I traverse left along the big horizontal crack. Crunchy brown lichen covers the footholds, making everything feel insecure. I grab a 4″ rib of rock sandwiched in the crack. As I set both hands on the juggy rib it begins to tip out of the crack. I let go and immediately plummet down the near vertical face. After coming to a stop I take stock of my situation. I’d just taken a huge fall on a traverse. I’d had time to fully scream three times before I stopped falling. Some bruised ribs? Yup. Small cut on elbow? Yup. No major injuries? Also, yup. Wow.
Doug was over 150′ away, we were using a brand new rope, and the slack between each piece of protection along the traverse contributed to me taking an enormous whipper. I climbed to the belay, slightly shaken but ready to move forward. This was only pitch two, there were 65 more ahead.
The great wall of China
Doug Ferguson, one of the local Shawangunk climbing guides, likes alpine climbing. Recently, he’s been taking the alpine mentality to the Gunks. Last year he climbed most of The Great Wall of China, a 9000′ girdle traverse of the Trapps, over several days with different partners.
I decided to give the Great Wall a go with Doug yesterday. Despite the forecast for extreme heat and humidity, we decided to try it anyway. Doug lead throughout the day. I wanted nothing to do with leading after my big fall on pitch two, and Doug had already climb much of the traverse. After 10 pitches, as we sat on a ledge near the edge of the Slime Wall, we decided to bail instead of heading out into the baking sun again. The traverse has more challenging climbing in the section ahead. I stood up on the ledge to thread the rappel and noticed the soreness in my ribs a little more. It was a good time to go down.
One of the many scenic spots above Sleepy Hollow
Today, looking back at the photos I realize how spectacular and scenic the position is along the traverse. Much of the climbing is dirty, loose and runout. However, there are brilliant sections of rock and great ledges too. Without a doubt, we’ll be trying this again, in hopes of doing a single-push effort sometime soon.