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Climbing in CO vs Gunks
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By Sarah Meiser
From Boulder, Colorado
Sep 6, 2012
Me hugging the summit block of Snowmass Mountain after a winter ascent, my 2nd attempt

I'm hoping to head to the Gunks for a few days soon and am wondering what sort of climbs I should set my sights on. Anybody used to climbing in Colorado and have insight to share on differences/similarities in the climbing type and grades?

Phrases like "a 5.5 leader will not be comfortable on this climb" have me second guessing. Here in Colorado I don't think we even have such a thing as a "5.5 leader".

I know the routes are steep - I have gym muscles and tend to prefer steep and juggy so I'm not too afraid of that aspect. (I led Positively 4th Street recently even though I usually don't lead 5.9). I'm kind of a chicken and comfortably onsight 5.7+ trad here in Colorado even though I can climb much harder. Any advice/tips appreciated. Thanks!


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By Cor
Sep 6, 2012
black nasty

i grew up climbing in the gunks. spent time there from about 1990 to 1998, then moving to colorado. that being said, i think the gunks have some stiff rating, and colorado (depending on where) could be a bit softer. say, if you always climb in bolter canyon ;D on newer sport routes, they are way soft compared to the gunks.

you will love the climbing in the gunks. i don't think i have ever done a bad route there! one thing to note is, it is abundant with horizontal cracks... so in regards to that, protection can be spaced out. not on all routes, but it is something to look at while choosing your climb to lead.

every route, grade does not matter, seems to have a roof or an overhang. shockleys ceiling 5.6 has a 2-3ft roof ceiling. it does protect well though. then there is modern times 5.8, has a roof that your feet cut loose from. it seems huge for an 8...

i would just suggest starting a grade or two below your general lead ability. then work up. like i said, there are no bad routes, so don't worry about, oh it's only a 5.4 or whatever, it will be fun!

cheers,
c


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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Sep 6, 2012
Stoked...

Ya start low and work your way up for sure...


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By Brian
From North Kingstown, RI
Sep 6, 2012

Gunks 5.5 = Colorado 5.10. Okay...only kidding but that would start a great flame war. I climb at the Gunks a lot and have climbed in CO a fair amount. The grades in Eldo and Lumpy Ridge are comparable to the Gunks. The reason that some of the climbs, especially the lower grades, are so stiff at the Gunks is that they were first done in the 1930s and 40s and back then the hardest thing in the country was 5.7 so something graded 5.6 was pretty darn hard. The Gunks have lots of overhangs/roofs so when we eastern climbers go out west we think your roofs are pretty easy. On the other hand many Gunks climbers may get spanked on a Layton Kor crack on Lumpy Ridge. Hope this helps. Have fun at the Gunks.


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By Julius Beres
From Boulder, CO
Sep 6, 2012
Rewritten

Sarah Meiser wrote:
(I led Positively 4th Street recently even though I usually don't lead 5.9). I'm kind of a chicken and comfortably onsight 5.7+ trad here in Colorado even though I can climb much harder. Any advice/tips appreciated. Thanks!


I basically learned to trad lead at the Gunks (and NH), and now have been living in Colorado for 6+ years.

My feeling is that the Gunks aren't really any harder than Lumpy or Eldo, but a different style of climbing. (At least once you get to the 5.7 level... perhaps the low 5's at the Gunks seem harder than low 5's here... then again, I was more freaked out moving here and doing run out easy east faces of the flatirons than I was climbing juggy, well protected 5.5s at the Gunks)

If you have a gym or sport climbing background, the Gunks will actually seem much more straight forward. The cracks are mostly horizontal creating good jugs and holds. Although a similarly steep and sustained climb at the gym would probably get a stiffer rating, the basic technique is the same. By contrast, out here, we have far more vertical cracks that require crack climbing technique which gym/sport climbers generally lack. (Moving west, I had to spend quite a bit of time improving my crack technique). Furthermore, the flared cracks at Lumpy are even more challenging to not only climb, but also to protect well.
The Gunks also tends to protect much better than many of the climbs here in Colorado. With the exception of splitter cracks like at Indian Creek (did I just imply the creek is in Colorado ;) ), I've never climbed at a place with more gear options than the Gunks. Sure, there are run out lines there, but if you stay on the routes rated "G" in the guide book, you will be perfectly safe.
Route finding at the Gunks can be a bit more challenging. Rather than just following up a crack, you are climbing a face with horizontal cracks. Unless you are in a corner, it might not be obvious where to go... this could lead to accidentally going a harder way or a more run out route. The Gunks also requires trust. You will get to a 5.5 roof and it might seem like it is harder than 5.5, but then you reach up and there are HUGE jugs just over the lip. (or course, if you are off route this might not be the case).

