Welcome (back) to The Gunks

Making the most of the vestiges of pre-winter weather, and nearing our departure from JFK, it was inevitable that we’d revisit The Gunks as the last stop in our roadtrip. The forecast of cloud and damp for our last three days wasn’t great – it was just better than anywhere else, so we just sucked it up and got on with discovering more Gunks classics.

The foliage has certainly moved on in the last 5 weeks – compare mid September

… with late October

and the crowds have thinned (though there are still a surprising number of climbers around, given our midweek window and the dodgy weather).

With a bit of research ahead of the trip I’d compiled a “Gunks Top 10” to-do list. We’d ticked a bunch of these on our outbound visit: Strictly from Nowhere, Something Interesting, Nosedive, The Arrow and Annie O, so now we set about adding a few more.

High Exposure (or High E as it seems to be known) certainly deserves its place on the list, and we had a brief wait “in line”, even on an inauspicious day. Here’s the team ahead of us setting off up the first pitch (which is a long 180ft and fairly rambling intro)

This deposits you on a large ledge about 100ft from the top and you’d be excused for thinking “what’s all the fuss about?”

That’s until you step up and around the arete and into THE VOID. It might only be a 5.6 move (probably 7?) but it really does deliver HIGH EXPOSURE as you layback above the roof and then haul jugs all the way to the top. Memorable!

A couple of sectors back is Son of Easy O, which gets a huge 3.8/4 consensus score on Mountain Project. Inevitably there was a team in situ, and daylight was fading, so we did the adjacent and almost as classic City Lights as a consolation, running both pitches together into 200ft of fun. Here’s the view of the team on Son of…

Heading down we were rewarded by what turned out to be the only glimmer of the sun in our three day visit, but it was worth waiting for: A spectacular shaft of red sunlight sneaking under the clouds and setting a swathe of the surrounding forest aglow.

Next day was Helen’s Birthday but the weather gods weren’t playing ball, as a plume of cloud hugged the crag.

Undeterred we did Jackie, which was thoroughly enjoyable – here’s Helen on the halfway stance

and voyaging through the upper reaches:

Then, second time lucky, we got on Son of Easy O, which turned out to be well worth persevering with. Slightly sketchy start to some straightforward wall climbing followed by a stupendous jug haul through a series of roofs. Amazing territory for 5.8!

We both voted it the best trad route we’d done all trip – quite an accolade given the ground we’ve covered!

Starting to drizzle now, but we were in “penultimate day” mode, so decided to squeeze in another classic. Horseman is “perhaps the best single pitch 5.5 in The Trapps” and takes the compelling (?) wide crack in the Uberfall; the most easily accessed sector.

An enjoyable romp despite (or perhaps because of) the full-on rain shower that we ended up climbing it in.

What’s better than a tasting flight of IPAs to celebrate – two flights of course!

For our final day in The Gunks (and in The States) Helen kindly offered to belay me on a couple of the remaining trickier routes on my Top 10.

We warmed up on Three Doves, 5.8+ and adjacent to The Arrow and Annie Oh!, and similar in style – quite spicy in the damp conditions and FYI you can’t run the two pitches together with double 60m ropes!

A few routes to the right is the impressive corner taken by Feast of Fools, 10b

This takes a weaving line through a couple of roofs with a crux pull into a cramped V groove and a bit of a runout above a rusty peg. Exciting!

My final choice of route was Welcome to The Gunks! Another 4* 10b and what should have been the perfect Farewell to The Gunks!

As it turned out, it was a severe arse-kicking! I’m not really a “roof person” and this thug-fest has FOUR of them (not to mention a couple of runout sections)! Here’s roof number 2…

I mistakenly reckoned that it would stay fairly dry in the rain, but didn’t factor in the 110% humidity turning every chalked hold to gloop. It was the first time I’d weighted the rope on a trad route all trip, and a bit of a damp squib to end with – but undoubtedly a stellar line! Just one of many reasons to come back…

That’s it for our NE roadtrip (that turned into a North East USA plus South East Canada roadtrip – we need a snappier title). 44 days, 3,500 miles, 6 states/provinces, 34 days climbing, thousands of feet of rock and untold stars. (Obviously we did a few zigzags…)

Equally memorable were some stunning campgrounds, awesome microbreweries, cracking campfires and a whole bunch of welcoming local climbers and kindred spirits wherever we went. It’s been a heap of fun and we’re sure to be making a return trip now we’ve done the reconnaissance. If you’ve been following our journey, thanks for the company and keep an eye out for the next episode of Rock Around The World.

Cheers, Dom and Helen

2 responses to “Welcome (back) to The Gunks

  1. Thanks you two – Wonderful Autumn wander with the Oughtons.

    Have safe journey back. I’ve enjoyed your …… ’19 NEUS Trip

    Catch you at the Dinner maybe…. – Payne

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