A couple of years ago I got into a heated debate with a housemate of mine about whether Lost City should be a “locals only” area. Earlier that day he had seen a guide friend of mine there with a client. It frustrated him that guides would decide to take clients climbing at Lost City. He felt it was a “locals only” spot and that it was taboo to take outsiders there. However, when I asked him how he’d learned about the climbs there he replied that a “local” friend had shown him. And when I asked him how long he had lived in the area the response was a meager three years. I told him that my guide friend’s client has owned a house in the area nearly twice that long, and that she was climbing in the Gunks back when my housemate was still in his early teens wondering when he’d get to shave for the first time and what to do once he got it up. So who’s a local now? To me the answer seems muddy at best.
In fact I could care less. I’ll gladly take the time to show any one of my out of town friends around Lost City. Hell, it might be the first place I take them. The climbing is fabulous – gymnastic, crimpy and sustained. There’s no road beneath you, and you get to hop from rock to rock so that you don’t harm the most amazingly large, green beds of moss.
If you want sustained climbs you definitely won’t find them in the Trapps. With the exception of the Workout Wall in the Nears, sustained climbing can’t be found there either. Go to Millbrook looking for sustained climbs and you’ll need to change your underwear afterward. Lost City, however, has sustained climbs galore, many of which you can toprope or lead(woohoo!).
Some of the locals have tried to keep Lost City to themselves. It is, however, decidedly not a local’s only crag. On crowded weekends it’s busy with “nonlocals” too (damn, how did they ever find the place?). Not as busy as the Trapps, but as busy as the fragile ecosystem above and below the cliff can probably handle. It’s no secret either; you can see it from the road, and the High Peterskill trail parallels the cliff from below. Jeez, there’s a parking lot with a flat trail that goes straight there in under 15 minutes (and a ranger who’ll give you directions).
A long time ago the Mohonk Preserve decided that they didn’t want a guidebook published to Lost City. For better or worse the local climbing community has acquiesced to the preserve’s request. That’s not to say no one’s written a guidebook to the area. This just isn’t true. There’s more than one local who could probably furnish a publisher with pretty detailed guidebook to Lost City tomorrow if they felt it was a good idea.
Myself, I’ll live without a guidebook to the area. Some of my best experiences in the Gunks have involved being shown new climbs by other people who are more familiar with the cliff. More than one of those people have become my best friends. As I started to think about writing a post about Lost City I did a little internet research. You know what I found? Not much. Mostly I found forum bitch sessions on sites like rockclimbing.com about how unfriendly the locals are about their precious cliff. Now I can’t get it out of my head, and it’s under my skin. I’ve never been a smug unfriendly local to visiting climbers, and most of the people I know aren’t that way either.
Not having a published guidebook to the Lost City is a blessing. It forces us as climbers to do a few very important things: to be friendly and open-minded and to explore. Climbing is about making friends. And, the things that most likely attracted us to climbing were the sense of independence that it gave us, the wonder of exploration and the discovery of new places and things.
Climbing is like an art or a trade. There’s some information in books and on the internet, but most things you learn get passed on to you by someone who’s generally wiser and more experienced at climbing than you are . It’s a word-of-mouth skill that you acquire over years, not overnight and definitely not over the internet. I definitely don’t sit at home polishing my climbing skills and knowledge in front of my laptop, that’s for sure. I don’t think there’s a climber out there who’s learned everything they know about the sport from books and other media sources. The beauty is in the process and the interaction. You make friends, find new climbs, appreciate the outdoors and realize that you have it really good. And good it is. Lost City is a very fine crag. Oh the Gunks! How I love thee.