Archive for April 11th, 2011

Second Gunks Blitz of 2011

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The weather lords waffled all week about the weekend, so until early Sunday morning, Jamie & I were up in the air about where to climb. When a final spin of the wheel indicated our best bet was New Paltz, we put our money there and landed ourselves at the Trapps by about 11am. In the final rush to reach vertical terrain, I forgot to bring the camera along. Sorry folks, no photos this time.

We walked down to the area just beyond the current falcon-closing turf and began our day on Thin Slabs. Both Jamie & I have climbed this route before; experiencing a near-epic on the direct finish way back when, so despite being a bit stale in our memories and a bit run-out as always, we were able to climb the first pitch without incident.

We headed farther north, walking past the huge peregrine-inspired off-limits section before climbing back up to the area near Three Doves. I’ve climbed this before, once some time back in the early 80s; Jamie hadn’t ever done it. With two pitches of stout 5.8, effectively unfamiliar terrain for both of us, this proved challenging, but we were both up to the task. Rapping down from the top, we had ample time for Jamie to lead the upper pitch of Annie O and me to lead that of Limelight before hunger and cold drove us back to the cliff base.

There, we mulled over options before deciding to look farther north. Several of our intended destinations turned out to be loaded already, but we noted that the High Exposure buttress was curiously unoccupied, notably Directissima. So it was that we ended the day climbing three pitches there: the first two of Directissima (using the “direct” line through the crux in one pitch, then climbing to the GT ledge), and the final pitch of High Exposure itself.

Over 650′ of climbing in eight hours, not bad for two spring-pale climbers barely beginning their season. Yesterday was a reminder of how great it was – is – climbing with Jamie. Rock on, man!

New Southern Adk Crag

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Tom Lane, loyal member of the Cadre of Crazy Route Finders, began telling me about a cliff he spied near his home in Day. He said it looked promising, and rose above the treetops, so it had to be tall enough to have something worth checking out. Looking at my handy map program, I could see that the cliffs were on state land, but that public access would be a tad long, involving a mile of trail, a mile and a half or so of bushwhacking, and a fair amount of elevation gain to boot. After acquiring permission to walk across a much closer parcel of private property, we decided to give it a look anyway.
This year’s snowpack required snowshoes for the initial quarter mile, but reaching the start of south-facing slopes, we chose to doff them and hop from clearing to clearing instead. Soon, we were walking easily on open ground – how good that felt! – and before long, we saw the steepened end of the ridge that was our destination. Here and there, a boulder dotted the gentle slope below it. Some of these would be worth playing on, but bouldering was not our main concern today. To our right, we could see outcrops; it definitely looked promising, but rather than leap in that direction, we chose to head west to make a thorough inspection of possibilities.

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Tom inspects one of the westside outcrops. 

Sure enough, we soon found worthwhile climbing. As the ridge curled northward, several buttresses poked out, likely composed of harder rock than had once filled the intervening gullies. The outcrops all have possible lines, discontinuous crack systems and occasional rails that might yield both holds and pro. There is some choss to be dealt with, but in general the rock appears clean enough to make minimal prep work. None of them are tall, I estimated fifty feet at most, but there is enough to establish half a dozen decent lines.
Things appeared to taper off the farther north we walked, so after a quarter mile or so, we turned back to check the more likely side of the ridge. Rounding the south bend once again, we passed our initial approach, and walking past a wide section of easy slope, dropped into a hollow below a tall, impressive cliff; the crag Tom had first glimpsed. About a hundred feet wide and perhaps as tall, the middle of this cliff is barred by a large roof system. A network of seams runs through the obstacle, but unless there are a plethora of unseen holds up there, this is high-end climbing.

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Tom stands at the base of the main wall. The roof is barely visible above him.

We chose to continue on for awhile, and found ourselves heading upward along a ramp. Soon we were on a gently-sloping bench on the east side of the ridge. As we walked north, the snowpack gradually accumulated, but signs of ice and rock ahead spurred us on regardless. We postholed through increasingly deep snow, slogging our way up toward some short ice flows on a cliff that is perhaps twenty-five feet tall. Three or four steep white curtains still clung to the rock, and between them a few corners looked interesting to climb, but they are too short to provide a real “destination” feel to this higher cliff band.

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An easier stretch of postholing; earlier Tom was sinking over his knees.

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The crystal-studded face of the smaller boulder. It’s about 15′ high.

We began plodding south, higher than we had come up, in order to look at some boulders. These are worth checking out. There are two main ones: a twelve to fifteen foot high one with a handcrack on the south side and a dihedral and crystal-studded face opposite is the smaller one. The other, probably thirty feet tall at its peak, has a lot of possibility, the most obvious being a chimney/offwidth on its northern side. As we passed over the ridge, we noted another cliff, possibly forty feet tall, to the south.

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Hey Maw, Look what I found! 

We inadvertently walked too far west before dropping back down the ridge, but in little time we were back at our packs, sitting on warm rocks and enjoying the sunshine. Tom’s boots were filled with snow, so he chose to rest there while I scouted farther right below.

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A nice, fifty foot dihedral lower along the ridge.

