If you don’t know what The Gunks are, they are a group of Mountains situated in upstate New York in near the quaint and kitschy town of New Paltz.
The area is haven for hikers, trail runners, bikers, climbers, and vacationers alike. Behind the well-maintained trails and lovely resort facade; however, lies a gnarly climbing area. It is an area where 5.5 will make you pee your pants and only the trad-daddiest of crushers are putting their pieces in a 5.9.
To my chagrin as a spoiled ex-Red River Gorge sport climber, there are no bolts anywhere. However, what the Gunks lacks in bolts, it makes up for in trad routes. According to my friend who has been climbing there for 6 years the Gunks has “more than you could hope to climb in a lifetime if you went every weekend until you died”.
On my trip, we kept it casual. Due to a lack of both trad experience and gear, we did an early morning sampling of the boulders on Undercliff Road. It was exceptionally good fun and I am very grateful to our new friend from our local gym for coming up on short notice, lending us pads, and serving as an excellent tour guide.
“So what you do is walk down Undercliff Road and boulder your way back.” Our buddy explained as we walked down the well-maintained path. Undercliff Road is long. The boulders and routes are on one side and an immaculate view of the valley is on your right. We couldn’t see it for most of the morning, but the fog was really cool!
We started out on box car boulder, doing some warm up routes–VO through V1. Our friend also explained that the grades were stiff. Take your gym grade and add three. I don’t boulder outside much, but this sounded about right. Going into this trip to the Gunks, I expected this ferocious gap between indoor and outdoor grades. I had made sure when I left my apartment that morning to leave my ego at home. It was much more fun that way.
After Box Car, we made our way down to Andrew’s boulder. I worked on it a bit. It’s classic V4, where, if you’re tall enough, you do this crazy move where you drop your heel hook to a toe hook so you can get the last couple of inches out of your legs to reach the next hold. It was ridiculous. I’m too short to get to do that move, but I am pretty psyched to keep working on it. Apparently you can keep climbing in the Gunks until December if you’re lucky. You might see me there.
A few mini-projects later, we made it to our final route. (See some fun mini-proj pictures below– I actually remembered to take pictures of these).
We then made it to the final route of the day, back at the beginning of Undercliff Road. It’s called the Lorax.
“It used to be fun, until they cut the trees down! It makes the whole route at least one grade easier.” Our friend reminisced about the days that there were two trees in front of the problem, making it exciting and absurd to negotiate. “It didn’t count if you touched the tree. If you even looked at the tree funny, you didn’t sent it.”
He also added “I prefer to climb without the crowds, so I like to get here around 6 or 7 a.m. By the time I’m done, everyone else is showing up.” Which was true. By the time we were ready to leave, the rectangle-backed afternoon boulderers were coming in droves. It was time to go.
We walked off of Undercliff Road sun-soaked, smelly, and happily exhausted. Mike and I smashed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before hitting the road. In two hours we were back at home, napping.
I’m a pretty lackluster boulderer and I don’t know anything about trad climbing, but I do know that I am very, very excited to get to know my new home crag–and maybe expand my horizons while I’m at it.
You can learn more about climbing at the Gunks at http://www.mohonkpreserve.org.