The dog days of summer may be upon us, but don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from enjoying the great outdoors here in the Valley. Looking for a low-key outing? Take a hike or a bike ride, or perhaps a sail on the Hudson. Need a little more excitement? How about tubing, rock climbing — or skydiving? No matter what thrill level you seek, these 10 invigorating excursions are guaranteed to get your heart racing
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Between a Rock & a Beautiful Place
It seems our little town of New Paltz keeps getting major national recognition (and not just on the issue of gay marriage). We’re referring to all the outdoor recreation accolades, such as “best adventure town” (National Geographic Adventure) and “best outdoor town” (Outside magazine), among others. Naturally, much of this open-air excitement is due to the legendary rock climbing on the Shawangunk Ridge.
Here, neophytes and experts alike can experience the hard, white quartz rock (perfect for climbing) and nearly 1,200 easily-accessed technical climbing routes at both the 6,500-acre Mohonk Preserve and adjacent Minnewaska, New York’s only state park preserve to allow climbing. And while many seasoned climbers from around the globe wait a lifetime to have a shot at routes like High Exposure (5.6) with its huge roof, and Shockley’s Ceiling (5.6), many of the routes are also ideal for beginners and intermediates. They’re all incredibly scenic. No wonder this is now the busiest climbing region in the country.
In recent years, there has been renewed excitement in the area. Skytop, one of the four major cliffs of the Shawangunk climbing scene with 300 documented climbs, was recently reopened to guided climbing for guests at the Mohonk Mountain House; this summer, climbing privileges have been extended to day guests, too. A half-day for one person costs $237; a full day, $338 (see www.mohonk.com for more information).
Currently, only four guide services are licensed to work in Mohonk or Minnewaska (see below), so contact one of them to get started. They all offer a variety of options: beginner lessons in pairs or larger groups, group outings, and even lessons for kids.
When you get out to the ridge, the first thing you’ll have to do is “gear up,” which includes putting on climbing shoes (they bear a strange resemblance to bowling shoes, but have a sticky rubber compound on the sole that grips the rock), a helmet, and a harness. Rock climbing is done in pairs. One person ascends the rock face, the other acts as the belayer — staying on the ground and controlling the rope, which is part of a system of ropes and anchors designed to catch falls. Top-roping, in which an anchor is set up at the summit of the route prior to the climb, is widely regarded as the safest technique and the best way to learn. Marty Molitoris of Alpine Adventures says that beginners tend to be afraid of two things: “First, there’s the equipment and trusting it,” he says. “But that’s easy to overcome. The harder thing is trusting your feet. You need to put your foot on tiny little holds and trust that you can stand up on them. You don’t always have the big footholds that you want.” One thing that surprises many first-timers is that you don’t actually need all that much body strength. Says Andrew Zilewski, a manager at Rock & Snow, New Paltz’s one-stop outdoor shop: “Climbing is probably more like dancing than weight lifting; it is more about technique than brute strength.”
Rock & Snow
44 Main St., New Paltz. 845-255-1311