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TimL

TR: Shawangunks

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Ahhh...the Gunks. I've heard so much about the legendary area but never figured I'd have a chance to visit the place. As fate would have it, I got an email asking if the girlfriend and I would like to join a couple of friends on a trip to the Gunks during my next visit to Toronto.

 

S last Friday night we took off in a full on rainstorm. I’m not talking about the misty shit we get in Seattle, this was full on Noah’s Ark conditions. At the border at Buffalo, New York we met up with a group of friends and I openly hesitated on continuing on with the trip. With this rain, I saw no way it could be dry at the crags. Six hours of driving got us to the Gunks around 2am. Might I mention it was still raining.

 

Eight rolled around to quickly, but to my surprise it was sunny. A quick drive up the road brought is to the main parking area for the Trapps. What a cool crag and very beautiful as well! Urban cragging at its best with paved trails, bathrooms and signs corresponding with the guidebook to point you to climbing areas. It seemed like the crag averaged about 90 meters in height and offered so many routes that it’s unbelievable. And might I mention, the rock was dry!

 

Since it was Elena’s first time on outside rock, I figured we should start on an easy classic. Three Pines 5.3 was the first route we came to and it was actually open, as I understand it is a phenomenon that rarely happens at the Gunks. The climb can be broken into three pitches but its very easy to run the first two together, which equates to a very fun, long 50 meter pitch. The second pitch ascends a massive dihedral to a rightward catwalk then some scrambling to the top of the cliff. Super fun climb. I thought it was a little stiff for a 5.3, but its the Gunks and everything is supposed to be hard. It actually felt like it could be a PNW 5.6.

 

Elena did fine on Three Pines so I figured we should step it up a little. The first route to the right is Something Interesting 5.7 PG. This is a full value 5.7 with a full 50 meters of excellent climbing. Very interesting and delicate face climbing pulling several small roofs on big holds and a top out on a big ledge. I wouldn’t recommend this route for the beginning 5.7 leader, but I thought it offered tons of fun for the grade with some areas of widely spaced protection.

 

To finish off the day we decided to head over to Uberfall area. A friend was having problems pulling Retribution 5.10b PG and was falling at the crux roof onto the old manky pin which is the only “good” protection for the first 25 feet until you hit the ground. So I pulled the rope and jumped on it. Very interesting climbing. It took me about 5 – 10 minutes, no falling or hanging, to figure out the sequence. I eventually found a small crimp edge on the lip of the roof that allowed me to reach to a high finger lock and lay back past the roof. Once past the roof, 40 more feet of crappy gear and thin cracks lead to the anchors. We finally finished the day off with Dirty Girdie 5.8+ PG. The crux of this climb was a desperate mantle shelf. Ok climb but not for a person on their first day of climbing outside, even if they vehemently insist.

 

The second day dawned sunny and blue. I’ve heard from many people that the route to do at the Gunks is High Exposure. After a short 10-minute hike, we were at the base. I was super surprised to find nobody in line at the base for the climb. The guidebook says you can do the climb in 3 pitches. I’d recommend running together the first pitch into a single 50-meter pitch to the ledge beneath the roof. The problem that I found at the Gunks is a lot of the climbs do not follow natural features like crack routes on granite. Even though this pitch is rated 5.5, is was fairly difficult finding the correct path. Once at the big ledge below the rook I brought Elena up. I had always heard stories about pulling massive roofs at the Guns on easy climbs, but I was impressed at what was in front of me. Pulling a big roof onto an overhanging wall and its only 5.6? Didn’t look like it to me. I was wondering what Elena was thinking. Pulling this roof 200 feet off the ground on her second day outside was an exiting occasion for her. As it turned out the pitch was spectacular. The hardest moves were pulling the roof and finding the jug holds. Once you find the correct hold, you just climb the overhanging wall like a ladder. Very easy, yet super exposed and easily protected. But of course, I pulled the roof and seeing what appeared to be a holdless face I traversed far right to a crack system and started leading up an overhanging crack that felt like 5.9 not 5.6. As I kept going up the protection became farther apart then close to nonexistent on had moves, not to mention I only brought a small rack for the weekend. At that point a party above me tossed their ropes and as they were rapping over me asked me what route I was on. I said I was on High Exposure. The guy chuckled and told me that High Exposure was about 20 feet to my left, were the piton was sticking out. So what do I get to do? Well, I down climbed the pitch then traversed over to High Exposure and then finished it off. Elena had a little problem pulling the roof but once on the headwall, she flew right up. Not bad.

