A Brilliant Fall Challenge: Rock Climbing

Ready for an exhilarating new challenge that restores focus, eliminates stress and builds strength? Brilliant foliage and beautiful fall weather provide the perfect setting to try rock climbing. There’s no better place than here in the Hudson Valley, where the world famous Shawangunk Mountain Ridge or “Gunks” awaits.

With over 1,000 climbs, the Gunks offer an unforgettable experience to explore the vast beauty and natural splendor of the region.

As founder and director of Alpine Endeavours, I frequently guide ascents to Sky Top, part of the Mohonk Mountain House property, a 145-year-old historic Victorian resort.

Sky Top is one of the northernmost cliffs along the Shawangunk Ridge. Its unique horseshoe shape, prominent face and stone tower can be seen for miles from the valley below. With intriguing names like Jekyll and Hyde, Strawberry Yogurt and Petie’s Spare Rib, this cliff offers over 300 routes for all levels of ability, not just experienced climbers. Comfortable pants, a t-shirt and a pair of sneakers or light hiking shoes are enough.

Climbing in the Gunks.

If you are a beginner, be encouraged. Each day we customize half-day and full-day ascents to Sky Top based on group ability and comfort level. Although physical fitness is a plus, motivation and determination will help you overcome this challenge. From belaying and rappelling, to reviewing controls, safety checks, knots and climbing techniques, focus first on getting familiar with the basics.

Mastering the climb comes with time and practice. If you are a beginner, it is natural to feel out of place during the first (or second or third) ascent. Think of it like driving a car – education and mileage will help you become more confident in the systems.

For starters, I always advise beginner climbers to trust the gear and their feet. Climbing is a system in which we rely on harnesses, ropes, nuts, cam devices, and other gear to keep us anchored in our ascent. It is confidence in this system that comes easily. However, learning to trust our feet takes time. Climbing is all about footwork and walking on the rock. As a guide, I urge new climbers to always be mindful of their form. It is important to establish good habits early. Focus on moving your body and shifting your weight. Once you learn to look for footholds more than holds, the elements of the ascent will flow together more easily.

As you prepare for your first ascent, whether to Sky Top or beyond, don’t forget to take a moment to pause and enjoy the views. Good luck.

Marty Molitoris is a certified rock guide and alpine guide. He has led climbs in the Gunks since 1995 and Sky Top at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz since 2007. Advance reservations with Alpine Endeavors are required to climb Sky Top. Contact Molitoris at 877-486-5769 (877-GUNKS-NY) or [email protected].com.