So, in summary, I don't think the Gunks are any harder than Eldo/Lumpy, but it is a different style of climbing. I do think gym skills will translate well there, and as long as you make a reasonable selection of climbs, everything you try should be pretty safe.
That being said, there are SUPER fun easy routes at the Gunks, such as "High E" and "Shockley's Ceiling" at 5.6... they are classics as well. So, the best thing you can do, is start with a few of the easy classics, see how you feel, and then work your way up.

Oh, the biggest challenge at the Gunks is waiting in line to get on the climb you want to do on a beautiful fall weekend day...


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By chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Sep 6, 2012
First climb after knee surgery <br />

I climbed a long time in the Gunks before moving out west. Couple of things

a) This is the end of summer. It could be very humid. Didn't think I'd notice it but the last time I was in the Gunks, I REALLY did.

b) Gunkies like to claim that every route has some sort of roof problem. I'm calling BS. Many climbs are slabby, and you could go for days just climbing slabs without touching a roof. After I left the Gunks I loved slabs (until experiencing Tuolumne slabs).

c) The advise of starting a grade or two below your normal, is good advise. The rock and style is a bit different and until you get used to it, you will probably get spanked on a few routes. The rock fractured in horizontal bands. So in general you will be working between these bands, in both holds and gear. Luckily for you below 5.10 most of the routes are well protected (a few aren't like Fritschens Follies which is fun but a total X-rated lead). Once you hit 5.10d into the 5.11's gear becomes very technical.

d) since the routes aren't usually following cracks, routefinding can sometimes be an issue.Not always, someroutes just start at a spot and go straight up. Belwo 5.10, many routes will follow tthe path of least resistance so they are not direct though. Check the guidebook before starting up.

e) Gunkies like to claim that the grades are stiff. I am calling BS. Like any other place some routes are eassy for the grade and some stiff for the grade, but by in large they are appropriate.

The cruxes I found were often shorter then what I climb nowadays.


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Sep 6, 2012

Chuck is right on. It's not that much harder - just different.

There are not roofs everywhere, but there are a lot of them. If you don't have good overhang technique, you'll get punished. If you do, you'll find that the holds are plentiful and positive, and that pulling them is shockingly easy.

The main differences between CO - and most western climbing - and the Gunks is in the low grades. 5.1 through 5.6 are distinct grades, and not all that easy. If you usually onsight 5.7+ in Colorado, you'll be fine on Gunks 5.4 and 5.5 - it's just going to be much more sustained and exposed than you're used to at those grades. But the moves aren't hard.

Once you get to 5.6 or 5.7, up to about 5.10, there's a little bit of "old-school" sandbagging, but they are at least reasonable. Everything is within a +/- of most climbing areas, IMO. It's certainly not a soft area, but it's not 2 grades harder than the rest of the world (just Squamish...)

Above that, where I don't climb, I hear things are even more level with the rest of the world.


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By Em Cos
From Boulder, CO
Sep 6, 2012

I agree with most of what's been said so far - grades seem pretty comparable to Eldo, but if you're not used to the style of climbing it can seem harder. It's true not every climb has a roof, but there are a lot of them. It's actually really fun to climb through roofs that are really pretty easy and feel like a badass.

You shouldn't be waiting in line for anything. There are hundreds of climbs, all along the same cliff band. If a climb is taken, just walk a little farther until you see something open you'd like to get on. If it's a really busy day, just walk on down the carriage road for a while before heading up to the cliff and the crowds should be noticeably thinned. It shouldn't be too humid in September, and I've heard it's been a pretty dry summer anyway.

