Gunks Bouldering Trip Report: Lessons Learned.

This past weekend we took Dave’s advice and braved the rainy forecast for a belated Mother’s Day trip to the Gunks.  The trip was a lesson to us with regard to future trip planning.  Some of the lessons were logistical and others were things we KNOW but don’t always follow.  Here’s the trip report with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  All in all, it’s truly a reminder that a bad day of climbing is still better than a day of no climbing at all!

We left central PA around 5:30 pm and drove the kids to the Rondout Valley Campground only a few miles from Peterskill.  We chose Rondout because we wanted bathrooms, showers, and a guaranteed place to camp without parking issues – all things that you have to pay for in the Gunks.  This campground (at $40ish a night for tent camping) is less expensive than the other pay campgrounds but obviously not as cheap as Camp Slime and/or the MUA.  The kids napped the last hour or two in the car, from 8:30-10:30 pm.  Unfortunately when we arrived and pitched the tent, both of them woke up and decided it was a great time to play and explore.  By the time everyone was settled and in sleeping bags, they were wide awake – and we were exhausted!  Our 2 year old was completely unwilling to lie down well into the night (1:30 am).  

Lesson #1: In order to make sure that we get a good night’s sleep, we need to set up camp while it is still light out (and before the kids nap/fall asleep).  Another option (if we are trying to push through) is to forego camping and stay in a hotel.  A Priceline three star hotel can be booked for under $50 at the last minute (as we found out the next night).

On Saturday morning, we woke up and fired up the Jetboil Zip Cooking System for some much needed Starbucks Via coffee (me) and Cream of Wheat (the kids).  The kids would have been psyched to hang out at the tent for a while but we were on a mission to boulder at the Gunks – something we hadn’t done since I was pregnant with our now 4 year old. Disclaimer: This was intended to be a bouldering trip particularly since we had both kids and no extra adults.  Yes, bouldering in the Gunks is “likened to jerking off in a whorehouse” (as per rockclimbing.com – thanks for the classy analogy).  We don’t disagree.  But it is what it is.  And we aren’t much for whorehouses anyway.  We don’t trad climb for the most part, and definitely not with the kids around.

We decided to skip the Peterskill bouldering this trip for the ease of access and family experience of the classic Carriage Road boulders. We’d been shut down on many of the classic Carriage Road climbs in the past and thought this would be a good chance to revisit.  We parked at the West Trapps parking lot (paying for two adults – kids under 12 are free).

As we walked on the path, the kids stopped for a few detours – climbing “kids sized” boulders and posing for pictures.  This photo is at the Welcome boulder as the kids messed around on the slab.

We got in a great warm up on the first few lines on the Keyhole Cliff area on Carriage Rd. It’s mostly vertical rock with smaller holds, so nothing spectacular, but nice, fun stuff.  This was the highlight of my day as I was having a fun and easy time on the warm ups.  After I finished the second or third warm up, I called out, “well, we can officially call today a success- we both sent a couple of problems.”  We’ve learned to have low expectations for a day of climbing with both kids in tow.  Since our 2 and 4 year old were both low on sleep (as were we), I didn’t have high expectations that our day was going to last long.  Nor did I really believe the weather was going to hold.

Lesson #2: Have reasonable expectations for a “good” day.  When you have extra adults around, you can expect to climb much more than a trip with only you and your spouse.  This is particularly relevant for roped climbing (particularly from a safety perspective) but holds true for bouldering as well.

I was psyched to get on Winter’s Agony, an apparent V6 in the Keyhole Cliff area that is has some balancy moves on crimpy holds. I recalled the line from our first trip to the Gunks nine years ago. And like last time, I got shut down pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, a larger group of boulderers moved in and we decided to move on, as we didn’t want the kids to be underfoot around a large group.

We moved down so that Ryan could get on the Gill Pinch Roof, a V4 climb with some bigger moves on it and yep, you guessed it, some pinches. It was then that we realized that the guide decending from the route in front of us was an old climbing friend from our early days of climbing.  Jason Beaupre was a Philly guy until he and his wife moved to New Paltz where he became a climbing guide for High Xposure.  It was fun to see an old friend, particularly on a random visit to the Gunks.  The visit should hopefully yield future Gunks visits, as Jason mentioned showing us around on a route/rope day when he isn’t guiding.

Ryan worked the Gill Pinch Roof for a while (honestly wasn’t paying attention, as I was on kid duty – and I pretty much despise pinches) and I’m pretty sure he was one move off the finish. We moved down to the Andrew boulder next and found that it. . . .was. . . .a . . . .long . . . .walk.

Lesson #3:  Bring a wagon/stroller if there is easy path access.  In this case, Carriage Road is perfect for a stroller or wagon.  This is a no brainer.  We had talked about it but I neglected to put one in the truck.  We aren’t stroller people in general.  In fact, we haven’t used any of our four strollers in about a year (we usually use the wagon for walks), as Ryan has reminded me repeatedly (“why don’t we just SELL some of them?”).  But we certainly could have used one when we were carrying both kids on Saturday.  At one point, Ryan had our son on his shoulders (in front of the crash pad) and our sleeping daughter in his arms.  I had the backpack and the other crash pad.

It was much further than we had remembered.  Especially when our four year old decided he needed to pick up worms/millipedes for the entire walk down. Then our little one fell asleep.  About an hour later (seriously, folks, it took us an hour), we ended up at the boulder.  By then, the lack of sleep caught up to me and I was dragging. . . C (pictured below with worm boy) definitely had the right idea.  I tried the Andrew Problem (V4) again (first time in about 9 years) and got further than before, but I was tired and distracted, and totally not into it. Slacker.

The final stop before we left for the day was at the first line of boulders (Steel Bridge Boulders).  I was on kid duty again and while Ryan messed around on the Lorax (V4) and some others. I helped the kids climb up the slabby boulder to the left of the Lorax (the backside of Satellite #2).  It was great fun, as they were able to climb to the top and look over (with some spotting, of course!).   C actually climbed the carriage way side of Satellite boulder #2 – she was so fun to watch (and spot!).  I think that should count as her first outdoor ascent, even if it didn’t have a name.

All in all, as we headed out to eat at Bacchus (amazing beer selection), I felt ok with our first trip Gunks trip with the kids.  Next time we’re bringing a wagon and getting to bed early.  Then I’m going to ignore Lesson #2 and expect to climb.  A lot. 

One response to “Gunks Bouldering Trip Report: Lessons Learned.”

  1. Dave says:

    Great post! I’m really glad the weather held, for Saturday at least. I can’t imagine climbing with 4 and 2 year olds and no third adult to pitch in… I’m glad you got some sends in!

    I agree that the Carriage Road makes things pretty ideal if you have a stroller… it IS a long walk out to the Andrew boulder (we were on CCK and I had to make a bathroom run back to the Uberfall from there :/)

    Thanks for sharing the trip report (and the mention)! Hopefully next time we’ll be able to meet up!