Jeff Arliss pulling the first roof on Feast of Foo...
The Gunks (short for Shawangunks) is one of the premier climbing areas in the country. Located near New Paltz, NY, the Gunks is about 85 miles from the NYC metropolitan area, making it a popular weekend destination. The rock is quartz conglomerate, solid rock with horizontal rather than vertical cracks. Climbing at the Gunks is characterized by roofs, jugs, traverses, big air, and sometimes "sporty" pro. The Gunks is famous for great one-to-three-pitch climbs of all levels of difficulty. You'll find some of the best easy and moderate trad climbs in the country at the Gunks. There are a few bolted climbs at the Gunks, but no sport climbs.
The ratings at the Gunks are stiff; beware of a climb with a "+" at the end of its rating. Climbs like Thin Slabs / Thin Slabs Direct (5.7+), Something Interesting (5.7+), Modern Times (5.8+), Broken Sling (5.8+), Le Teton (5.9+), and Coexistence (5.10+) will seem like sandbags to many climbers. Climbing overhanging rock, even with jugs, requires endurance and commitment. Most climbers new to the Gunks drop down a few grades in their first leads to get a feel for the rock, the ratings, and to learn how to place pro in the horizontal cracks.
The best time to climb at the Gunks is during the fall: September and October are the prime climbing season. Mid-October brings the fall colors to the area, and climbers will have to vie with "leaf peepers" for restaurants and places to stay in New Paltz. Climbing in the spring is also popular, but tends to be wetter and more buggy. Summer is hot and humid (don't miss the swimming hole), and winter offers a few climbable days. New Paltz weather forecast
The Gunks is one of the oldest climbing areas in the country. Fritz Wiessner first climbed at the Gunks in 1935, and he and Hans Kraus put up many classic routes in the 1940s. High Exposure, established in 1941, remains one of the most exposed and exciting 5.6 routes any climber will ever do, and should be on every visiting climber's tick list.
Most of the Gunks is part of the Mohonk Preserve, a land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting the northern Shawangunk Ridge. Climbers must pay a $17 daily fee to climb at the Gunks, or else buy an annual pass for $90 (amounts as of 2011). Stop at the Visitor's Center, on Rt. 44/55 just below the cliffs, for more information.
The main cliffs at the Gunks are The Trapps and The Near Trapps. The Trapps is several miles long, and ranges in height from 30' to over 250'. A convenient gravel carriage road traverses under the cliff for its entire length, and designated access trails climb from the carriage road through the talus to the cliff. Access to most climbs at the Trapps involves hiking along the carriage road for 5 minutes to a half hour, followed by a short hike up to the rock. Some of the climbs on the left end of the Trapps start right off the carriage road.
The Nears is also a popular destination, with climbs ranging in height from 30' to 200'. While not as extensive as The Trapps, the Nears offers many excellent routes with short approaches. The near (north) end is most popular, but there are good climbs farther down the cliff as well.
Around 2000, the Mohonk Preserve installed around 40 two-bolt belays spread out among routes in the Trapps, Nears, and Lost City. There is one dedicated rappel line, just north of High E, which can be rappelled with one 50m rope.
Millbrook is more remote and offers adventurous climbing for those wanting to get off the beaten path. This area is frequented more by Gunks locals than first-time visiting climbers. The approach is roughly an hour along pleasant rambling trails, and Westward Ha! is worth the walk!
Sky Top has many classic routes, and was closed for over ten years by the landowner, the Mohonk Mountain House, an exclusive and expensive resort. As of April 2007 there is LEGAL climbing at Sky Top once again - IF, and only if, you are an overnight guest of the Mountain House ($$$), AND you climb with an appointed guide service, Alpine Endeavors.
Peterskill, in Minnewaska State Park, is another popular Gunks climbing destination, offering single-pitch climbs, top-roping, and bouldering. Follow directions to The Trapps and continue on Rt. 44/55 for about a mile past the steel bridge to get to the park entrance. A separate admission fee is charged.
Other Gunks climbing areas, such as ?? and Bonticou, are under-documented by local tradition. Climbing here is by word of mouth; go with a Gunks local or perhaps get information at Rock & Snow, the local climbing shop in New Paltz.
