Goons in the Gunks

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An odyssey of Conor O’Sullivan and Ben VanderStouw

About thirty minutes into the car ride, Conor looked over at me. “Oh no. Dude, can you check the trunk?”
I unbuckled my seatbelt and slid into the back.
We turned around to grab Conor’s helmet sitting in our living room.

We got to New Paltz – a town full of pubs and New York City dwellers escaped for the weekend – around 8:00. We found a little parking lot to sleep in, camping in the back of Conor’s luxury Toyota Prius. We ended up getting around ten hours of sleep that night, the most we’ve had all semester!

We got up at 7AM, ate some breakfast, and headed to the crag. The Gunks are famous for their world-class multipitch traditional climbing, with very tough grades. Many climbers from elsewhere in the country are humbled by a Gunks 5.9.

Many of the routes were closed because of peregrine falcon nesting, so it was quite crowded. We saw some other parties do some WILD things like top-roping with just a rope around a tree and making just terrible anchors.

We climbed a route called Madame Grunnenbaum’s Wulst, or Madame G’s (5.6). This climb is usually completed in three pitches, being 210 feet, but we linked the second and third for a 170’ rope-drag-filled extravaganza! It was hard getting to the top because there was so much friction in the system (gotta bring up more draws next time!).

I ended up taking a 20’ whipper on the first pitch of Something Interesting (5.7+), and to my dismay I had to leave my trusty green Alien Cam that caught my fall. I was too tired and spooked afterwards to lead the next pitch, so we lowered back to the ground.

The view from the walls is absolutely beautiful, with the Catskill mountains framing a big open sky.

Conor was going to lead a route called Three Pines (5.3), but the German party in front was taking a long time, so we left.

After we made some vegan/gluten free garbage plates and called it a day!

What great way to procrastinate Organic Chemistry.

Stay Wild, Not Mild.

This post contributed by Ben VanderStouw. Do cool things? Want to share? Email us at


Emily Shannon is Looking Good, Feeling Good, Looking Good, and Being Safe

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Around 9 PM on Friday night, I was starting to get a little nervous. I was about two hours out of Syracuse and about three hours of walking into the Black River Wild Forest, a 130,000 acre forest preserve in the southwestern Adirondacks. We had been expecting a relatively easy hike in for the first day of our trip, but instead had found the trail untouched and hard to follow, with unmarked turns and snow-hidden creeks slowing us the entire way. It had gotten dark about an hour earlier, meaning that we were making even slower progress – and that we kept having to backtrack, mistaking small clearings and gaps in the woods for the narrow trail we were following.
But soon enough we saw our lean-to – a squat little shelter left over from the 30s, when the CCC remade the Adirondacks with federal funds. I was thrilled. The only thing I cared about was getting into the shelter and going to sleep for the night.
Emily Shannon, though, had some other things on her mind. “See that rock?” she asked, pointing to a small boulder off the side of the trail.
I was confused. “Yeah?”
“Someone had to put that there,” she said. “What an idiot.”


So goes hiking with SUOC’s newest backpacking leader, who passed her ghost lead with flying colors this past Saturday. With a small trip to Chub Lake (and some outstanding backcountry pizza), Emily demonstrated her abilities as a backpacker and a leader, and did it in the traditional Em Shan style. With this trip, Em is now a leader in both three-season and winter backpacking, and is excited to take on her role as Backpacking Chair in the year to come.

If you see Em Shan, make sure you say congrats – and make sure you sign up for her next trip!