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Climbing in
The Gunks

Stunning white cliffs top an eight mile stretch of the
Shawangunk Ridge like the crest of a great green forest wave.
The Gunks is a world class rock climbing area. Stunning white cliffs top an eight mile stretch of the Shawangunk Ridge like the crest of a great green forest wave. Only ninety miles north of New York City, the Gunks offer vertical sanctuary and natural wonder to thousands of climbers from all over the world. It is at the heart of American climbing past and present, providing a remarkable venue for sport, nature and history.
Climbers, hikers and lovers of nature in the Hudson Valley owe a tremendous debt to the vision, hard work and business accumen of twin brothers Alfred and Albert Smiley. These former Quaker school masters began operating a retreat on the Shawangunk Ridge in 1864 with the stated mission of protecting the natural wonder of this place. Well before federal and state governments began to protect America’s natural resources the Smiley’s created businesses that were vehicles for the preservation of thousands of acres of precious land, land that is critical habitat for dozens of rare and not so rare plants and animals. Land that also contains virtually all of the bullet hard quartz conglomerate outcrops that have become known as the Gunks.
Fritz Weissner led a group of friends on the first climbs in the Gunks in 1935. Weisner was one of the best climbers on the planet at the time, having cut his teeth on the steep sandstone in his native Dresden, Germany. Like most climbers of the era, Weissner used rock climbing as training for alpine climbs and his climbing legacy extends around the world. His skill on rock is clearly defined by his many “desperate for the grade” routes. Weissner and his friends initiated a continuum of talented and influential climbers pushing their limits in the Gunks and taking those skills to major areas all over the world and then bringing the climbing world back here.
While the Gunks have always had climbers pushing the limits of the the sport, what it is likely best known for is the strict adherence to traditional climbing ethics. This boils down to routes in the region being protected with equipment that is placed and removed by each passing climber without damaging the rock. There are only a handful of protection bolts on miles and miles of cliff face. This strict adherence to “clean climbing” is emblematic of the conservation ethic established in the region over a hundred fifty years ago.
Another aspect of what makes the Gunks unique is the rock itself. Horizontally banded, it is two hundred fifty feet at it’s highest. While appearing white at a distance on closer inspection we see a diverse palette of orange, yellow, red, brown, black and white displayed in an endless array of patterns. The horizontal bedding of the rock and fracturing over time has resulted in a wild collection of roof and ceiling structures; the Gunks is STEEP! The rock is also incredibly featured and this is what creates it’s most unique quality, whereas most major climbing areas offer only a handful of moderate climbs that are worth doing, the Gunks offer dozens of climbs in virtually every grade that are amazingly fun. Routes that are of tremendous quality, with solid rock, fantastic exposure and beautiful climbing movement. The Gunks are an unparalleled area for learning to climb as well as mastering and applying advanced skills.

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