Shawangunk Mountains, New York – Rock Climbing

Last week Chris and I drove ten hours to climb at one of my favorite areas in the eastern US – the Shawangunk Mountains, a.k.a the Gunks.  The Gunks are located 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of New York City, in the Hudson River Valley.  The Gunks aren’t so much mountains as they are an escarpment 19 kilometres (12 miles) long and 90 metres (300 feet) high.

People have been rock climbing in the Gunks since the 1930s and today there are more than 1,000 established climbing routes, most of them accessed by a carriage road running along the base of the cliff.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon after spending a few  rainy days in Massachusetts. The weather forecast was still iffy, but we decided to give it a chance. I’m glad we did – we managed to climb for five days straight with only a few rain sprinkles here and there.

We spent most of our time climbing in the Trapps area.  We both managed to lead some new climbs and get on some old favorites.

Climbing in the Gunks can be pretty intimidating.  Large roofs and overhangs – even on easy climbs – , very exposed walls, and PG-rated climbs make for some adventurous climbing.

On this trip, Chris managed to get a clean lead of Retribution – a hard 5.10b climb that had eluded him last time.

One of Chris’s favorite climbs of the trip was Modern Times – a 5.8+ with a series of overhangs at the crux.  To climb through the crux, he had to cut loose from the wall and campus a few moves (climb using only his arms, legs dangling in the air).  When I got to that part of the climb, I didn’t have the upper-body strength to do the moves and ended up having to aid through the crux – a time-consuming process, but better than Chris having to come down and rescue me.  Extra slings for aiding are a must for me in the Gunks!

Saturday was our last day of climbing and we decided to go to the Near Trapps area which is less busy as the approach is along the cliff instead of on a carriage road. Our last climb of the day was Birdland, a beautiful two-pitch climb. The first pitch is a tricky face climb while the second pitch goes through a series of roofs.  I was happy to be able to climb through the roofs on this climb.  A great way to end another fun climbing road trip.

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Acadia National Park – Rock Climbing

On Saturday I joined Chris and Jon at the Precipice climbing area.  My shoulder was still hurting, but I figured I could try climbing an easy route with one arm. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get on the rock here at least once.

This was my third climbing trip in Acadia. I love climbing here – the rock is clean and sticky, there’s a good variety of routes, there are no large crowds or lineups, and the view from the top pitches is gorgeous.

We decided to climb an easy classic –  “Story of O”.  It’s a sweet two pitch climb with some fun jamming and stemming.   I managed to get up the climb without using my right arm too much. It made for some interesting body positioning which I thought was a lot of fun.

Once we rappelled down, we were joined by our friends Fred and Cara and their kids Marie-France and Maxime.  After his parents finished the classic climb “Old Town,” they set up a top rope nearby .  Maxime, 3, harnessed up and put on his cute tiny Sportiva climbing shoes. With a little bit of help from his dad, he was able to get a good way up the cliff . You can see him in the picture below chalking up for his next big move.  With huge smiles his parents watched him go. For a pair of climbing parents, this is a big step.

Chris and Jon climbed a handful more routes that day including Chris’s lead of “Connecticut Crack” – a tricky 5.11 with delicate footwork and thin cracks.

They finished the day with a very cold ascent of “Green Mountain Breakdown.”  With the wind starting to pick up I was very happy that Jon was there to climb this with Chris instead of me.  I tend to get a bit spooked out on exposed climbs when it’s super windy.

Earlier in the afternoon, Jon Tierney, the owner of Acadia Mountain Guides was out taking pictures of the cliffs for a new guidebook for the area.  He mentioned that there will be a climbers’ festival the weekend of May 26 and 27 with movies, talks, demos, crag clean up, and all-around fun. If you haven’t climbed in Acadia before, it would be a good time to go check it out.

What a great weekend in Acadia National Park!

Back to where it all began (aka rock climbing at Minkey Wall)

On Saturday Chris and I headed out to Cochrane Lane for a day of rock climbing. Cochrane Lane is the most developed trad climbing area in New Brunswick and one of my favorite crags in the area.

We hiked in to Minkey Wall, which is the prominent wall with impressive roofs that you can see from the parking lot. The hike in was much different than in past March outings- all the snow is already gone!

Minkey Wall is where Chris and I first met 4 1/2 years ago.  At the time I wasn’t rock climbing very often, but had tagged along with an old friend for a day on rock.  Chris was out aid climbing and ended his day by rapping into Minkey Wall.  We met, he liked my smile, and when I moved to Fredericton a few months later he made sure to come introduce himself at the climbing wall.  The rest is wonderful history. 🙂

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures around 10 celcius (50 F), but the strong winds made it feel a lot colder.  As you can see in the picture below, at one point in the morning I got pretty cold and was wearing a couple of layers of long sleeve shirts and Chris’s down jacket over my down jacket. I looked like the Michelin Man!  Thankfully it warmed up a bit after that.

