Since moving down to West Virginia in 2009, Paul and Lauren haven’t been back to do any climbing in their old stomping grounds of the Gunks. When I heard that they were planning a autumn visit to New Paltz I was very interested. Since Paul left I haven’t been able to climb with anyone at his level of trad climbing. So I was looking forward to getting on some hard routes that I’d otherwise not have a chance to climb.
Since I have three days of vacation left (are you as surprised as me given my Red Rocks and Norway trips earlier this year?) I decided to take Friday, Oct. 8 off so I could drive out to the Gunks that Thursday. I arrived at Matt Rogers parent’s place. I’m always amazed at how nice this house is every time I walk in. It is an amazing mix between state-of-the-art energy saving and rustic country farm house at the same time. Bravo to Matt for building it for his parents.
Friday morning, Paul, Lauren and me headed out to the Nears. We were able to get a surprising number of pitches in. Chronologically we did: Birdland (5.8), Shitface (5.10c), Te Dum (5.7), Disneyland (5.6), Inverted Layback (5.9). Or eight pitches total. Everything 5.7 and below I lead. Inverted Layback is a great route. I look forward to leading that in a year or two…
Saturday Matt was able to join us as well as Ben Hein, who was driving out from CT. Inthe morning Paul, Lauren and me did Ants Line (5.9). After that Paul went to find stronger partners while Lauren and I did Shit Creek (5.7), Blistered Toe (5.7). After that Matt and Ben showed up. Paul was still on one of the –issimasa‘s so the four of us decided to split into two teams. My light double rack then supplied Matt and me to be leaders for our two teams on The Last Shall be First (5.6). This definitely is one of my favorite pitches thus far on lead. It was a little mental considering that I was on slightly less than a full rack and it is a 160ft pitch. I finally reached the GT Ledge with 1 cam (#1 blue Metolius), a couple tri-cams, and a few nuts. It was an exhilarating pitch to say the least. Not too run out, perhaps only 15-18 feet on easy terrain, but I was using everything I had in creative ways to protect the route. Now this all is relative of course. Matt only had 40% of the rack so he had an even more creative time protecting the route. The four of us finished up the route satisfied with our work for the day and headed off to some Indian food and beers on the Rogers’ porch for the evening.
Sunday all but Matt headed off to Lost City. I’ve been to this Gunks locals’ area once before and loved it. Last time it was basically exactly the same conditions, fall, low humidity, sun, and pleasant temps. We started off in the same area as two years ago, however this time it was me who lead two of the climbs. One was a 5.7 with a crux that Lauren was good enough not to tell me the secret hold on. With this hold the crux becomes at least 1 grade easier. After that climb we did a fun 5.8- crack climb that had tons of pro.
After the warm-ups were out of the way Paul lead two spectacular routes, both in the 5.10 range. Ben wasn’t quite able to finish out the first 5.10 before he had to leave. I think a couple more tries and he could have gotten it. Lauren and me however were able to flash it. The second route was just me an Paul. I guess Lauren didn’t think she could do it. The route’s crux was right off the ground that had some balancy small finger crack moves at the bottom. This lead into a balancy traverse on a bulge. From there a very thin crack lead to some roofs and steep jugs before the anchors. A great route over all.
After those routes, Ben left and it was just Lauren, Paul and me in the afternoon sun. We headed to a new section of the cliffs that I hadn’t been to before. The single pitch routes I saw were great. We eventually settled on Lost City Crack (5.10-?). Here we met Mike Senacka (sp?) who is a character and a Gunks mainstay. He worked on a 5.11 on TR solo while we did Lost City Crack then worked on the 5.11c next to it. This route was easily the most difficult of the weekend. Fitting that it was the last as well. Paul headed up with only a slight problem at the bottom. I hopped on and quickly came off in the first to second move. Getting back on and squeezing the impossibly small holds I couldn’t quite see how I was supposed to get to the next hold a good distance away. At that point I heard a “pssst!” from the right. Turning my head and still on the holds, I saw Mike giving a quick motion of where I should be looking for my next hold. I looked where he mimicked and there was a small crystal just large enough to get a small amount of balance on. With that hold I made it through the first few moves, which Mike said were in the 5.12b range. From here I wasn’t quite able to finish the route out. I fell twice after. Though one of them could have been avoided had I just rested a little more beforehand. Next time I head to Lost City I will work on this route until I have it done.
It was a great weekend in which I was able to lead some fun routes slightly above my previous plateau. I was also able to clean some more difficult routes that I hope to be able to repeat on lead in the future. Lauren was also able to step up her game with me encouraging her to lead a bit more. She did a great route at Lost City that I think I would have had trouble with. I’m already looking forward to the next time I can climb with the Brenners. Hopefully it is in the New so I can see how their farm is coming along.