Mohonk Preserve honors climbers, celebrates 50th anniversary

Legendary climber Lynn Hill presented a slide show with commentary to a packed house at last Sunday's event at the Mohonk Preserve. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Legendary climber Lynn Hill presented a slide show with commentary to a packed house at last Sunday’s event at the Mohonk Preserve. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

In a darkened tent illuminated solely by a slide projector’s lamplight, Lynn Hill addressed a crowd of fellow climbers last Sunday. She walked them through a sometimes silly slideshow of 70 years of mountain climbing at Mohonk Preserve.

Hill’s speech came as part of a special night celebrating Mohonk Preserve’s unique relationship with climbers. Last weekend was a busy one for the local community of outdoorspeople, thanks to a series of presentations organized by Rock & Snow and held at the store itself, the SUNY New Paltz campus and the Mohonk Preserve. The events were all part of the annual Climbing Film Festival.


Hill got huge laughs from the crowd for relishing in — not glossing over — horrendous fashion faux pas of bygone eras in climbing. One that got the biggest laughs: the gaudy Lycra climbing suits of the 1980s.

“One of the best things about the Gunks is the community — the culture,” she told her audience.

Hill, now 52, first moved out to the Shawangunks in 1983 during her 20s. Now recognized as a champion climber — named a living legend by Climbing magazine — she first came to the New Paltz area from Southern California.

“I’d never seen rock like this growing up in California,” Hill said. “I didn’t know what winter was until I moved here.”

Because of geological differences in rock faces on the Ridge, the Gunks presented a different kind of challenge than what Hill knew out West. “The Gunks was a great place to push myself and learn how to keep my head together in moments that mattered,” she said.

Hill, who now lives in Boulder, Colorado, also broke through a gender barrier in the male-dominated culture of climbing and often out-competed the guys. When faced with a challenging route — one where she kept falling, or when her body was worn out and tired — she had to dig deep.

“I really did it just to say something — not just about being a woman, but about the spirit of putting everything into it, and believing in yourself, and believing in the passion of climbing, and just the beauty of it all,” she said. “Whether it’s an easy route or a hard route, it’s just about getting out there with your friends and having a great time in a beautiful place.

“We’re so lucky to have the privilege to climb in the Gunks.”

“The rock climbing community’s been with us since before we were even the Preserve,” explained Glenn Hoagland, the Preserve’s executive director.