We started out with me leading a few easy trad climbs – Dash of Fall Memory and Salt N’ Pepper.  They’re not very difficult, but I found myself taking a long time and needing to rest on a few pieces.  It always takes me a few days at the start of the season to get my “lead head” back. Hopefully next time out my lead climbing will be smoother.

Chris then lead up 5.8 for Style and A Warm and Sultry Evening. Two great climbs that he had no problem with.

We finished the day with a new-to-us climb.  I’d forgotten a quickdraw and nut on 5.8 For Style so Chris decided to lead up the small gully to the left of it and rap down to grab the quickdraw.  It wasn’t very difficult, but he says it’s always fun for him to go up something he’s never climbed up before, especially in this case where he had no clue what awaited him on the cliff.

Thus ended another great day climbing in Welsford with the man I first met there 4 1/2 years ago.  I’m looking forward to seeing where and on what adventures the next years will bring us!

Have you gone back to “where it all began”? 

First Outdoor Climbing Day of 2012

Last Sunday, we went outdoor climbing for the first time this season. It was great!

We weren’t sure if we were going to go because the weather forecast was calling for 4 C (39 F) with a few flurries, but I’d been itching to go climbing for the past few weeks and convinced Chris it would be fun.

We met our friends Chris and Jill at the Sunnyside crag, a sport climbing area about 45 minutes away. Six other climbers were already there by the time we arrived at noon.  Everyone was bundled up with lots of layers and had hand-warmers in their chalk bags.

Flurries started coming down as we were getting ready for our first climb. It’s the first time I’ve been rock climbing in snow. It was pretty neat :).

Our hands got pretty cold climbing and most of us wore socks in our climbing shoes (or climbed in boots!), but all in all, it wasn’t that bad.  Part of the cliff was still wet and full of icicles, but a good number of climbs were dry.

It felt wonderful to be back on rock after a winter of climbing on plastic holds.  I love the feeling of climbing rock and the extra challenge of route-finding.  Indoors, routes are tapped with different colours so you never have to guess which way to go.  But on a rock climb, even though you have a general idea of which way to go because of the bolts, you still have to do more mental work to figure out the best way to approach a climb.

I can’t wait to go out again!  I’m crossing my fingers that the sunny forecast for this weekend happens.

Indoor climbing competition

One of my favorite things to do is to go rock climbing, preferably outside, but when it’s too cold to go outside, I head indoors to climb.

The first time I went rock climbing was 11 years ago and I was instantly hooked.  I rock climbed outdoors when I could over the years, depending on where I was living and how easy it was to get to a rock cliff.  I started climbing more frequently, both outdoors and indoors, four years ago when I moved to Fredericton, joined the UNB Rock and Ice Club, and met my future husband Chris there.

The UNB Rock and Ice Club is a great volunteer-based community group that runs a  non-profit bouldering gym and a variety of climbing-related activities (introductory rock and ice schools; advanced rock schools;climbing safety sessions; Banff Mountain Film festival).

Last Saturday the UNB Rock and Ice Club hosted an indoor bouldering competition.  At a bouldering gym, climbers use artificial holds to climb up walls without a rope (usually no higher than 15 feet).  Large mattresses are in place to catch falls.  This is different than at a rope climbing gym where climbers wear harnesses and are tied in to ropes while climbing walls that are usually around 40 feet high.

Since I joined the Club four years ago I’ve tried to go to all the competitions (three a year).  I love the day of competition – so many new routes to try, the challenge of trying to complete the hardest routes I can in as few tries as possible, and the competitive energy in the air . I’m usually super nervous at the beginning, my heart beating like crazy on the first few routes. After a few routes, I’m warmed up and start trying harder problems. The atmosphere at competitions is super friendly with climbers encouraging each other and offering sincere congratulations when a route is completed.

On Saturday there were two categories: open and recreational. The open category’s winner was determined in a finals round.  The top six climbers from the preliminary round each climbed four new routes and had five minutes to climb each one. The winner was the one who completed the most climbs in the least number of attempts.  It’s always fun to watch great climbers on these super hard routes.

I climbed in the recreational category which is a three hour competition where competitors try to climb the hardest problems they can in the least amount of attempts.  A climber’s top six scores are added up at the end and the climber with the most points wins. We have a lot of strong women climbers at our gym and I didn’t end up winning the competition on Saturday, but I had a great time. I climbed hard, gave it my best, and was happy with my results.  This is the last competition for the season – hopefully we’ll be climbing outside in a few weeks!

If you haven’t tried indoor rock climbing yet, I’d recommend it!