I was asked yesterday what my favorite climbs were by grade - and it brought back memories of road trips - from vw camper van 9 month dirt bag trips to quick weekend drives to the gunks. I thought I'd start compiling the list - more than a few awesome road trips are required to tick these all off!
Best all time 5.9 would have to be Birdland at the Gunks.
This is an uber classic - most readers who are climbers have probably already ticked this one. I think it is now listed as 5.8+ but the first time I led it, I figured it was pretty close to 5.9
Curry's Diagonal, Veadauvoo, Laramie WY
|vedauwoo, Laramie Wyoming|
Haven't been to vedauwoo just outside Laramie, Wyoming? What are you waiting for? This place is beyond description- crazy wind sculpted blocks jutting up from the scrub pines set among a huge park (with National Forest 'free' camping just beyond the park. I've spent many a night camping there at night, climbing during the day and wandering around downtown Laramie in the evening.
The stone is incredibly tough on the fingers - one climb is called "Sex never did this to my hands" which sort of sums it all up. Although famous for off-width hell, Vedauwoo also has elegant face climbs, some classic hand and finger cracks and some interesting boulder problems - all set within a magical place.
Curry's Diagonal is one of the most prominent lines just off the main parking area - a proud crack with a "thank god" tree set in the middle of the line for bomber protection for the final run to the top.
Tragic that this is now closed (except for the most creative and persistent)
This is one of the original test pieces at the gunks - first done by Henry Barber. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first led it - so had been training hard on boulder problems in Rhode Island and the gunks. I'd heard stories of Barber training by pulling up on Popsicle sticks glues to a beam in his basement and the crack looks incredibly intimidating from the ground. We were climbing on doubles back in the day - and on my first try I got to the lip completely wound up in rope - desperately looking for a heel hook to help turn the corner. This was based on the great photo of Kevin Bein (long since passed on a tragic honeymoon trip to Europe...) using a heel hook. Turns out there was never any heel hook - this was a classic sand bag by one of the great gunks legends. Next try I just campused from the jug at the lip to the solid horizontal holds just above the jug and stood up. The harder part was getting off - since there was only one piece of old tat hanging out on the ledge - and there was too much rope drag my my crappy lead on double to get to the top...
Tie: Sultans of Swing, New River Gorge
My small contribution to hard trad pieces in the New. We rated it 12b(r) but after returning there 15 years after my first ascent I got shut down on the first crux sequence. This was after flashing some other 12a/b at the new. I think our grade might have been a bit soft. I'd love to hear from anyone who has repeated this thing...
Guillotine , American Fork
AF is a crazy climbing spot outside Salt Lake City. All limestone, all polished and hard. First trip there after starting work at Black Diamond and the posse I was with started warming up on 12b - I realized I wasn't in New Hampshire anymore... Guillotine lies just beyond the cave shown in this photo and pulls up and over a steep roof with a mandatory throw to a small hold. After that there is a balancy move above the last good bolt to the final stance. I worked on this after watching Jason Cambell nearly flash the thing - only to fall and end up 4' above my head as I belayed him.
Middle Cathedral, Little Cottonwood
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