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Climbing the Gunks


Photo: Rock climbing in New York's Shawangunk Mountains

Photographer Alex di Suvero takes us on assignment in New York's Shawangunk Mountains.
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Climberville, U.S.A.

These three towns will drive you up a wall, in Colorado, California, and Oregon.
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Photo: Kayak Guide Bryan Jones at  Big Sur

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Climberville, U.S.A.
By Cliff Ransom

There are rocks to climb all over the country, but only a few bona fide climbing towns. New Paltz, New York, near the Gunks, is just one. Here are a few others with devoted followers, longstanding traditions, and world-class crags to back them up.

Bishop, California: The Birthplace of Bouldering
Bouldering in Bishop began in earnest when Smoke Blanchard, a truck-driving Buddhist, started climbing here in the mid-sixties. His enthusiasm was matched by the area's huge supply of rock, and both of these factors helped make Bishop the epicenter of the fastest growing trend in climbing.

The Goods: Blanchard bouldered in the granite Buttermilks just west of Bishop, but the most popular spots today are the volcanic Happy and Sad Boulders north of town.

The Beta: Wilson's Eastside Sports (www.eastsidesports.com) has hard-to-find topo maps and the scoop on up-and-coming areas.

The Crash Pad: For free camping, most climbers head to the BLM Pleasant Valley Pit, or "the Pit." For a roof over your head, try the reasonable El Rancho Motel ($50; +1 760 872 9251).

The Hang: Bishop's got great Mexican restaurants, but the real spot is outside of town at one of the nearby hot springs. Ask around.
 
Boulder, Colorado: The King of Crags
Despite its growth, Boulder is still the undisputed king of Rocky Mountain climbing towns and one of the great mountaineering centers of the country.

The Goods: Three of the nation's most classic crags—the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon ("Eldo"), and Boulder Canyon—are minutes from downtown, as is the best known high-altitude rock face in the lower 48, the Diamond on Longs Peak.

The Beta:  Neptune Mountaineering (www.neptunemountaineering.com), the coolest climbing shop ever, houses an unofficial climbing museum.

The Crash Pad: The Hotel Boulderado is a paragon of Victorian elegance ($195; www.boulderado.com). The Hang: An icon of Boulder hippiedom, Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery (www.mountainsunpub.com) dishes up free-range burgers and an amazing selection of microbrews.
 
Bend, Oregon: The Sire of the Sport
Bend was a backwater until the sport-climbing revolution of the mid-eighties. Then almost overnight it became the gateway to some of the most cutting edge routes in the world.

The Goods: "Smith Rock really was the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing," says Mike Volk, owner of SmithRock.com. Thanks, no doubt, to its long faces of volcanic tuff covered with a huge variety of routes.

The Beta: The well-stocked Redpoint Climbers Supply (+1 541 923 6207) is spitting distance from the crag. Pro Lynn Hill runs climbing camps around the country, and this fall she'll be at Smith from October 31 to November 4 ($2,195; www.lynnhillclimbs.com).

The Crash Pad: McMenamins Old St. Francis School has rooms, a brewpub, a Turkish bath, and a movie theater ($30; www.mcmenamins.com). The Hang: The Deschutes Brewery (www.deschutesbrewery.com) serves some of the most acclaimed beer in Oregon.


For more great adventure travel ideas, pick up the September 2005 issue of Adventure magazine.


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