Probably the biggest difference is the routes tend to wander a lot more than they do out here. Figuring out how to manage rope drag and which draws to extend might take a bit of practice. Pitches tend to be shorter for this reason and sometimes trying to link them is a bad plan even if you have plenty of rope.

One other thing - with the overhangs, sometimes it can be very difficult to get back on a route after falling off, even at easier grades. Sometimes, lowering wouldn't get you back down to anything either. Make sure you and your partner both know how to prusik.


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By wivanoff
Sep 6, 2012
High Exposure

When and for how long?

I've never climbed in CO, but have climbed at the Gunks a lot. I doubt you'll have much problem if you start with some lower grades and work up to what you're comfortable with.

Although I can't help you with relative grades, here are some things you might like to know:

The Preserve charges $17/day/person for climbing at the Gunks. There is no weekly pass. If you'll be climbing more than 6 days, a yearly pass might be worthwhile.

There are two main parking areas. The West Trapps lot and the lot by the Visitor Center. The West lot is closer to where you want to be. It fills up in minutes on a busy weekend...

Pick up a Dick Williams guide book at Rock and Snow in New Paltz (or online). The current guidebook to the Trapps is commonly called "Grey Dick". Lots of good information there. If you'll only be there a few days, I'd focus on the Trapps, but there are some great routes at Near Trapps. But, don't waste $$ on the Near Trapps guide just for a few days. Get the route beta for a few routes online. There is no guidebook to Lost City (intentionally left for climbers to explore), but you should be able to get some route information at Rock and Snow. Peterskill is a different area - a state park - and your Preserve daypass will not work there.

Many routes wander quite a bit. Route finding can be a challenge. It's not absolutely necessary but many people (myself included) prefer DRT at the Gunks. Although, for the first 10 years I climbed there I used a single rope.

I usually carry a few small/med Tricams in addition to my cams and stoppers. Lot's of people say Tricams are unnecessary but I like them for the horizontal cracks and tend to use them at anchors. If you don't already have them, don't go out and buy them. You'll be fine without.

I often clip the pins but always try to back them up. Some pins have been there for 20-30 years. There are few bolts at the Gunks and there is a moratorium on placing new ones.

The guidebook will show bolted/chained rappel points. There are also a lot of slings on trees the people have unofficially added. The walkoff along the top of the cliff to the Uberfall is nice, though.

Lot's of great places to eat in New Paltz. Post at Gunks.com too. You can sort classic routes by grade there and I'm sure some folks there will be happy to help. Post here or PM me if you have more questions.


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By slim
Administrator
Sep 6, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

a really good combination training plan for the gunks would be climbing in the gym combined with climbing at eldo. gym for the muscles, eldo for the mind. the climbing at the gunks is generally really straight forward if you are fit. the protection is usually good, but it can be runout in places also. to me it seemed like the funout climbing was generally on fairly positive climbing, so it didn't seem like too big of a deal. the rock quality is usually very good also.

you'll have a lot of fun. i wouldn't worry about the grades too much. the really big difference between the gunks and colorado is that routes 5.7 or easier are worth climbing at the gunks - they are still a lot of fun. so, you won't feel like you are wasting your time climbing the easier stuff there.


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By Eric Engberg
Sep 6, 2012

Brian wrote:
Gunks 5.5 = Colorado 5.10. Okay...only kidding but that would start a great flame war. I climb at the Gunks a lot and have climbed in CO a fair amount. The grades in Eldo and Lumpy Ridge are comparable to the Gunks. The reason that some of the climbs, especially the lower grades, are so stiff at the Gunks is that they were first done in the 1930s and 40s and back then the hardest thing in the country was 5.7 so something graded 5.6 was pretty darn hard. The Gunks have lots of overhangs/roofs so when we eastern climbers go out west we think your roofs are pretty easy. On the other hand many Gunks climbers may get spanked on a Layton Kor crack on Lumpy Ridge. Hope this helps. Have fun at the Gunks.


Actually in the 30's and 40's NOTHING was rated 5.x anything. The YDS hadn't been invented.

