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I took the day off from work today (Friday) to head out to the gunks for rock climbing with Jesse, Kay, Devin, and Trainer.
This was a pretty big deal for a few reasons. First, I’ve never taken a day off from work in order to climb. Second, I’ve never been to the gunks… and the Gunks are huge. Physically and iconically. Here’s some info on the gunks.
‘Gunks’ is short for Shawangunk. The Shawangunk ridge is located in NY and is considered the premier climbing location in New England. According to Wikipedia, ‘Shawangunk’ has its roots from the Danish word for “smokey air.” There are a few theories as to why it was named in this way, but these stories are not nearly as exciting as the physical rock.
According to Trainer the ridge was formed when the North American Tectonic Plate smashed into the African Tectonic Plate. The mayhem that ensued resulted in a wall of fantastic rock jutting out from the otherwise flat terrain. Interestingly, Trainer also pointed out that when the rock, which had formed in nice horizontal layers, was violently pushed upwards, it tilted 22 degrees. So all of the faces and horizontals are 22 degrees off the horizontal (or vertical). The rock itself is a conglomerate of sandstone and quartz that overlays a bunch of shale. As the ridge was battered by the elements the shale wore away and the quartz and sandstone stayed… this resulted in wicked awesome overhangs perfect for rock climbing.
We left the House of Rock at about 5:30 and got to the cliff base a few hours later. The ridge itself was shrouded in fog so during our approach we didn’t have a solid understanding of how mammoth the ridge really was. While we lost the awe factor we gained the Lord of the Rings factor. The fog made the area appear quite surreal.
The veterans brought us over to a simple 5.7 and 5.8 to start. (The names escape me at the moment, but I’m sure that Devin will comment to this post and enlighten us all as to the names of all climbs climbed.) Devin lead route #1 and then dropped a top rope at route #2.
Now it should be said that Devin gets great pleasure out of setting up crack climbs. Cracks are deadly for the typical gym rat because most rock climbing gyms are not conducive to crack training. Gym climbers are typically much stronger at face climbing. Since I am just beginning to explore the outdoors, but can rock out on gym like face climbs, Devin enjoys stumping me with cracks. In the picture above the first climb we worked on drives straight up the center where the tree is. The second climb can be seen over to the right where the second rope is located.
Here’s a picture of Jesse rocking out on climb #2:
Jesse in action.
Once those two climbs were completed I lead my first route: a 5.2 (don’t laugh. leading is complicated). Leading is 50% climbing and 50% mind-game. With Devin’s support and the physical ease of the 5.2 climb, I could focus on the concepts of placing gear.
Leading was interesting. It will be a minor miracle when I can lead a 5.10. This is a picture taken from a ledge so large you could easily park four Buicks across it.
Mike’s first trad route, note the weak gear placement.
After whipping this out we played on a route with a sweet overhang also lead by Devin. Check it out:
Please note, the little blue dot in the upper left is me and the handful of little colorful dots at the base of the cliff are Devin, Trainer, and Kay. This route was pretty much as fun as you can get for a 5.7.
I finished up the day with one final crack climb that encouraged some funky finger jams. I ‘cheated’ on a few of the finger jams by retreating to the adjacent rock face and leaning back off the crack… using it more like an edge then a crack. I could feel Devin’s disappointment in me. Even still, it was a fun time.
Devin and Mike D, relaxing pre-crack.