Due to the abundance of horizontal cracks and the limited number of vertical cracks, most Gunks routes have "PG" protection: adequate but not great, although many gear ratings were applied before small cams were invented. The horizontal cracks are great for small Tricams: the pink and red are especially useful. Small-to-medium cams with flexible shafts also work well. Climbs rarely need pro larger than 3". Hexes are not often carried, but sometimes work well.
Fixed pro is sometimes available, but many of the pins are "old and rusted and shouldn't be trusted". Bring a screamer or two for the questionable pin or bolt.
A "Standard Rack" for the Gunks:
a set of micronuts (RPs, HB offsets, BD micro stoppers) - very often useful for 5.10 and above.
a set of wired nuts (#3-#13 BD Stoppers or equivalent)
pink, red, and brown Tricams (some climbers double up on the red)
blue, green, yellow, gray, and red Aliens (or equivalent)
#.75, #1, #2, and #3 Camalots (or equivalent)
10-12 extendable runners (24" sewn slings)
1 or 2 long runners (48" sewn slings or rabbit runners)
A Yates Screamer
Additional gear that is useful on some climbs:
extra cams in the .5" to 2" range - very useful for new Gunks leaders
a very small cam (black Alien or equivalent)
a large cam (#4 Camalot or equivalent)
a set of Trango Ball Nutz (#1, #2, #3). There are several 'new' moderate routes in the Nears, put up by Dick Williams and partners, which rely heavily on Ball Nutz for protection; caveat emptor.
larger Tricams (purple #2, black #2.5)
medium-sized hexes (BD #6-#8)
The amount of gear that you carry will depend on the climb, your experience, ability, and familiarity with the route and with the Gunks. If you're new to the Gunks, err on the side of taking a little more gear rather than a little less.
Many routes can be climbed and rappelled with a single 60m rope. Double ropes can be handy, however, with the traverses, wandering pro, and roofs encountered on the typical Gunks climb, and come in handy to descend in fewer rappels.
Many popular routes have bolted rap stations, but sometimes trees are used for rap anchors. Bring some webbing along in case you need to beef up a sling anchor on a tree.
Two-way radios can be useful for communicating past the big roofs often encountered on Gunks climbs. High Exposure, Disneyland, and especially Shockley's Ceiling are routes where radios can be much more effective than shouting.
Visit Rock & Snow, the local climbing shop, at 44 Main St. in New Paltz, for all your gear and beta needs.
The definitive guides to the Gunks are the The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Trapps and The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Near Trapps and Millbrook books, most recently in grey and maroon, respectively, from Dick Williams.
Other guides include The Gunks Select, a best-of selection covering the Trapps, Nears and Skytop by Dick Williams, Vulgarian Press, 1996 (out of print); The Gunks Guide, Third Edition, Todd Swain, Falcon Press, 1995; and THE GUNKS, from Zach Orenczak and Rachael Lynn (Extreme Angles Publishing).
Stewart International Airport is the closest commercial airport to the Gunks. The airport is a quiet regional hub; you rarely have to wait in line, and you can arrive at the airport less than an hour before your flight. Connections to and from here may be limited, however.
To get to New Paltz: take the New York State Thruway (Interstate 87) to exit 18 (New Paltz/Poughkeepsie). Pass the toll booth and go to the first traffic light. Turn left at the light onto Rt. 299 West. Follow 299 several miles into New Paltz, where it becomes Main St.
To get to the Gunks from New Paltz: continue on Rt. 299 for 7 miles until it intersects with Rt. 44/55 (The Brauhaus, Bistro and EMS are at this intersection). Turn right and continue about 1.5 miles up the hill to reach the Mohonk Preserve Visitor's Center. Stop here for maps, information, and to buy daily or annual passes (you can also get passes from the rangers on the carriage road). The Warwarsing parking area, which provides convenient access for climbs on the right side of the Trapps, lies just beyond the Visitor's Center. The West Trapps parking area, used to access the left side of the Trapps and the Near Trapps, lies up the hill, beyond the big hairpin turn, just past a steel bridge. There are also parking areas at the hairpin turn, and at the top of the hill just before the steel bridge, but these are posted as 30-minute parking only (may or may not be often enforced by the local or state police, depending on season and mood).
