Monday, August 17, 2009

My Gunks climbing adventure

I had the distinct privileged to climb the Gunks (Shawangunks, New Paltz, NY) this weekend with Nick Ragozzino (shown left). It was both an amazing and a very scary experience. For those of you who don't know it, Gunks climbs are very underrated. I climbed 3 different 5.2 rated climbs. These were more difficult or similar to 5.6's at other mountains. Plus the exposure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_climbing_terms) was off the charts scary. I led Easy Overhang, Harvard, and Easy Keyhole.

I had forgotten how scared I felt pulling the left to right crossover where you literally have to pull yourself over the void, and how much I was begging for that next piece, and wondering if I was "off route" and where the belay station was on the 2nd pitch. Looks like an easy staircase from below, but the exposure make this a heart pounding thriller.

Harvard was not rated as a classic climb, but since it starts with a fully enclosed right from the start, moving out of the chimney onto the ledge, this is a fun 5.2 Chimney climb. While sitting on the first ledge, I saw a snake in the handhold. Using my nut-tool, I quickly yanked it out and it dropped onto Nick's bag down below. He got more of a scare than I did. Thinking the inanimate serpent was dead from the fall, he got even more of a scare when the other climbers went to move it. Speaking of serpents, I had to slither through a couple of rocks including one standing on top of a thin flake putting my arm into a big hole and pulling myself up onto the next ledge while ducking my head. This climb also sports a fun move from the face-to the left facing corner near the top.

The GunksFinally Easy Keyhole! 5.2 my rear! The first move are nothing for a top-roper, but when you are new to lead climbing and you are worried about decking, WoW! I could not help but be reminded that Hans Kraus and Fritz Weissner (http://www.theuberfall.com/wiessner.htm) carried some big cajones in those chalk bags! Not wanting to bypass standing on top of the pinnacle boulder, I climbed up and out looking down into the void and felt scared out of my mind.

Other, better climbers would have found these climbs easy, but for those who have never lead before, I have found 5.6's at other places that were much easier to learn on than these climbs. The Gunks is not for the faint of heart.
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