Sunday, May 18, 2008

Near Trapps Guide Nearing Completion

Every Gunkie has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Dick Williams' updated version for his guide to the Near Trapps. Today I asked him for the latest news while we were doing trailwork..... It's coming soon!

Maybe not as soon as you'd like, but look forward to a spectacular leaf peeping season from new vistas in the Nears this autumn. The book should be on the shelves in early August.

Dick said that there is a bit of work being done on the cover in the next week and then, off to the printer it goes. The final stage of production takes between six and eight weeks. He says he'll be happy if the book is available by August.

Now....there can be no promises, of course. But even with a buffer zone, I think it should be safe to say that the book will be ready to fly off the shelves at Rock and Snow for the high point of this year's Gunks season.

I wish I'd thought to ask him a few questions about the new additions in the guide, but I can tell you for sure there will be descriptions of not only old routes not noted in "the Black Dick," as the last guide to the Nears is affectionately referred to, but newly established lines as well.

The big joke I heard was when he was talking about some of the FA's he'd been doing(this was in 2006) and someone said "Hey! In your old guide you said not to bother with the part of the cliff between..... and that the reason you gave was that it was loose and chossy! Now we know the truth is that you couldn't get all the FA's before the last book went to print!!!!" At the time. I looked over at him and though he did blush....he didn't deny it either!

But seriously, Dick, with the help of his climbing partners, spent a considerable amount of time working over in the Nears in order to bring a book that promises to be as well done as the "Grey Dick" guide to the Trapps. Which is to say - an extraordinarily researched and detailed book. Following the same formula, he reclimbed every route on the cliff, or had someone else whose opinion he valued do the routes he was unable to.

Not only that, but he spent many, many, hours cleaning choss and trundling killer blocks from lines where the cliff is known for the loose stuff. This work had to be done very carefully, as you can imagine, due to the dangerous nature of it. From what I understand, there would be people at the trail up and down from the areas where they were working, to alert people of the potential for falling rock and to stop them when active trundling was occurring. Walkie-talkies were used for communication amongst the team.

Back in 2005 I was lucky enough to tag along when Dick walked someone along nearly the entire length of the Nears, giving them first-hand beta on all the classic routes. During that time, he pointed out many lines that were not in the old guide, some recent FA's and even some of the unclimbed lines he had in his sights. Last season I followed a new 5.5 of his down just past "Up In Arms," which is the last route listed in the existing Nears guide. There is also an interesting 5.7 in the same area that he had people climb and provide feedback on called "The Shadow Nose." Go down there on a sunny day and take a look....The name is a good giveaway to find the route!

So....that's what I've got for info on the upcoming book. In other news, today was our first day of trailwork this season and we kicked things off, appropriately enough, on the trail going up to "Welcome to the Gunks."

If you've walked that access route, you know that it needed a little attention. What begins as a solid set of stone steps transitions about halfway up the slope into a sometimes steep bit of dirt, with bad footing if you don't stay attentive. If you haven't been there....it looks like this:
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The established trail was steep and fairly straightforward, and that was a contributing reason as to why parts of it had washed into a slippery slope. During wet periods, water found the path of least resistance to be a great escape, which eroded the slope and increased the grade in places.

We had a couple options in fixing the situation. We could have rebuilt the existing route by adding more stone steps to replace the dirt sections, or we could reroute the line to include switchbacks. We chose the latter. In this scenario, the angle up the slope is more gradual. This is easier on the user, but also helps lessen the rate of erosion on the slope.

Here's the start of our new section, angling off from the original trail:
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This is a better shot of the work we started today. It's far from finished. We will need to reinforce the trail in places on the downslope, and add some stones in areas where we need to protect tree roots. We'll also do finishing work to make a solid, even, route that will hold up for years to come.
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The section heads upwards in a slight rise for about 30 feet before making a switchback to continue the path. Now the Welcome to the Gunks access trail will have a hairpin turn, reminiscent of the infamous one on highway 45/55 down below!

Here's Dick Williams and Al DiMaria working in that upper section, which reconnects with the original trail about 10 feet below the cliff base.
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Again, this is just our initial work, and more fine tuning will be done on our next session. Which will be Sunday, June 1st, weather permitting, in case you were wondering.... We can always use volunteers and if you would like to join in, we meet atop the Steel Bridge at 9am!

As a special bonus for our work, we were graced with the beauty of a pink LadySlipper Orchid.
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If you are in the area, keep an eye out for her. Go up the trail, and when you rejoin the old section, she's located just to the far side of the route, a few feet uphill(the flower will be on your right side as you ascend the trail). Be careful; the flower is quite delicate and is one of only a few examples you will find in this part of the Gunks. The LadySlipper Orchid is, obviously, coming into season now, and can be seen for the next few weeks before spring turns to summer and she fades away until next year.


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1 comment:

jmvc said...

Looks easy enough to walk across without making a path..