Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gunks Routes: Double Chin (5.5)

(Photo: Not too far off the deck on Double Chin (5.5).)

I'm sorry I haven't been posting this winter. I've been busy cycling, trying to re-lose the few pounds I gained over the course of the summer and fall. And when I haven't been riding my bicycle I have been forced to answer the call of the DVR. You see, if I don't sit on the couch and watch television, the DVR will fill up and no new programs will be recorded. Thus I have no choice but to watch the so-called idiot box, sometimes for several hours at a time. It is a tedious chore, but somebody has to do it. All these episodes of Portlandia aren't going to watch themselves.

Even if I had enough free time in which to blog, I wouldn't have written much over the past few months. There just hasn't been much climbing upon which to report. It has been a strange winter, with the worst Catskill ice season in recent memory. Friends have gone to New Hampshire for full weekends of ice climbing, but I am selfishly saving for rock season the capital I would need to expend in order to take a full weekend away. The result is that I haven't made it out to do a single pitch of ice climbing all winter.

There has been some consolation: I have gotten in a few days of rock climbing here and there.

On New Year's Day I managed a trip to the Gunks with Adrian and Maryana.

I hadn't led a pitch in nearly a month. I wasn't surprised that I felt a bit rusty.

We had our pick of routes, doing Madame G's all the way to the top and then doing the first pitches of Snooky's Return (5.8) and Friends & Lovers (5.9).

Adrian led pitch one of Snooky's. Following him, I struggled over the crux. I remembered it seeming so much easier when I led it in 2010. On the other hand, the upper crux of Friends & Lovers seemed like nothing to me. I have yet to lead this route, although by now, having followed it three times, I find it pretty routine.

It was already growing late on this short winter day and I figured I needed to lead something, but I wasn't really feeling ambitious. I decided to try Double Chin (5.5). I'd been on the route once years before, near the beginning of my illustrious climbing career. My partner Greg had led the pitch, struggling for a while and stepping up and down repeatedly before finally pulling through the second crux at the very end of the route. When I'd lowered him to the ground he'd seemed defeated despite his success in leading the route.

"Do me a favor," Greg had said upon reaching the ground. "If you find that route easy, don't tell me."

I did think it was pretty easy, actually. And perfectly nice. There were two big roofs, but both of them were escaped to the left without too much trouble.

I later read the entry on Mountain Project, in which Double Chin was described as "a sandbag even by Gunks standards." (This description is now gone, but I'm pretty sure it used to be there.) Also I saw a thread on in which some people opined that the route is a real stinker.

These reactions didn't jibe with my pleasant memories of the route. On January 1 I figured it might be fun to get another look at Double Chin. If I liked the route the second time around, I could add it to the all-too-short list of fun but uncrowded climbs in the Uberfall area.

My verdict? It is fun, with two good cruxes. And yes, I think it is a little stiff for 5.5.

(Photo: In between the two roof cruxes on Double Chin (5.5).)

The first crux is actually the most technically advanced move on the route, in my opinion. As you approach roof number one, it is easy to step left to escape to the rounded outside corner. But then an absence of footholds makes the next move up the rounded corner seem improbably hard. A thin high step saves the day. I can't think of another 5.5 in the Gunks with a move like that.

(Photo: In the final crux of Double Chin (5.5).)

The second crux, at the final roof, is not really difficult at all, but it is committing and again unusual for the Gunks.

To the left of the roof is a wide vertical crack system. There are probably several ways to get through this part of the route but I found that wedging myself into the crack was the best way for me to move upward. It was good fun, with good holds and pro, and then with a move up a foot could be placed over the roof to the right and the route was over.

Maryana followed the route in her approach shoes (just to make me look bad, I think-- so competitive, that one!) and she seemed to find it pretty routine.

The second time up Double Chin confirmed for me that this is a high quality, unusual route. If you find yourself stuck in the Uberfall waiting for Bunny or Horseman you shouldn't hesitate to jump on it.


  1. I am guilty of editorializing that entry/comment on MP! I gave it some thought, to be sure, but: I really think the climbing isn't out of line with Gunks 5.5, eg Horseman, it's just less obvious (make a big step left out of the corner; jam your hand and/or body into the upper chimney/corner). The moves feel secure once you make them. I don't think it's a sandbag on par with, say, Trapped Like a Rat or Modern Times. I think even Sixish, at 5.4, might even have harder moves. Certainly not as hard as Last Shall Be, right?

    My own comment on the route reflects what might feel like a sandbag: in some ways, it asks you to do things you may not have learned yet. It's a 5.5 that more-widely experienced climbers can really appreciate. Though, it does surprise me that you would feel it was a sandbag (might just be the winter talking?) - you are well experienced and capable of the climbing on DC.

    Hope your DVR frees you up as spring comes on!

  2. Julie, I agree with pretty much everything you say in your comment. I'm not saying Double Chin is 5.6, just that it's a tough 5.5.

    I think the biggest sandbag I know in the Gunks is Dirty Gerdie! 5.8+? It's harder than a lot of 5.9 climbs!

  3. Seth - totally agree about Dirty Gerdie. It has one of the slickest, trickest 5.8+ moves I've come across. And if you fall off at the wrong point in the crux, you could dust your ankles!

  4. Thanks yvr for your comment. Look for a further discussion of sandbag 5.8's in an upcoming post!

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