But most of the advice upstream is pretty good. Take time to dial in the subtleties of the style and the routefinding. Same as traveling to any new place. Routes in CO and the Gunks that are rated the same and were put up in the same era are comparable in difficulty - may require different techniques though.


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By Alicia Sokolowski
From Brooklyn, NY
Sep 6, 2012
Hanging out waiting for Die Antwoord to come on stage

Cor wrote:
then there is modern times 5.8, has a roof that your feet cut loose from. it seems huge for an 8... i would just suggest starting a grade or two below your general lead ability. then work up. like i said, there are no bad routes, so don't worry about, oh it's only a 5.4 or whatever, it will be fun! cheers, c


Regular Gunks climber here that recommended Modern Times to a regular J-Tree climber when he asked for a 5.8.5.9. After he did it, he tracked me down to tell me never to recommend it anyone looking for something in that range again. He told me it was every bit a 5.10 to him. J-Tree is insanely stiff, so I would watch out the that route. I think it is more sandbagged than average.


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By Brian
From North Kingstown, RI
Sep 6, 2012

Eric Engberg wrote:
Actually in the 30's and 40's NOTHING was rated 5.x anything. The YDS hadn't been invented. But most of the advice upstream is pretty good. Take time to dial in the subtleties of the style and the routefinding. Same as traveling to any new place. Routes in CO and the Gunks that are rated the same and were put up in the same era are comparable in difficulty - may require different techniques though.


Right you are...except that YDS was invented, just not for 5th class climbs. From Wikipedia: The Yosemite Decimal System was initially developed as the Sierra Club grading system in the 1930s to classify hikes and climbs in the Sierra Nevada. Class 5 was subdivided in the 1950s (at Tahquitz). So I should have said 1950s. Even some of the early FA climbers rated Gunks climb harder than the early guidebook authors. When first climbing "Sixish" the second asked the leader what the grade was and he yelled down "sixish." It is rated 5.4+. Beware the "+" routes at the Gunks.


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Sep 6, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on

not relevant to climbing but: Go to the Mountain Brauhaus!!! Across the street from the EMS. So tasty. Great beer selection (Spaten Octoberfest is excellent), and awesome German food.

As for climbing: Me and a friend went to Colorado this summer, and we found ourselves not used to the slabby, cracky climbing of Lumpy, and we're more used to the steep, juggy climbing of the Gunks. I think most of the grades are pretty spot-on, with some exceptions. Different climbing, for sure.


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By Tom Ormond
Sep 6, 2012
chicken suit

I lived in the gunks and climbed there for 10 years and was a preserve ranger for a few years. Now live in nederland and am a colorado climber.

if you have questions about the climbing there or anything else hit me up. Would be glad to tell you about my favorite place in the universe.


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By JohnWesely
From Red River Gorge
Sep 6, 2012
Gunking

Alicia Sokolowski wrote:
Regular Gunks climber here that recommended Modern Times to a regular J-Tree climber when he asked for a 5.8.5.9. After he did it, he tracked me down to tell me never to recommend it anyone looking for something in that range again. He told me it was every bit a 5.10 to him. J-Tree is insanely stiff, so I would watch out the that route. I think it is more sandbagged than average.


Honestly, I am not really sure that Modern Times even deserves the plus in the 5.8+.


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By Rick Mix
From Nederland, Colorado
Sep 6, 2012

Tom Ormond wrote:
I lived in the gunks and climbed there for 10 years and was a preserve ranger for a few years. Now live in nederland and am a colorado climber. if you have questions about the climbing there or anything else hit me up. Would be glad to tell you about my favorite place in the universe.



You Da Man Tommy. And to the OP, you really should hit Tom up for some beta.

Have Fun Dying!


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By Jim Sweeney
Sep 6, 2012

John,

Maybe it gets the + if you pull on the white X

)


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By Monty
From Golden, CO
Sep 6, 2012
Just a teaser

JohnWesely wrote:
Honestly, I am not really sure that Modern Times even deserves the plus in the 5.8+.


That was the only route I got on at the gunks that I thought was sandbagged. Double-issima was easier and that gets 10b?

Then again I kept traversing right on Modern times because it was that hand crack was SWEET!


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