As we drove north the gray landscape softened into green then yellow hills. Leaves were falling and the ones that had already touched the ground whisped around under car tires. The roads got smaller as we cruised north, the hills got bigger and everything began to look....quaint. Quaint cottages, quaint ski hills, quaint mountains, stores, cows, road sighs, second growth trees. Everything outside the biggest city in the country is so quaint. For this very reason we begin jockying the seasonal Leaf Peepers and Bridge Picture-takers for space on the quaint byways of Lower Upstate New York and Connecticut.
We slowed down through as we approach a city center and finally see the massive strip of cliff known as The Shawangunks. I juts out in a way that seems out of place for the surrounding landscape. In New Paltz we stop for junk food and smear the pages of out guidebook with orange cheeto fingers in disregard for everything but getting to the cliffs.
The Shawangunks (or "Gunks) is of world class quality, know for route diversity, concentration, accessed and proximity to New York City but may still be most recognized for the long antiquated climbers and techniques that first established pocketed, exposed routes. It is as if I had come to pay my respects and I was checking a crag off of my Climbing life list.
A fee of $15 per climber is expected at the park and it is enforced by Rangers who patrol the nicely maintained service path beneath the cliff. We racked up and ran to the base of the High Exposure Wall to get on route before being forced to pay the entrance fee (or in our case be escorted out of the park as none of us had the money to pay anyway.) The ethics of charging access to a natural place seemed unacceptable. It was an assault on the good names of the First Ascentionists and their efforts by allow such a place to be treated like an amusement park. In no stretch of the imagination, however, it had become an amusement park.
When we arrived at the ultra classic, 5 star, world know route "High Exposure" which some claim to be the best 5.6 in the world we found, without much surprise, a line of parties waiting to climb. Line up to go on the ride.
Nevertheless, we felt the climb lived up to the hype and by hype I mean, popular, fun, crowded, loaded with gumbies, and exposed. We rappelled the rap stations in the rain.