A weekend of climbing at the Gunks is…well…a little like bird watching. During the course of one sunday afternoon I got to experience many of the known climbing stereotypes (with the exception of the lycra-wearing 90’s sport climber, see below…

To be fair, it is very likely that we will deal more with this staple of the stereotypical climber as we go on across the country–the northeast is really not prime habitat for the lycra crowd. More on that later…

There was a strong showing from the Euro community; from what I could tell, predominately German folks. It was interesting listening to them on the route next to us giving eachother beta and yelling down at their children who seemed to be at far greater risk while untied at the base of the cliff than they would have been with at least some rope to constrain their antics…

Yes, here is where we met Peter and Matilda. Very nice children at least from the standpoint of someone who has no stake in their safety; both were probably 8-10 respectively and who can blame them for seeking out entertainment by wandering up and down the cliff base talking to other parties whilst their parents were busy fighting gravity above…

Matilda entertained Trevor by spitting some rhymes while simultaneously engaging in a vigorous game of “catch” with her brother–using their dads shoe as a ball. This would have been all well and good had Peter not eventually biffed the catch and begun to tumble down the embankment after the errant shoe…Fortunately one of their parental figures arrived on the scene to chide Peter for his acrobatics and we moved on to view different subjects.

As usual, there was a strong presence of New Jersey climbers out at the crags as well. This is a widely observed group that is commonly found on routes that are 5.5 and below; listen for sounds of childbirth peppered with complaints that “there just ARENT any footholds” or “this is A LOT harder than 5.5 in the gym, brah!” Typically this population is middle aged and male. The good news is that the ego commonly involved in selecting routes that are over the head of this climbing group often leads to mini-epics which result in gear being abandoned, which translates into free gear (sometimes)…

We got a chance to listen to no less than 25 minutes of the group leader at the very top of the cliff, hollering down directions to his completely befuddled second on how to remove a cam. I am not sure whether it annoyed me more to have to listen to an in depth kinesthetic analysis of a movement that is about as simple as picking your nose or whether it was just the sheer volume of the whole debacle that provoked my self righteous indignation…

Speaking of self-righteous…we got to see one of those too–the semi local, from Westchester County who feels obligated to challenge everyones climbing ability since he just onsighted his first 5.7. This character appeared (oddly enough) once I was up about 35 feet on Snookys. This subject often appears when the male climber is on lead and out of the way, leaving the isolated female belayer open to his blithering. As I paused to place a stopper I hear strains of the conversation with this gentleman and my wife, wafting up in my direction. “Does he KNOW what he’s DOING? Or where he’s GOING?” blah blah blah “It’s only 5.7, really”

I found this exchange particularly odd since Snookys is one of the straightest lines at the Gunks…but thankfully this undesirable made his way down to bother Peter and Matilda’s group…I heard him haranguing the Germans about their ability to complete the second pitch of their route as he inquired if they too, knew what they were doing…

Towards the end of our afternoon I encountered the damsels in distress, a female counterpart to the New Jersey n00b. Somehow they had rappelled off the guides wall, leaving all their anchor setups in tact; so I volunteered to retrieve it for them. In good conscience I couldn’t do otherwise since the top of this wall can be accessed by soloing a 5.0 gully that I have climbed many many times…in sandals.

So off I went, much to their chagrin, as they observed that I probably should have a rope on for such terrain. Upon getting to their anchor I found a setup that would certainly have voided the terms of their life insurance policy; I tried to think of a nice way of asking if they ever planned to climb again, because the way the gear had been placed really made me believe in the staying power of angelic forces; for the life of me I couldn’t think of what else held that cam in there. CAM. not CAMS. Single point anchor.

I returned their gear to them and as nicely as I could told them that their anchor scared me more than soloing up to get it and then soloing back down to deliver it to them. They were very appreciative and I have no idea if my advice had any effect…

Besides all of that though, Stef Trevor Vanessa and I had a great time on Snooky’s Return (5.8), Friends and Lovers (5.9) and later Trevor led Fingerlocks (or cedar box) (5.5) and we all went home for pizza and wings!

Authors note: The ability to laugh at ourselves is one of several things that separates us from animals. If you feel as though you fit into one of the demographics that was lampooned in this post, consider yourself lucky, since I am just attempting to help you laugh at yourself; I lead by example and laugh at you, myself! Polite, stuffy writing is not only patently dishonest but it is boring. If you seek such tripe, tell your friends about this blog and then go read the NY Times.