If you’re seriously into rock climbing, the nerve center of your contacts with civilization in these parts is bound to be Rock and Snow in downtown New Paltz. That’s where the climbers go for gear, gossip and advice before heading up to the challenging pitches of the Gunks. And if you’re new to the sport, Rock and Snow will in all likelihood be the place you’ll go to get oriented as well as outfitted. The shop is also a Mecca for cross-country skiers, hikers and trail runners, with state-of-the-art equipment for rent as well as for sale.
This month is a busy one for the local community of outdoorspeople, thanks to a series of presentations organized by Rock and Snow and held at the store itself, the SUNY-New Paltz campus and the Mohonk Preserve. The latter will host an event this Sunday that has Shawangunk rock jocks abuzz: a reception welcoming legendary climber Lynn Hill back to the town where she lived in the 1980s. During that time Hill achieved many “firsts” on extremely challenging Gunks climbing routes, including the first on-sight ascents of Yellow Crack, rated 5.12c, and Vandals, the Gunks’ first 5.13a route, which was considered the most difficult route on the East Coast at the time. (In climber parlance, “on-sight” means climbs undertaken and completed without any practice runs, partial ascents, advice or coaching from climbers who had previously ascended or attempted a route.)
Hill is best-known for having been the first person, male or female, ever to free-climb the Nose on El Capitán at Yosemite, in 1993; a year later she became the first person ever to free-climb the entire route in less than 24 hours. Yvon Chouinard himself called it “the biggest thing that has ever been done on rock,” and it took another ten years for another climber to repeat Hill’s feat. So it’s no wonder that the Gunks climbing community is so eager for this homegirl’s return visit that the Mohonk event is completely sold out.
But don’t feel too disappointed if you haven’t already got your tickets: There’s a lot else happening in October, beginning this Friday, October 11 at 8 p.m. with a free slideshow at the shop by George Hurley on the early days of desert climbing. Then this Saturday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m., the action shifts to the Studley Theatre in the Old Main Building at SUNY-New Paltz, where the Reel Rock VIII tour arrives for the 15th annual New Paltz Climbing Film Festival. Tickets cost $17 and can be purchased at Rock and Snow or ordered online.
The Climbing Film Festival will open with Dominic Azoto’s 1985 classic Flight Time, featuring some Gunks greats in their high-fashion ‘80s attire, including Rock and Snow owner Rich Gottlieb himself. Other films on the program include The Sensei, in which young American boulderer Daniel Woods joins veteran climber Yuji Hirayama’s expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Borneo; Spice Girl, a profile of diminutive British climbing phenom Hazel Findlay; High Tension: Ueli Steck and the Clash on Everest, which documents the 2012 mutiny by Sherpas when Steck and his partner Simone Moro attempted a new ascent route; and The Stonemasters, a work-in-progress about the history of the counterculture climbing scene in Yosemite.
Another film screening will be offered at Rock and Snow the following weekend, on Saturday, October 19 at 8 p.m. In the High Country is “a visual essay about a life in the mountains” that “looks at running from a new perspective, both visually and in the style of running.” Admission to that event is free.
That is also the weekend when the Paradox Rocks tour, a series of “adaptive” climbing events and social gatherings for athletes with disabilities such as prosthetic limbs, touches down in the Gunks. Rock and Snow’s popular slideshow series will continue on Friday, October 18 at 8 p.m. with a presentation by Timmy O’Neill of Paradox Sports, a top manufacturer of adaptive outdoor equipment. Admission to the Paradox Rocks slideshow is free.
Finally, on Saturday, October 26 at 8 p.m., Nora Scarlett will present a free slideshow at the store about backpacking the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada. So whether your world of outdoor activity is vertical or horizontal, you’ll find something diverting and instructive this month at Rock and Snow. The shop is located at 44 Main Street in New Paltz. Visit www.rockandsnow.com for Climbing Film Festival tickets and other information about ongoing programming.