Rock Climbing --- 6/21/2005 --- Gunks
Climbed at the Gunks with Heidi. Started with Hawk, a fun 5.5- that has a huge traverse on the second pitch. I knew about the traverse and was careful not to create rope drag while still protecting the climb for Heidi. I had so little rope drag that I was able to skip the suggested belay (which had loose rock) and continue up to the GT ledge.
We had a bit of an epic on the way down. We went off the rappel station just to the left of the top of Hawk. Bad idea. I found no intermediate rap station as I went down. But the tails of the rope were dangling just below a roof, and I remembered a manky set of slings just below the roof. Continuing past the roof I could see the rap slings, but was right at the end of my 60m rope. I let the knots jam into the rap device (but still held the tails of the knots) to get as much distance as possible. Then, just barely able to kick off the wall, I swung under the roof until I could grab a hold. It took a while to actually clip myself into the rap station since I didn't want to let go of the rope, leaving me only one hand to hold myself against the cliff. Finally I came up with a heel-toe jam that locked my body just enough to clip the anchor (even that took two tries). The anchor was pretty nasty, but I could beef it up with bail gear I was carrying. I knew Heidi would get enough rope stretch to reach me. So all I had to do was unweight my device and unclip it from the rope. Of course, that was impossible. Even climbing above the anchor to the maximum reach of my daisy (bad idea) there was still too much tension to unclip from the rope. I could have untied the knots and let the rope feed through my device, but the rope would spring out of reach and I couldn't put the knots back in. That would put Heidi at risk.
Complicating matters were the fact that Heidi and I were out of voice communication range and that I was on a big roof so all the climbing and shifting around was very strenuous. I put two prussiks from the rope to my harness to backup the knot jam. Then after considering the situation, I decided to climb back up. I was thinking that ascending the rope would be very time consuming and hard to begin since I was at the end of the rope (no foot prussik for the first few moves, I can do it but not easily). In retrospect, I should have ascended the rope.
I shouted as loud as I could to Heidi to put me on belay. She heard me, but I could never hear her reply. I started climbing. This was an epic itself since the rope was caught on the far left side of the roof and I was making 5.9 moves on holds covered in sand and lichen. Gives me even more respect for the original pioneers at the Gunks. The rope followed me up as I climbed, so Heidi had put me on belay. After getting a bit of slack in the system I tied better backup knots and left the prussiks in place. The climbing even eased a bit and eventually joined a route. Finally back at the top, I collapsed on the ground and suggested to Heidi that we try to rappel somewhere else. Before leaving, we killed the rap station. I think any rap station at the Gunks that doesn't reach the ground or an intermediate rap station in 25m should be VERY clearly labeled as such. There are so many good rappels that leaving a bad one in place is just stupid.
We went down Snooky's (which I found on the first try!) and quickly reached the ground. As there were no other climbers on Snooky's we did a quick toprope of the first pitch (by far the best pitch on Snooky's). Heidi enjoyed it enough to climb it twice.
With a somewhat late departure from Ithaca and our epic on Hawk, it was now 4:30pm. Luckily it was also the summer solstice, so we had plenty more time to climb. We went up Madame G's which is one of my favorite routes. Heidi had never climbed it and she enjoyed the semi-hanging belay and long, steep, juggy section. We did the fun rappel back to the ground. There was still enough daylight for one more short climb. We went to Classic, which I climbed two years ago. The opening moves are scary. I know there used to be a tree at the base so you could clip the first pin from the ground, but I'm pretty sure I never used it. Now the tree is gone, so I definitely climbed it clean. The hardest move is right after the pin. Bring your best climbing shoes and high high high step. I probably make the climb harder than necessary because I fill each little finger pocket with gear, then have no holds. But I feel safer that way. The rest of the climb is fun and well protected with an invigorating little roof at the top.
By the time we reached the ground it was getting dark. Summer solstice is a great time to be at the Gunks. The rhododendron are in bloom and the little shrubs with maple-like leaves have purple flowers (Heidi promised to try to identify those for me). It is mosquito season, but they weren't biting... much. After dark we were treated to a light show from the fireflies and full moon. Made for a pleasant drive home.