Saturday, December 11, 2010

Help a Climber: Rich Romano

I only know Rich Romano by his reputation as the primary developer and caretaker of Millbrook cliff in the Gunks.  Known as "The Manager of the Bank," Romano has essentially single-handedly developed this cliff, putting up countless 5.10 and 5.11 R-rated routes over the decades without placing a single bolt.

Romano had a serious accident recently in Idaho.  Richard Goldstone, another legendary Gunks climber, has started a campaign to raise some cash for Romano's medical bills.  I reprint his appeal in blue below:

Rich Romano, one of the most prolific climbers in the history of the Shawangunks and the primary developer of the Millbrook Cliff as well as other outlying areas, recently had a serious accident at City of Rocks, Idaho. His rope, which was too short for the pitch he was lowering off, ran through the belay, resulting in a serious fall.  Full details about the accident and his recovery are on the thread

Rich's insurance is supposed to cover the enormous helicopter evacuation and hospitalization costs, but it does not cover his ongoing post-ER visits and the various co-pays and deductibles, all at a time of lost income from the inability to work.

A few of us have have started a project to raise some cash for Rich for his ongoing medical expenses and at the same time provide some value to climbers, based on Rich's extensive and in many cases exclusive knowledge of Millbrook. We are producing a series of "harness route cards" for "The Bank," Rich's affectionate name for the cliff. These are 4 X 6 cards, laminated, with a cord loop that can be clipped to a harness. The cards will have two or three classic routes on a high-resolution photo. The photos we are using afford nearly straight-across views that show superb cliff detail, at an angle that is easily interpreted by a climber at the base of the routes. There is no comparison between the photos we are using and the aerial photos in any of the current guidebooks, which are exceptionally hard to interpret and which, because of the time of day they were taken, fail to reveal even massive features of the cliff.

In large part because of Rich's efforts, Millbrook is one of the "traddest" cliffs in the country. There isn't a single bolt anywhere, and perhaps a handful of fixed pitons, just about all of them from the early soft-iron days of climbing in the U.S. Almost every route is in the same condition as it was on the first ascent. It's steepness, functionally remote location, and the seriousness of many (but not all) of the routes makes Millbrook one of the premier destinations for high-level trad climbing in the country.

The route cards are an attempt to make some of the mysteries of Millbrook just a touch more accessible without, we fervently hope, reducing the cliff to the modern paint-in-the numbers beta-fest that now dilutes the trad experience worldwide. In keeping with the adventurous spirit of Millbrook climbing pioneered by Rich, the cards show clearly where the routes go, give their grades, but leave all the other details of the ascent to the climber.

We are planning on producing a combination of classics at various levels of difficulty, some of which do not appear in any of the Shawangunk guidebooks. The first card is now ready. It lists two of the best and most accessible routes at Millbrook, Westward Ha!, among the best 5.7's in the Gunks, and Cruise Control (a Romano Route), a superb line at 5.9-. On the flip side is a schematic map of the best trail approach to Millbrook from the West Trapps parking lot and the location of the standard rappel tree.

We are selling the cards through Rock and Snow for $5. Because of the support and generosity of Rock and Snow, every penny of the $5 price of the card goes to Rich. Please feel free to add an additional donation if the spirit moves you. We can only handle either cash, if you want to send it through the mail, or a personal check made out to Rich Romano. Send a stamped self-addressed envelope big enough to hold a 4x 6 card to

Romano Fund
Rock & Snow
44 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561,

Or stop by Rock and Snow if you are up at the Gunks.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and remember to tie a knot in the end of your rope whenever lowering is involved.

12/13/10 update:  there are some nice photos on the Supertopo thread Goldstone started about Romano.  Also Goldstone has created a paypal account from which you can purchase the route card or make a donation.  Just follow the above link to paypal and make the payment to this address:

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