First Gunks Blitz

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!

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