Randy and I traveled to New England to celebrate friends getting married Labor Day weekend, but also took a few extra days to get to know the famous Shawangunks area in New York State (just an hour north of NYC) and do a whirlwind rock trip of New England. In a previous post, I explained my climbing anxiety about this trip, but as I subconsciously knew, I had nothing to worry about.

Day 1: Tuesday Sept 1

We’d just taken a red eye in from Seattle, so we gave ourselves a day to head from our airport in Massachusetts to New Paltz, NY, while giving our bodies a day to recover from jetlag. Upon entering town, we headed straight for Rock & Snow, the local climb shop.  Nothing like end-of-season sales – found some fantastic Outdoor Research capris that move everywhichway you want, plus a nice little top to match. I’m not a girly girl, but I’m no tom boy either. I like it when stuff looks like it should on the appropriate body type.

After perusing the books, stuff-I-haven’t-seen-on-the-west-coast (waxy stuff to help fingers recover from a hard day of climbing!) and Randy’s involved conversation about Aliens pro with the locals, we decided to explore the bouldering areas to get an idea of what we’d be dealing with the next day.

We entered the Peter’s Kill Area in Minnewaska State Park. After paying for our $7  bouldering permits, we hit the trails. After about an hour, we weren’t finding anything we’d want to climb without bouldering pads. But the rock was pretty amazing – very humongous squarish “rocks”, at the base of tall cliffs. It was like an atmosphere from a different planet. Like large blocks fell out of the sky. The forest was very reminiscent of  the woods I grew up with in Ohio – a dark forested canopy  but level terrain, covered in a brown maple-leafed carpet with thin trees throughout.

We came across some local guys who said to head back to the entrance of the bouldering/climbing trails and snoop around – there’d be stuff we were looking for.  We backtracked and sure enough, no sketchy landings that would break some bones, so we chalked up and started pawing at the rock. While not granite, the rock was surprisingly sticky, even with my ol’ beat up rock shoes. There’s no real name for the type of rock other than Shawangunks Rock, I think. We didn’t have a book with us, but research later told us we put in some hard work on some V0s and V1s, even a V3, I believe. It was a fantastic hour-long workout.  Overhangs, sit starts, high balls. After my slight anxiety a few weeks prior about climbing in an area where the grades are harder than what I’m used to, I left feeling pretty confident. (Sorry, no pictures, we were having too much fun.)

Feeling energized, we headed to the Grilled Otter for brew and food. Tried their local brew and found that the hoppiest of hoppiest beers we could order were, well, not as strong as some crazy IPAs we have over here. While not bad, it was really interesting to try something different. Carb’d up on spaghetti and sauce and took in the college town atmosphere. (New Paltz has a SUNY branch). Lots of young folks and their parents.

We crashed at The Chelsea Motel in Kerhonkson, the next town over. When most describe a hotel as “clean, basic, no thrills,” most think, “uh, theoretically it’s clean, but still feels yucky.”

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Chelsea Motel

That was definitely not the case here.  The Chelsea Motel is exactly what you get and it’s refreshing. The grounds are manicured, the property cat takes you in and makes sure you’re decent enough of a person to stay and the room key is the “old-fashioned” style – a house key complete with the oversized plastic diamond-shaped tag with your room number on it. Amenities include mircowave and mini-fridge, coffee, TV, plus the bathroom is exceptionally large for a hotel bath and the shower and water pressure is wonderful. All a climber needs.

Day 2: Wednesday, Sept 2

Randy hired The Gunks Guide, and we met Nick, the owner and our guide, Paul, at 9 a.m. at the Monhonk Preserve West Trapps parking area.

We warmed up on some single pitches – 5.6 Rhododendren and 5.7+/5.8- Laurel. The guide idea was fantastic, as Paul was able to get up the pitches with such ease and fleet-footedness and next thing you know, we’re climbing! No messing around with gear for us! Paul was a fantastic guide, and a real pleasure to watch. He’s been guiding here and around the world for 17 years, so he knew a few things. 🙂

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Randy on Rhododendren

I appreciated the previous night’s bouldering so much more that morning as we climbed because there weren’t any surprises. The rock is sticky and full of horizontal cracks, so it was really quite an fun scamper on Rhododendren. Made good use the straight arm techinque I’d been practicing at the gym, as well as just hauling myself up on the available jugs. Randy also made use of some of his favorite techniques, as observed by Paul, “Is he really stuffing his entire arm in the crack?” I shook my head and chuckled, “Yeah, he loves that stuff.”