Trailways has a bus terminal in New Paltz, right next to the New Paltz Hostel, but it's most convenient to have a car to get to the cliffs. 139 Main St. New Paltz, NY 12561 800-776-7548
New Paltz Hostel is located near downtown and right next to the bus station. A variety of accommodations is available for $30/person/night. Free internet access and a shared kitchen are part of the amenities. Reservations recommended for weekends. Off-street parking is available. 145 Main Street New Paltz, NY 12561 845-255-6676
87 Motel is the cheapest motel in New Paltz. Older, on the edge of town, it is suitable for the budget-minded climber. 403 Main Street New Paltz, NY 12561 Local - 845-255-9220 Toll free - 800-879-8787
Bed and Breakfasts are available if you want a more 'romantic' getaway, or just space to lounge around in. B&Bs start around $100+/night (call around) per couple for lodging and breakfast. Because the Culinary Institute is nearby, most B&B breakfasts are quite a feast! Given that even the econo-lodges are $80/night and up without food, B&Bs can be a reasonable option, especially for cooler days when the sun sets early.
NY State DEC Multi-Use Area®ion=New%20Paltz%20Region is located on Route 299 just a half-mile from Rt 44/55 in Gardiner. Camping is free, but there are no amenities or reservations. Get here early during the busy season. For more info, contact DEC Regional OfficeBold Text South Putt Corners Road New Paltz, NY 12561 845-256-3024
2011 update: ATTENTION SHANGUNK MULTIPLE USE AREA CAMPERS Due to continued impact on public health, safety and environmental resources at the Shawangunk Multiple Use Area, the number of designated campsites is being reduced to 9.
All designated camp sites will be on the south side of the road and large enough to accommodate the legal limit of up to 9 campers per site. Groups are encouraged to share campsites in order to allow the maximum number of 81 campers.
Parking will only be allowed in the main parking lot on the south side of the road, the same side of the road as camping. The parking lot on the north side of the road will be blocked off to prevent the public (campers) from parking there and crossing the road to camp. Parking along the shoulder of route 299 will be prohibited to limit traffic/pedestrian issues.
Any questions should be directed to Jeffrey Wiegert at (845) 256-3084
Trapps Camp (aka Camp Slime)®ion=New%20Paltz%20Region: Located in the Mohonk Preserve, near the steel bridge. It's a bare-bones site in the woods with a depressing quality; recommended only to climbers on a severely limited budget. Contact the Mohonk Preserve for more info.
Yogi Bear's is an RV-style family campground in Gardiner, at 50 Bevier Rd.
Creek View in Rosendale, ~7 miles from New Paltz, has flat, grassy tent sites with picnic tables, showers, and there is plenty of hot water for dishes. The owner, Bill, makes it a point to enforce quiet hours (11pm to 7am). Other privately owned campgrounds are charging 3x what Bill charges. He also has full hookups for those with RVs or just wanting some electricity. His monthly rate is the best in the area, by far.
Where to Eat
New Paltz is a college town (the State University of New York has a campus here), with many excellent bars and restaurants. Many local chefs are graduates of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, so expect to eat well here!
Bacchus is the original climber's haunt, with 14 beers on tap and hundreds more in the bottle. The food is all excellent, and the menu varies widely between bar fare like nachos, to tuna tartare.
The Bakery, 13A North Front St.: another great breakfast place.
The Bistro Mountain Store AKA The Bistro: Great inexpensive breakfast foods and a climber's hangout. They do not have tap water to fill up your bottles, however. At the junction of Rt. 299 and Rt. 44/55.
Gilded Otter, 3 Main St.: a great brew-pub for after-climbing drinks and dinner.
Traverse of the Clods is among the most interesting and unusual routes in the Gunks. It’s thoughtful, balancy, exposed, not too strenuous, not R-rated—yet seldom climbed.TOTC begins on the GT ledge, on a 15’ terrace to the left of where the first pitch of Andrew meets the GT ledge. The final pitch of Hans' Puss starts from this same terrace.The pitch begins a few feet right of a large right-facing corner and goes mostly up, with some trending to the right, for about 35’ to a small ov...[more]Browse More Classics in NY
There are some great swimming holes near the cliffs to cool off in mid day. Split Rock, about two miles down Clove Road, which is just past the bridge and West Trapps parking area, is a popular one.
