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Gelsa is THE classic 5.4 route in the Gunks. The third-pitch corner is steep, exposed, and fun! Don't pass this one up, even if you're climbing at a harder grade.
Start by a tree right next to the cliff, about 20' left of Fat City Direct, at a pile of boulders.
P1: Climb up to an overhang at ~20 ft, and continue no further upwards. Instead, traverse left to a ledge and belay by a tree. 5.3, 45'.
P2: Continue traversing left (var) past an overhang and into an alcove (you'll be just above the bolts for Roseland), then back up right to a crack and a face. Angle up left to a good ledge/alcove at the base of a huge, overhanging, right-facing corner, and make a belay on smaller gear here. 5.4, 60'.
Var: You can also diagonal up and left to the next belay, instead of traversing directly left. You'll end up climbing a slab towards the belay alcove at 5.6 or so.
P3: The money pitch. Climb up right and up (or, up and right - either way works) and follow the steep, exposed corner to the top. 5.4, 90'.
Walk off to the right.
Standard Rack. Pink and red Tricams are useful for the belay anchor at the end of the second pitch. A #3 Camalot is useful on the third pitch.
Mike Amato stemming up the third pitch.
Unknown climber leading P2
BETA PHOTO: Gelsa. P1 is shorter than it looks, while P2 is l...
Damon Farnum on the P1 traverse.
Looking back at the P2 belay.
Looking down the third pitch.
Finishing up P2.
Nearing the top.
BETA PHOTO: Here is what the rap station for Gelsa looks like....
Moving through P3 of Gelsa. Really steep for 5.4!
Anthony climbing the first pitch of Gelsa. Photo b...
Anthony topping out on Gelsa. Photo by Brian Aitke...
P2 anchor for Gelsa. Take note of the small gear.
Starting up the fun 3rd pitch corner of Gelsa.
Side view following the climb to the first belay p...
p1 traverse on Gelsa
From: Decatur, GA
Mar 27, 2007
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a
This is really an outstanding climb, one of my favorite Gunks leads. P3 is hard to beat for great exposure and plentiful pro. Definitely a must-do at the Gunks.
|By Matt Amory|
From: Boulder CO
May 18, 2007
One of my first leads and favorite memories to this day. It was pouring rain by the time we reached the P2 Crux. I led the 3rd pitch straight up a freakin' waterfall. The sensation of being up on top after such a wild ride was amazing...
From: Boulder, CO
May 30, 2007
One of the least impressive "classics" at the gunks for me. It was OK, but most of the rock looked loose and spooky.
From: Thornton, CO
Sep 30, 2007
Agree with Jeremy - some of the rock quality on P3 did not excite me.
Also, I have had two friends now get lost on P1 of this route. You don't climb very high (20 feet?) before traversing directly left. There is a crack that continues up above where the traverse starts that can sucker you in, and it will definitely take you well off-route and into harder terrain. The picture in the Swain book is especially inaccurate, showing a left-diagonaling ascent when the climb really goes up, straight left, then up again to the base of the corner.
|By James DeRoussel|
From: Tucson, AZ
Jun 24, 2008
This is a superb climb, perhaps the best in the grade...anywhere. Where else can you climb an overhanging 5.4?
Sep 4, 2008
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13
An absolute must-do. A real classic with easy but airy and committing moves.
From: Wayne, PA
Sep 6, 2008
Couple of thoughts;
1) Going over the overhang at the start of p2 and angling left to the belay is a harder variation (5.6ish? PG)
2) I think P3 is the money pitch, but, it's sometimes tough to find good gear. That said, it's easy climbing so I just climbed until I could find a bomber placement.
Jun 1, 2009
Take care to extend your clifftop belay back towards the cliff edge - communication back to the 2nd belay can be difficult. Also, be careful of loose rock on top!
From: Falmouth (MA)
Jun 2, 2009
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c
I inadvertently did a 5.10R "variation" going strait to the first good ledge with a tree. Apparently not climbed very often ...
Second pitch is incredibly steep for the grade but is really only 5.4
|By George Perkins|
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 19, 2010
It seemed like it would make sense to combine p1 & the first part of p2, belaying at the 2-bolt anchor (above Roseland?); then a 2nd pitch to the top from there.
|By Larry S|
Aug 2, 2010
A great line, the last pitch is great, but easy to get lost on the lower pitches and wander into harder terrain. Make sure you go up to the pitons, then traverse to the ledge (belay), then traverse from the ledge to the corner, then up to the second ledge.
