protection as they go, with the second (me), belaying them up the pitch. When the leader reaches the top, they have to clip into, or create an anchor. Then the leader pulls up and stacks the remaining rope, and sets up a belay off the anchor. Then the second follows on top-rope, cleaning (pulling) the gear as they go, with the leader belaying from above. Once the second reaches the anchor, they clip in, and in most cases, would prepare to lead the next pitch. Otherwise they need to pass the gear they cleaned back to the leader who organizes it on his rack, and then switch the belay to the second. The leader then unclips and leads the next next pitch, and the process begins again until they reach the top.
From what I understand, when you reach the top, you have a few options. You can hike off, back down an easier way. You can, if there are rappel stations, go to the station and rappel down, which might mean rappeling to an intermediary station first if your rope isn’t long enough. I guess you could also BASE jump off if you brought the gear and have the space. This part has always confused me most about Trad climbing.
Here’s what that might look like:
The climb went pretty smoothly, mostly due to Bob taking care of the hard stuff, and there being a permanent anchor at the belay station. Still, it was awesome. To me, this is what climbing is about. I’m really glad that we were able to do it, while Alyssa and Matt were hanging out on the 5.7 crack nearby.
Unfortunately, Matt and I had planned to leave the next morning. But I swear, we will be back! Bob and Alyssa couldn’t take work off forever earlier, so we said our good byes and hopped in Matt’s car for the 4 hour cruise back.
Quincy Quarries, 2 days later
But wait, there’s more! Clearly we hadn’t had enough climbing for the week. Matt had a new harness and we both had some free time to head to Quincy Quarries Thursday morning. Despite having worn myself out at the gym the night before, I was pretty gung-ho.
Matt had never been, so we headed to the back and set up a warm-up on the Pink Face, a nice slabby 5.3/5.4. We both sent it without issue, and moved on to an interesting 5.6 crack at the front of the Quarry. I’d climbed it a few weeks back when introducing Sweeney to climbing, and I was pretty sure Matt could get up it. I climbed it first, and decided to try my hand at placing some gear on top rope. I got 3 pieces that were fairly solid, and then lowered to let Matt try his hand. He sent it, with a little beta, which was sick. I then asked him if he felt alright belaying me as I led, and pulled the rope. Since it was my 4th ascent of the route, and I hadn’t once slipped or fallen on it, I felt pretty good leading it pinkpoint, and clipping my gear. Everything went without issue, and we both went home satisfied with making the most of the day.
For larger photos, and some other pictures, click here.