Laurel was a little harder – especially with the crux start and even more especially for Randy b/c of his height. Nice thin crack on the way up. Balance and crimp/nubby training at the gym was paying off!

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Randy heading up Minty

The next two climbs were examples of classics we were there for – three-starred multi-pitched exposure! First was 5.4 Minty, with easy first pitch, the exposure on second pitch – made a step to the left right off the belay station and the floor below you drops and its nothin’ but air and trees! Yay! And a random hole in the flake to grasp as you make the step. What a thrill! Third was a shorty but more exposure while fourth pitch was another roof – pawed a bit at it to pull myself up and over. Jugs everywhere.  Stellar climb.

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Me headed up Minty

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The view to the left after a few Minty pitches

Randy kept asking me what I thought about the exposure. Initially, I told myself to keep looking at the rock, look at the rock, remember you’re on top rope. But that lasted a half-a-second and I was fine. Didn’t bother me a bit and just moved on and enjoyed the adrenaline. I think Randy was more impressed than I was.

Besides the exposure, the best part of this climb was the awesome free rappel near Madame G’s. 20 feet of pushing off rock, then hanging in mid-air for 100 feet as you lower! I love rappelling but at the same time struggle with it at the start. I don’t have enough body wieght to put on the friction system to get going sometimes.  But once I get going, it’s a zip down. Also using the autoblock, which I love.

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Paul leading Classic

Fourth and last climb was Classic (next to Jackie) – 5.7, three pitches. Nice change as it was thin-faced, with little nubs (my favorite!), and nice use of balance and straight arm techniques. The roof at the final pitch gave me a little trouble, but hauled myself up and over to the anchor point. Incredible views to end the day! Took a break, waited for two ladies to meet us up at the top (finishing Jackie) and we all headed down on the same rope.  By that point, our session was over. I was really quite sad, as I wanted to keep climbing but was thrilled  we got in eight pitches of some fun solid Gunks climbing.

Day 3: Thursday, Sept 3

This was probably our most adventurous day of  climbing. In fact, it turned into what I call a “Randy Adventure”, which usually involves bushwhacking, no distinguished trail, and exploration by headlamp.

We had driven from New Paltz to Westfield, MA the night before, where we’d stay the rest of our time in New England. Because we didn’t have any Wedding Duties that day to fulfill, we thought we’d do a little bouldering again. We decided to “claim” Vermont and New Hampshire and seek out rock there. After stop at the Smith & Wesson Shooting Range and then Eastern Mountain Sports, we trekked to Wapole, NH, via Vermont, to explore Fall Mountain.

It was about 7:30 p.m. when we parked, so the sun was already down over the horizon.  We sought out the trailhead, which involved walking along abandoned railroad tracks and trying to find some resemblance of a climbers trail. After entering the woods and bushwhacking up a gully, we found outcrops of black juggy rock, but a lot of it was wet and didn’t exactly have friendly landings. The few we did settle on were some V0s and V1s. We messed around on four routes, including a great juggy traverse, before deciding to head out by headlamp. The rock texture was rough (like granite, probably rougher)  and would definitely tear up some newbie finger pads over the course of a day.

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Headlamp Bouldering!

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Almost a sit-start

The best part of this trip though was how we freaked ourselves out (OK, Randy was tripping over this more) over the spooky late summer evening atmosphere. We parked along a river, with views of abandoned buildings across the water. A church bell tolled in the distance. The train cars were empty, graffiti’d and sitting on rusting tracks, which ended just before town. A single FiveTen climbers shoe, relatively new, was found partially buried within the ankle-deep layer of leaves that littered the forest. Very few chalk markings on the rock and the night only continued to grow darker …

We were happy to get back to the car.

More Pictures HERE

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