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BoulderingClimbingTrip Journal

5.10×10 and Hunter’s Rocks, PA

By June 18, 20123 Comments

Watch out Alex Honnold. The new speed-climbing trad-masters are in town, and your reign on top shall not last long. In a remarkable display of endurance, guts, and athleticism, two relatively unknown climbers managed a feat heretofore unimagined at the Shawangunks.

“We used to joke about how someday, Wolfgang Gullich’s grandson would be able to climb ten 5.10 routes in a day at the Trapps,” says guidebook author and Gunks veteran Dick Williams. “What these two did will inspire generations of future climbers.”

Okay, so Dick Williams didn’t really say that, or at least not in reference to us. Here’s what really happened in our last few days at the Gunks. Also, mega-congratulations to Alex and Hans, for making the old Nose record look foolish.

Vikki picked up a shift on Sunday, June 10, so we spent the day working at Bacchus, a pub with internet and hundreds of beers to choose from. While there, I saw on Facebook that Murph had a list of 3-star 5.10s he wanted to tick, and a few messages later we had a plan: Tackle ten 5.10s in the Trapps (the main cliff of the Gunks) the very next day.

Murph’s Tick List. We attempted the first ten.

In contrast to the rain and humidity we’d been having, Monday turned out to be perfect. Temps were in the 60s, a breeze was blowing, the sun was kept at bay by the stratus layer, and it was dry. We met at the Bistro Mountain Store for coffee at 8:45, had breakfast, and headed up to the Trapps.

Long, skinny death

We probably didn’t get on the first route, Frustration Syndrome (.10c), until 10:15. It was a one pitch deal, which Murph led. He lowered, I followed. Though I have very little trad experience, the fact that most of the cracks in the Gunks are horizontal makes the climbing fairly intuitive, which in turn made the 5.10×10 idea much less intimidating. The scariest pitches by far were the first pitches of Spring and Winter, which involved insecure stemming in corners, a discipline that neither of us have practiced much. Fortunately, they were the second and third routes of the day, and we dispatched them easily.

I am not comfortable in this photo. The first pitch of Spring (5.9).


Spenser on Ridiculissima (5.10d)

We marched down the cliff, ticking one- and two-pitch classics until the sun went down. I led a few of them, including Ridiculissima (.10d). This pitch was harder than most due to having a sustained, overhanging face as opposed to the short, distinct roof cruxes that make climbing in the Gunks somewhat repetitious. At one point I looked down to see that my last piece, a little nut, had fallen out and slid down the rope to what was now my last piece, a red C3 30 feet below. I apparently need some practice placing.

En route from route to route.

The sun went down as we lowered off Nurse’s Aid, a long pitch of 5.10c that was our seventh route of the day. Unfortunately, due to social obligations, we had to walk out and get back to town. If not, we would have definitely continued by headlamp and completed the goal, as we both were still feeling strong.

Even though we only did seven routes, we completed ten full pitches of 5.10, so we felt pretty good about that. Vikki was there to film much of it, and we’ll probably include it in the next RVProj episode. I feel as though I have a good sampling of the Trapps, and that I don’t need to go back to the cliff for a while. Endless horizontals, short and distinct cruxes, and lots of high-stepping can get tiresome, and just about every climb there has some or all of the above. But the views from the belays are great, and it’s hard to beat the Gunks for accessible, exposed in the easier grades.

On Tuesday the rains came back, and Vikki and I departed from New Paltz. The repairs on the Pilgrim were complete, but it’s a long way from New York to Indiana. To break up the drive, we asked our Facebook friends where we should go for a day of bouldering in Pennsylvania. Luke suggested Hunter’s Rocks, so we used Mountain Project to find ’em.

Note the way everything is slanted in this part of the state. The place marker is for State College, which is the name of the town that Penn State is located in. I did not know that before.

It was a gorgeous day, and speaking of gorgeous, rural PA should be on your list of charming places to drive through and hunt for Bed and Breakfasts. The towns are all little one-main-street jobs with old colonial-style buildings. Everything’s green, agriculture and natural areas intermingle seamlessly, and fishing and swimming holes are in abundance. Look at the Google satellite image, and you can see evidence of the glacial past that created the hilly present.

The parking lot for Hunter’s Rocks

Me on some warmuppy thing. Pocketz r00lz!

America in pant form

Vikki tops out the Horse Pens boulder. To be clear, this is in Hunter’s Rocks, not Alabama.

We found the parking lot and hiked in to the rocks, which sit on top of a hill. There is an obvious trail, and you’ll know you’re there when you encounter a fire pit and tons of rock. It is reminiscent of Castle Rock in California, with a tall sandstone jumble at the peak of the hill and various sizes of boulders scattered around. We explored a bit, and used the Mountain Project guidebook app, but honestly were not too impressed with the area (The MP guide is very limited, since most of the rock is on private land). We had the place to ourselves, and climbed what we could find.

Me on Mushroom Tattoo (V6). That’s way better than the other way around.

Towards the end of the day, we met Jim Bowers, a local who also manufactures holds out of what is apparently a much better substance than plastic. Check out for details. Anyway, he showed us around some of the other boulders, and we were immediately blown away. The sandstone is amazing. Horse Pens grit, and Castle Rock features means that virtually every square inch of rock is climbable. Jim was working on “circuits,” where he would traverse for literally hundreds of feet at a time, starting on one boulder and making it a long long distance without touching the ground. Large prows and proud boulders make for dozens of 5.10-5.12 highballs. Jim showed us some classics, such as MDSF (the acronym is NSFW: Monkey Dick Skull Fuck) and Mojo. He claims that the rocks just keep on going, and are part of a giant band of sandstone that dominates much of Pennsylvania geology. If what he says is true, then PA just might be the next big bouldering destination. According to Jim, Josh Helke (founder of Organic) thinks so, and moved to the area to help develop.

We left Hunter’s Rocks feeling a sadness at having to leave that night, but totally buzzing from having visited another perfect little pocket of forest with boulders in it. The weather was supposed to stay nice for a day or two, Jim kindly offered us a place to crash, and there was still so much to see. Sadly we had to decline, as we needed to get to Indiana to pick up the trailer, and then on to Missouri to visit Vikki’s family. We’ll be Colorado-bound next week!

Off into the sunset, and the Midwest.

In terms of projects, the Banksy video is 95% complete and will be launched soon. Once we get to Colorado, we’ll be able to go through some of the footage we got during our frantic East Coast portion of the trip, so watch for a highlight reel. Finally, Colorado is going to be dope. Brad, Justin, Adam and Spaz won’t know what hit ’em.


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