No Picnic

“I’m skeeerd” I say. A twinge of over the top whininess tries to mask the actual fear behind my humor. I don’t climb a lot of overhangs, so, in addition to the big holds, I have to pull on my kinesthetic memory to intelligently move my body. There is a drop knee and straight arms and yes, even a heel hook. Of course, the fact that the guidebook calls it a five-five isn’t really lost on me. . . Indeed this, like the route name implies, is No Picnic.

My fingers clutch thin edges, incut yes, but thin none-the-less and I move up a touch, try to reach higher and then step back down. “Man, if the crux is at the overhang above, I wonder what THAT will be like” I think to myself; the beta and comments sprayed across the Mountain Project page are not far from my mind. After stepping down I reassess my feelings on the extended green Camalot a body length below. Not quite jazzed by the the thought of big air, I fiddle in a smaller, suspect .3 Camalot somewhere at my abdomen; the gear makes me feel better though the ensuing sling for extension has me less stoked. But it’s five-five, I got this. . . right?

This is only my second climb of the day which, like the current one, had started out slow and cold and, in reality, continued on that way. The snow flurries as we packed the bags in the driveway of the Vrbo we had rented for the evening didn’t portend sunbathing at the cliffs. But we drove up to the parking lot anyway and stood around in the cold, hemming and hawing. We would have to fork over twenty dollars each for the privilege to climb the steep, cold, windy, horizontally fractured quartz conglomerate. After much debate, we loaded up on puffy layers, bit the bullet, paid the fee, and lumbered up the stairs to where all the action happened. We rationalized we had driven several hours to be there—knowing what the weather would probably be like—AND gotten the rental place AND that it is, after all, world renown climbing; all of which tallied up to regreting it. Well, I knew I wouldn’t anyway; it was to be my first time scaling the storied escarpment of the Shawangunks in the Mohonk Preserve, the current and ancestral homes of the Munsee Lenape and Schaghticoke peoples.

The first climb of the day, a fifty foot five-three had been a success and had given me a taste of the Gunks on the sharp end. We had then moved right a few hundred feet and up three number grades, a potentially scary leap for yours truly. Indeed, the scary factor had doubled with the number grade increase. Now, latched onto horizontal cracks, I think of heel hooks and getting tangled in gear and slings when I inevitably take a careening upside down whipper; I move upward anyway. I tuck my right toe out wide onto a ledge, use two positive holds to pull upward before turning them into a less than positive, always classic, horizontal forearm jam smear. My left foot’s sticky rubber smears, then bumps higher onto the ledge and I mantle with the aid of some awkward pinches, first at eye level, then chest, then waist. . . Body tension and some gumption has me standing and sweeping my arms upward to more secure holds and after remembering to breathe, I fish a yellow TCU off my harness and plug it in horizontally just below my waist. “Nice work Jared” floats up from somewhere below. I peer downward at the other two, warmly and securely bundled in green and yellow puffy jackets, standing among the long, bony fingers of leafless maples and oaks, their autumn splendor, littering the ground in faded glory. “Thanks” I reply, trying to be casual but knowing I had just had to try real hard, both physically and mentally.

As I suss out the upward moves I realize with a sigh of relief, that the roof I had just pulled had been the crux and instead of a crux, I have forty or so feet of horizontal cracks and lower angles before the chains… I move up, shove the #4 into a wide crack and breathe easier. . .

Featured Image: View from the top.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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