There's also a decent farmer's market halfway between the cliffs and town on the south side of Rt. 299 that has a good selection of fresh produce and goodies.
...and one other thing that all Gunks climbers should keep an eye out for are copperheads. They generally won't strike unless they're provoked, but they are everywhere and hard to see -- especially once the leaves start to fall.
I am from NY and used to climb @ the Gunks all the time. How crazy is it now? Before I left NY they had started enforcing all kinds of rules it was also insanely busy; like being @ a gym. I saw many a squabble over who was next on line for certain classics like High E, but sure do miss the climbing there.
I think the scene has calmed down a little. Been climbing there for 11 years. The parking is way better now (remember the Hairpin lined with cars????) There's a real toilet (NPS style) near the Uberfall, there are a bunch of shiny bolts now for anchors and rap stations (can you believe that??). The crowds are still there on the weekends for sure. I'm seeing more and more people on the weekdays now too. Very rarely do I run into an individual or party who is bent on ruining my day, most climbers there now are pretty casual. What I enjoy about the area is seeing familiar faces, meeting new people, sharing a belay ledge, working together to make a rappel quicker/easier for the whole group. That's part of the experience for me. Come on back, you'll be glad you did!
That's good to hear. I do miss lunch on the GT ledge. Can't believe they rap anchors and bolts there. Did they put anchors on the rap from Madame G's? If I remember that was a free hanging rap. That was a blast!! (Although it doesn't surprise me. I used to teach climbing in a gym and would be scared to see people I taught how to tie in and belay a week or so later there w/ shiny new gear!!!) I miss the Gunks grease after a day of climbing there. One of these days I'll make it back there and back up to NH to climb again on Whitehorse and Cathedral.
Madam G's, Snookys, Frogshead, Classic, High E, Arrow, etc. all of these and more high-traffic routes have bolted rap stations. (Check out gunks.com or rockandsnow.com for the bolt locator page for a full list). As well as a few newer protection bolts placed here and there. Still way TRAD though, just safer and easier on the trees.
Generally, yes - of course, it all depends on your personal tolerance for cold weather. This year, it was fine; last year, it was COLD.
By Monomaniac Administrator From: Morrison, CO Oct 16, 2007
I've only climbed here a few times, but I just spent a day there, and my overall impression was: practice mantling before you come here. Most of the routes have several mantle moves, and often a mantle move is the crux. Must be due to all the horizontal breaks.
Also, bring lots of slings. Many routes can be done in one mega pitch if you mind the rope drag.
A couple of quick notes from a recent trip where we didn't have a rental car. We were able to catch a ride to Slime, so no big deal there. It is an easy walk down to the hippy mart, ems store (very friendly guy and a good selection for how conveniently close is was to the cliff), and to the german restaurant (good beer, gunks burgers were tasty).
There is a new paltz web page with transportation info. on this webpage, my wife found a link with info for a guy who will drive you down to the city. This worked great as we were able to climb in the morning, he picked us up at slime at 2pm, and we were able to easily catch our 5:30 flight out of Laguardia. I think it cost about $220 or so for the 2 of us, which between time and cost seemed a slam dunk versus dealing with getting to a bus, etc.
The Gunks Climbers Coalition, established in the fall of 2002, is an advocacy group dedicated to creating and maintaining sustainable opportunities for responsible climbing along the Shawangunk Ridge and surrounding areas. To keep up to date with Gunks related news, watch our website at gunksclimbers.org,, or our Facebook Page, Twitter feed or join our GCC Mailing List.
Say no to gang roping the classics. It's not fair. Many of us travel long ways to "click off" some best routes. But then there are groups of permanent lifelong topropers who know how to get up early. Today when I asked when i can go up a route, the reply was: there's 4 more people and then we'd like to......They apparently started hours earlier and had 3 or 4 top ropes. WTF? I would think that after 30-60 min each top rope should go down. Let's start a revolution!!