 

To finish the day off we decided to do Limelight, a 5.7 PG. The route is one long pitch, rated 5.5 that felt hard, then a second pitch of 5.7 to the top. The 5.5 pitch had a small 20 foot offwidth crack section near the top that gave Elena some problems. It also took me a while to figure out were to find the route. The second pitch was a nice 5.7 that started off slabby then went to an undercling using small features for feet and finally pulling up a short section of overhanging jugs to the top.

 

The Gunks are a really nice place to crag. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the harder routes. I’d really like to check out the Yellow Wall. For anyone heading to the area, New Paltz offers a lot of places to eat and buy food and is home to at least one gear store, Rock and Snow. There is even a Starbucks in town.

 

With most of my traditional experience climbing cracks on granite, I found the Gunks an interesting place to climb. Most of the routes are several pitches. The first pitch is usually 40-50 meters long. Although I loved the stiff ratings, for anyone going to the area for their first time I would take it down a couple levels from there onsight level and try leading some easier grades. I had some problems route finding because I’m not used to the type of climbing the Gunks offers. When the guidebook says the rating on a climb is PG, they mean it. Usually, I don’t take these types of ratings seriously. At the Gunks, I grew a healthy appreciation for these grades. Different form granite, on average it seems like the climbs at the Gunks are more ran out with less opportunities for protection. Bring a helmet. I usually don’t wear helmets crag climbing but I would of felt better having a helmet at the Gunks. The nature of a possible fall would be longer. As for gear, bring tri-cams. I had long ago sold mine and did not bring any to the area. I brought my usual 5.10 (set of nuts and cams to #3) rack expecting to have enough pro. I did have enough but would suggest adding more small to medium cams and tri-cams. Also, I would recommend bring a lot of slings, as the routes tend to wander a bit. The Gunks are the only place, besides alpine, were I could see double ropes being useful.

 

It was a great experience. I can’t wait to go back. Thanks to everyone for their beta! bigdrink.gif

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Sounds like a fun trip!! Your gear comments made me smile as they describe Moore's Wall Quartzite exactly: Tricams, small offsets and lots of TCU's (I never, ever placed a 00 until I climbed here!) I hope the get up that way sometime this summer....... Congrats on a great trip!

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Right on! High Exposure always makes for an epic! I lead it Thanksgiving Day many years ago with two friends in tow, and it was so cold on the 3rd pitch I got screaming barfies and thought I would pitch off the final exit moves, as I could no longer feel my hands. Despite all that, it still ranks up there as an all-time classic for me!

 

Sounds like Elena got her moneys worth!

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Too much fun!! I was back there last summer and had a blast. Glad you got up high ex, except for your wanderings!! That pitch is an eye-opener. And you got on Limelight - two ultra-gunkies. Good job. I learned to climb there - everything out here seemed tame at first.

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if you like the 'gunks i highly recommend making a trip to seneca rox, in w. virginia. similiar rock & exposures. i think some of the oldest trad climbing in america was done there...one wall was used as training grounds for us rangers before ww2 (wall of a 1000 pitons) also large scale quarry blasting nearby...ignoring tons of dynamite exploding sure helps hone that razor sharp focus when on lead.

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if you like the 'gunks i highly recommend making a trip to seneca rox, in w. virginia. similiar rock & exposures. i think some of the oldest trad climbing in america was done there...one wall was used as training grounds for us rangers before ww2 (wall of a 1000 pitons) also large scale quarry blasting nearby...ignoring tons of dynamite exploding sure helps hone that razor sharp focus when on lead.

 

Seneca rocks!! THat's where i learned to climb first!!! HAHAHAHA korean war vintage pins !! yellaf.gif

 

 

Nice TR tim...that place freakin rocks...you so have to get down to the NRG also!!

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Tim thanks for the an awesome TR. Talk about bring back some great memeories. Man that places rocks it is one place that I will always miss and will have to take a trip back too. Nice job on High E, that crack you were on I think goes at 9 or 10, can't really remember and to lazy to grab the guide book. Did you look over at the Modern Times roof with the tree growing out of it on the left while you were on the GT ledge on High E? You should do that sometime if you get down there again. 5.8++ is what the guide book sez, damn hard. If you want roof thats got roof. Also Limelight is nice Gunk's casual route. Good to hear you got on Something Interesting. I never seemed to see parties on it, but it such a great route, it is probably because of some of that sort of loose stuff under the roof, but IMO that is what makes it interesting. Was Shockley's taken up so you hopped on that? Way to go pulling Retribution, I got on that once and couldn't pull it, must of not found that crimp you talked about, also at the end of the day with a fading headlamp is probably not the best time to hop on it. Oh yeah Dirty Girdie was my first Gunks climb, thank gawd it was on a TR, I remeber that mantle being hard on TR as well.

 

Ah man now figure out when I can make it sometime.

 

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