Traversing across and down the slope, I rounded a bend of scruffy cliff about forty feet tall, passed a wider, cleaner, but shorter cliff not far past that, then came to an attractive, fifty-foot high silvery-gray cliff with an appealing handcrack starting in a dihedral. This crag appeared to be the end of the line, but rounding another bend, I could see yet another outcrop farther below me, so there may be more yet to find here.
I turned back, intent on getting a climb or two in before calling it a day. Tom’s socks were drying in the breeze still, so we racked up and chose a line as close to the main wall as we dared attempt. It’s a steep, scruffy corner just right of the Big-Boy stuff, and it wasn’t at all certain to go.

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Tom starts up our first route. 

Tom took the sharp end, working easily up the initial blocky groove to a right-facing corner where the going gets steep. It also got dirty. Employing a nut tool to extract mud from a crack, he sought protection for few stiff moves, stemmed up the initial bulge, slung a sapling along the way, then inched up farther, heading for a widening notch on the left. It was stiff going, I could tell, so when Tom suddenly lurched, a hold flying away from his hand and hurtling down to my left, I thought he might take a fall on that slung bush. But he clung to his other hold and managed the move without further incident, scrambling into the protection of that notch. The last twenty feet of low-angle face needed some cleaning before he could finish the route, so for awhile, dirt, sod, and the occasional rock crashed into the talus below, before he could signal off-belay.

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The main wall: humanly possible?

I cleaned the gear, estimating about 5.8 for the crucial moves. This on outer edge of the really hard stuff! I imagine that face six feet to the left goes at a minimum of 5.10c; and the real midsection, well, if possible, only world-class climbers need apply.
At the top, we walked left about fifty feet to an oak tree situated close to the cliff edge and clearly on the other side of the roof area. Our rappel line made it down to the base with about ten feet to spare on either side, indicating the slightly taller midsection is over 100’ tall.
We took turns top-roping our rappel line, which, if one takes the easiest start, is 5.9+ or so, and would be worthwhile route as well.
It was getting late by the time we recovered our rope, and we were tired. Twenty minutes traipsing out of the woods in wet boots, searching for our snowshoes, then slogging out to the car was enough exercise remaining to make us both look forward to a hot shower and warm bed.

First Gunks Blitz

Monday, April 11th, 2011

With three days of work under my belt this week, there wasn’t a lot of guilt about taking a day off, so when, during a phone call, Tom mentioned he hadn’t been to the Gunks in over a decade, the Plan was hatched. I had just talked with Bruce about possibly heading south on Thursday (weather had nixed our Monday plans), so a few quick calculations, more phone calls etc. etc., and by Wednesday night, we had a foursome planning to meet at the EMS store at the base of those shimmering golden cliffs.

I got up and out early, but I also got lost on the way to Tom’s. There’s a big detour on the way to his house, a lot of twisty roads, and a bleary, impatient climber behind the wheel; but all turned out well. Our late start allowed the cliffs some time to dry, as the overnight weather was rainy there. We congregated at the store, chatted with Eric Waldron awhile, then headed for the cliffs around 10am.

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On the TR of Apoplexy

With four climbers, three ropes, and three racks, we planned a day with a lot of climbing. Since this was the year’s first real outing, we would take it easy on the sharp end, but chose routes that we could access harder TRs nearby.

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Dangling on Junior

To start the festivities, Bruce led Rhododendron while I led Horseman. With the help of a 70m rope and a great anchor in the block above it, I set up one end of my rope on Apoplexy. Bruce and Janet finished their route, so they left the rope up (ah, fixed anchors!) and Janet took on Laurel. Soon, the four of us were swapping lines and running up all those routes, plus Clover and Junior to boot. Gotta say, Junior repelled me once more. Aargh. I will get that route this year. I hope.

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Bruce spots Janet on the sharp end of Laurel.

Tom and I ran through the entire lineup before Bruce and Janet could finish Junior and get on our rope, so we pulled Bruce’s original line and walked down to Son of Easy O. Being my favorite climb at the Gunks, and one I’ve done countless times, I was able to lead it without looking too shaky. After Tom took his lap, Bruce and Janet had not yet arrived, so we began investigating the wall to the left. Squeezed between Easy Overhang and its stiffer prodigy, we thought we could make out a possible line, so off we went to work out the moves. Many falls later – many, many falls later – we worked out the sequences and wearily made our way to the anchors. Bruce dubbed this (or maybe the newer guidebooks dub it) Queasy O, a fitting name for a route that tears the tips so thoroughly.

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Heading up Son of Easy O.

By the time I’d had my lap on that bit, Bruce and Janet joined us. I belayed Bruce while he led Frog’s Head, while Janet belayed Tom on that 5.10 TR. Reaching the anchors, Bruce threaded rope and walked left to thread the chains above City Lights. Now we had another two routes to climb. I cleaned the lead, and then we all took a last run on whatever we liked to top off the day.

Most of us managed nine routes, Tom and Janet hit double digits, sending ten. We reached our cars before six o’clock. Not bad for an eight-hour day at the Gunks.

Thank you, Tom Lane, for the photos!