So, Daniel moved down to New York City for his new coop. Its at a pretty cool company, and he’s having a blast, but that means that I don’t have a regular climbing partner to hit up Metro and Hammond with. However, it also means that I have a partner living quite near New Patlz and the Gunks!
So, Friday the 16th after work I got home, packed up by gear and a set of clubbing clothes, and jumped on a Bus to NYC, aiming to be there at around 2345. Of course though, the bus left about forty five minutes late, and then hit a good bit of traffic, so I didn’t make it into the city until right around 0045 on Saturday. When I finally got there though, it was amazing. I finally got my first view of Times Square at night (yeah, sad I know), and it was quite possibly the biggest show of “look how much we can change our environment!” I’ve ever seen… really insane. But pretty J So, I found Daniel, we took the train back to his and Brian’s apartment, and crashed right around 0200.
The next morning we woke up around 0900, packed up the last of our gear, walked over to the garage where he stores his car, and cruised out of the city. We picked up some Burger King on the way, and finally got to the Gunks around 1230. We walked for a little ways, then hitched a ride on one of the park rangers little golf-carts, shooting the breeze with the ranger about Daniels time out in California, the rangers internship in New Paltz, and our climbing trips up North. We finally settled on a route (at the rangers recommendation), and he dropped us off right at the base of the cliff.
We chose Beginners Route, a pretty solid 5.5, three pitch route heading pretty cleanly up the face. There was a team right next to us, and a team descending as we got there, who both warned us that while it was a beautiful day out, the climb itself was getting extremely toasty, and that the wall got pretty hot up past the half-way point. So, with this knowledge in hand, we racked up our gear, flaked the rope, gave the guidebook one last review, and headed upwards.
The first pitch was a fairly standard Gunks-style lead; primarily horizontal cracks that just ate up tri-cams and Camalots, and it ended at a fairly comfortable belay ledge. Turns out that some people actually skip this belay though, and turn the route into a quicker two-pitches. How’d we find this out, you may ask? Well, right as Daniel got to the belay, another climbing team asked us if they could bust past, since we had been moving fairly slow so far (This was my first big lead after breaking my arm). We weren’t really in any hurry, so I rested and took pictures, Daniel took a short nap (tied in, of course), and the other party climbed on past. After they moved off of their belay stance, and our next anchor, I finished re-racking my gear, Daniel put me on belay, and I unclipped and started up again.
The next two pitches were fairly solid and uneventful, giving us exactly what we had been looking for; perfect views, medium exposure, and good placements. At each of the belay stances we pulled out a Vuvuzela that I had picked up the weekend before, and let out a short but resounding blast, announcing that we had gained the belay. The views that day were perfect, even if the climb was more than a bit hot. As we were climbing and resting at the belays a few falcons and vultures flew by, seemingly posing for pictures. I of course took the bait and got some really good shots of the birds in flight, as well as the cliffs to either side of us. Both Daniel and myself were taking it easy, just feeling the climb out and regaining our “climber-self”, since it had been so long since we’d done a multi-pitch together.
I found myself playing head-games far more often that I remember ever doing so before, but I have a feeling it was due to the length of time since my last big climb with Adam. And, once I realized that, I had one of the strongest defenses against the fear that I’ve ever had: the knowledge that I used to be fearless in this situation. To be honest, I have no idea how I would have reacted to that same climb a year ago, but having been out of the game so long, I assumed that this was just the old fear coming back to haunt me. And since I assumed it was old, I also assumed that I had beaten it before. And if I beat it then, why should I have to worry about it now? And so on I climbed, reminding myself that, whenever the fear gripped me, I had beaten it before and could do it again.
After we reached the summit (and let out a long wail on the horn), we prepared for the descent. We searched around for a more suitable rappel tree than the one we topped out on, since ours had an anchor rather high up on the tree. Unfortunately we couldn’t find one, so after testing the tree and a bit of hemming and hawing, we roped up and began the descent. It was a rather simple three drops, although we both started dreaming about our bottles of Gatorade at the bottom of the cliff right after dropping off the first ledge. To this point we had been climbing and didn’t really notice it, but the heat had been slowly wearing away at us, and thirst was becoming a legitimate concern. Once we got to the bottom we grabbed a drink, some quick snacks that we packed before, and pulled the rope.
At this point it was just about six thirty, so we decided that, if we wanted to get dinner and still get back to the city in time to go out, we didn’t really have time to run up another route. So we packed everything up and, since we didn’t have a friendly ranger to give us a ride this time, started the walk back. We ate dinner at the Gilded Otter, an amazing brewery in New Paltz, where I had one of the best Pulled Pork sandwiches I’ve had in ages, and definitely one of the best Milkshakes ever. Theres really nothing like getting off a cliff face, and then soon afterwards drinking a full and thick vanilla milkshake, followed by a heavy sandwich… definitely key to happiness. Once we’d finished up I jumped in the drivers seat and we headed back to the city.
The ride back was pretty uneventful, although we did miss one or two exits and nearly walked into an underground concert (mostly reggae and people in suits. Strange place, New York…). But we did finally get home, get changed, and headed out onto the city to check out the nightlife. Unfortunately we didn’t get out of the house until around 0030, so once we got to the clubs there was no way that three guys were getting in, unless we were all Tom Cruise. And even then we’d have to promise not to talk about Scientology. So we cruised around the city for a bit ‘till we found Mars Bar, an old-school dive bar where alcoholics’ go to die. We met some cool Punk kids there, chilled, and headed home around 0230, totally exhausted from the day.
Sunday was our relaxation day, where Brian took Daniel and I to a place called the Donut factory, where the make “artisan donuts”, AKA really delicious donuts for really high prices. I got a blueberry cake and a Strawberry jam-filled square donut (literally square, it was awesome), and we shot the shit for the few hours we had left before my bus. Then we went back to the apartment, grabbed my pack, and went off to find the bus. The ride back was fairly uneventful, the girl next to me was listening to her headphones and my laptop was dead, so I just vegged and sketched, thinking about what trip we should do the next weekend…