Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gunks Obscure Tour: Rock & Brew (Pitch 3, 5.8 R) & Uncle Rudy (Pitch 3, 5.7+)

(Photo: Just getting started on the 5.7 pitch 2 of Morning After.)

Another warm winter day. Nice to be climbing without a jacket, wearing just a couple of base layers on February 1, but I couldn't escape the global warming angst. It felt strange.

What a beautiful day! (We're all going to die.)

Actually, the day began with rain. It was coming down in a steady drizzle as we left the city, but we had faith in the forecast and by the time we arrived in New Paltz the rain was done. We warmed up on the Pebbles Boulder while we waited for everything to dry out. Then we headed for the Drunkard's area.

I had the idea that we could check out a few upper pitches on the Drunkard's Delight/Morning After wall. I'd done the first two pitches of both of these great 5.8- climbs. It seems that's all most people do. Most folks just rap from the GT Ledge and don't do any of the third pitches in the area. I had bucked the trend once before, climbing the 5.5 third pitch of Bloody Mary. I concluded few people must bother with it; it is dirty and uninteresting. I had to dig the dirt out of some cracks in order to place pro.

But despite this experience on Bloody Mary (the first two pitches are awesome, by the way), I had a feeling people were missing out on some good climbing above the GT Ledge on this wall. I'd read good things about the 5.8- final pitch of Morning After and I thought it would be fun to check it out. It was reputed to feature an unusual crux layback rail.

I was also intrigued by the third pitch of a nearby climb called Uncle Rudy (5.7+). The pitch receives no stars from Dick Williams, but he calls it "really nice."

(Photo: Oops, that's not Morning After! The 5.8 R third pitch of Rock and Brew.)

The first two pitches of Morning After went well. (I always especially enjoy the 5.7 face climbing on Pitch 2.) Once we reached the GT Ledge I was certain I spotted the correct third pitch. I hadn't consulted the guidebook, but I saw a right-facing flake system which I figured had to be the layback rail I'd heard about. And the rock was clean. It looked fun.

Adrian asked about a dirty corner system just to the left but I was firm in my (incorrect) beliefs.

He started up bulgy white rock. The climbing didn't look bad but he had to fight with a pine tree to make progress. He was actually grateful for the tree, however, since it was the only source of pro. he slung the tree twice.

Nice moves took him past the right-facing flakes. This part of the pitch actually had decent placements, and the climbing seemed reasonable.

Then Adrian arrived at the real problem. He reached another pine tree to find a blank slab above with with no pro leading to the top. A rap tree (which I believe is the Rusty Trifle tree) was off to the right, but traversing over was also lacking in protection opportunities. Adrian eventually chose to traverse to the rap tree rather than heading upward. He risked a pendulum if he fell, but he made it over to the tree and then brought me up.

By the time I reached the flakes I realized I'd steered Adrian wrong. The flake moves were fun, but they were very easy and unworthy of being described as an interesting layback sequence. Later I read the descriptions in Dick's book and realized my error: we had done the third pitch of Rock and Brew, which Dick rates as 5.8 R. Seems about right.

Of course, Adrian's choice to traverse to the Rusty Trifle tree left me with the same pendulum risk as a second. It served me right, but I didn't enjoy it. Putting my hands on the blank slab, I gingerly placed my feet on ledges covered in tufts of dirt and pine needles. I felt with each step that I might plunge through and go for a ride. But I made it over without incident and with some relief we rapped back to the GT Ledge.

If I'd been leading I probably would have put my cordalette around the top pine on Rock & Brew and bailed without risking the blank slab or the traverse.

In the final analysis, I'd say the pitch has a little decent climbing on it, but I don't recommend it.

Once we were back on the GT Ledge I got set to lead the third pitch of Uncle Rudy. This 5.7+ climb doesn't get done much because the first pitch is dirty and the second pitch is runout. But there seemed to be nothing wrong with pitch three and this time I knew I was in the right place. The start of the pitch is hard to miss, beneath a large right-facing corner system at the right edge of the Drunkard's wall. (It has the same start location as pitch two of Bloody Bush (5.6).)

This time our adventuresome spirits were rewarded. The final pitch of Uncle Rudy is great. I think it deserves at least one star. Maybe even two stars.

It has two nice cruxes, each one different from the other. The first comes as you climb up into the corner to a roof and then make a very airy (but juggy) exit out left. Then you head up and a little right to the second crux, a nice 5.7+ ceiling.

Clean rock, great exposure, interesting climbing, and an exciting finish. What more could you ask for? I think this is one of the better 5.7 pitches in the Gunks. And 5.7 is a grade that needs better representation at the Gunks.

I think this pitch will be high on my list to repeat whenever I end up on the GT Ledge in this part of the cliff.

(Photo: Past the low crux on Drunkard's Delight (5.8-).)

After we got down to the ground I finally led Drunkard's Delight for the first time. As I detailed in my prior post, I had bailed on the lead once before, in the immediate aftermath of my broken ankle, and followed it on a later date. After following Drunkard's I had decided it was a reasonable lead, but I just hadn't gotten around to it.

This time with Adrian I linked both of the first two pitches in one and had a blast. (I wouldn't recommend this if you feel your second is at all likely to fall on the opening moves.)

Then we ended the day on pitch three of Maria (5.6+ and another great third pitch option in this area). As I belayed Adrian it occurred to me that, given it was only February 1, I was feeling pretty good on the rock! The climbing felt reasonable and I wasn't too rusty with the gear. The day gave me hope that I could start the season strong and get on some ambitious climbs early in the year.

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