Over the weekend of May 12th and 13th I went on a climbing trip with my co-worker Paul and some of his crew, Lauren, Mick, Travis and Kate. Paul is very familiar with the Gunks in New Paltz, NY as he has been there many times with Lauren. The cliffs are only about 2 hours from New Haven and are some of the best climbing in the East. I was promised some awesome climbing and I wasn’t disappointed.
Paul, Lauren, Mick and I all took a half day on Friday so we could get some climbing in before dark. While we were loading up, stuffing Mick’s GLI to the gills, we hoped that the showery weather in Connecticut wasn’t affecting the cliffs. The off-on showers continued only until we reached the campsite, when they stopped. This turned out not only good for climbing but also for Mick’s tent that was a bit musty and needed some airing. After setting up camp we went to the Near-Trapps and got a few routes in. I don’t remember the names or the grades, but Paul set one route up that totally kicked my ass. There must have been 6-8 times that I came off the wall but I was finally able to finish it. Paul and Lauren’s friends from Penn State, Travis and Kate, showed up while we were climbing too.
Friday evening we treated ourselves to some beers and some tasty quesadillas cooked up by Paul and Lauren. With the rain gone and very few bugs yet it was a great evening. No campfire but I think that allowed for an interesting encounter later in the evening. I was taking a pee and noticed a shadow pass in front of the flood light coming from the ranger’s cabin. The ranger had a dog that was roaming around earlier and I thought that’s what it was. I called and whistled to get the dog’s attention but he kept on going into the woods. I switched on my headlamp looked towards him, I noticed that the dog wasn’t white as before, but black. Then I realized it wasn’t a dog it was a black bear. The bear roamed the perimeter of the camping area sniffing at a tent that was close. I jogged back up to the group and told them about the bear. At that point we all started looking and we could see the bear was only 15-20 yards away or so. I’ve seen plenty of moose, some of those close up but I’ve never seen a bear close up so it was cool. There wasn’t much danger because it was just a black bear and there were plenty of tents/people around. I’m sure he was just looking for some leftover food cast aside. However, to be on the safe side we brought all the food stuff back to the cars.
Saturday was another great day of climbing. We did a multi-pitch route, my first. At the end of the first pitch (“Something Interesting”) Paul and I went on and did a classic route called the “Dangler.” This is an exposed roof about 150ft off the ground. It took some time to convince myself that I could do it but in the end it was more mental that physical.
The Gunks are great from a climbing perspective not only because of the rock but because of the permanent gear that has been placed to help climbers. There are tons of routes that have anchors so that a leader can just climb up and clip into them. Everyone else can then just top rope. These anchors also make it nice for rappelling down. I’m glad we were able to get everyone on a multi-pitch.
Saturday night everyone went to dinner with Paul’s parents. The restaurant, the Gilded Otter, brewed its own beer which I will definitely be looking forward to the next time I go. I tried their alt beer which isn’t common in brewpubs. The food was also very good. After dinner we hit up a great little bar that had a section with pool tables. They also had some beer…400 kinds! It took me 5 minutes just to decide what I wanted. In the end got a Belgian quadruppel and an IPA from Boulder, CO.
Sunday was kind of a relaxing day. The previous two days of climbing tired me out a bit. I don’t think I did anything over a 5.7 Sunday. I will say the difficulty of many of the routes is underestimated. Many of the 5.7’s I did I thought could have been 5.8 or 5.8+. Regardless of the grade the routes were fun.
My first trip to the Gunks turned out great. Aside from the showers and slightly muggy Friday afternoon, you couldn’t ask for better weather. I think it was 65 and sunny the rest of the weekend. If you spent the weekend indoors you missed out. I’m sure there will be many more trips to the Gunks in the future, especially since I got a year’s pass to the reserve.
Pictures are here. Thanks Lauren for getting some shots of me.