For an alternative second pitch, you can take a fairly direct line towards the next belay. It ups the ante a little bit. It's not strenuous climbing at all, but it is more technical and has some slab climbing in the last 15 or so feet. The gear is all there with a shallow #1tcu to protect the slab. I inadvertently took that line a few years ago when i was a new leader and it scared me then. Climbed it this weekend to see how it felt now. It's a good alternative pitch that is probably around 5.6, but i might be overrating it. A few of the pictures showing P2 show this variation. Definitely easier to traverse and then go up.
|By Kevin Heckeler|
From: Upstate New York
May 11, 2011
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c
The face climbing variation on pitch 1 is stiff and thin for pro. I highly recommend traversing all the way left to the arete/nose/corner (rap anchor for another route visible), then up as previously discussed to the belay for P2. I can only imagine being a 5.4 leader getting off route.
|By Barrett Stetson|
Jul 31, 2011
Thought the pro on the last pitch was a little sketchy actually, I don't know that I'd put a 5.4 leader on this. Good holds all the way, but also some more mentally challenging moves too. Fun, but not stellar in my opinion.
|By micah richard|
Sep 5, 2011
Third pitch is very exposed and steep for the grade. Might be a little freaky for a new leader. there is gear everywhere but a lot of it is crappy. there are lots of loose blocks. that said , this is a super fun route not to be missed.
From: Atlanta, GA
Oct 8, 2011
Do it in one pitch with doubles!
Nov 6, 2011
Nice variety of moves for a 5.4. Perhaps not a good choice for inexperienced (or inattentive) leaders (or rather their followers), because of all the traversing at the beginning -- it's easy to forget to protect the follower. It could be also a bad choice for a leader with lots of indoor but not much outdoor experience -- because of the dependence on footwork just before and after the end of the beginning traversing.
I found the little BD cam #0 very useful on last pitch. For the recommended #3 I was able to substitute a big old hex someone gave me (maybe #11?). I was happy to use a big old #4 Friend higher up on the last pitch.
Apr 22, 2012
I led it again and enjoyed it very much again -- but I had a follower fall off again, on the second half of the low traverse (first section of P2), and they ended up hanging down below the route on unclimbable terrain. Fortunately, my second was carrying prusiks and knew how to use them, so they got back up. I was also glad I didn't have to abandon gear retreating from the second belay if I'd just lowered them off to the ground.
My big lesson is that I should have stopped and belayed at the tree -- as described above on this page (but no longer recommended in some guidebooks) instead of linking pitches 1 and 2. I think it's valuable to stop + belay at the tree because:
- I get to demonstrate the route-selection and moves at start of P2 (soon after the tree).
- I feel free to place lots of pro _after_ each move on the traverse section (because that's what the follower needs).
- I feel free to place friends/cams (instead of Tricams or stoppers) in any places with awkward stances -- easier for follower to remove. My follower lost strength + confidence trying to get a Tricam out. I was "saving" my cams/friends in case there was a fiddly placement later on.
Double-ropes helped me a lot -- because just after (or before?) the end of the traverse, there are some moves with small feet and smaller hands, where for my own security I was very glad to place good pro close. With only a single rope, this placement would have resulted in a hard swing if the follower fell before the end of the traverse. But with careful use of double-ropes, the swing was kept soft -- tested in an actual fall.
Funny thing is that I've never had any problem with the navigation or moves on the traverse myself -- but I need to take it much more seriously for my followers.
|By Galen Rahmlow|
May 21, 2012
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c
Walkies are helpful at the end of P2, especially if it is windy.
Oct 13, 2012
Directions to Gelsa (very detailed for first-time visitors):
First follow the directions from the Parking to "Disneyland" (see in the Comments under Disneyland ).
Then continue going SSW along the base of the cliff. After about 45-55 feet, reach a narrow passage between the cliff and a rock. The cliff at that point is a narrow ridge with a crack in it ("Inverted Layback").
Another 50-60 feet, after passing under a prominent blocky nose about 25 feet above, see an open book of orange rock starting above a ledge about 30 feet up -- with cracks in its left face ("Alphonse").
About 65-70 feet further, reach a prominent narrow ridge down to the ground, with a slanted triangular gap cut out from its bottom - (left side of this ridge is the start of "Fat Stick").
About 65 feet more, after passing by a roof about 25-30 feet above, then by a large slanting/leaning flake about 25 feet high with lots of lichen on it, see twin trees on top of a smaller slanting/leaning flake about 10 feet high. About 35 feet above them is a giant ledge/alcove below a big roof with orange rock - ("Baskerville Terrace").
Another 40-45 feet, after passing by a ridge about 20 feet high, then by two roofs layered 15 or 20 feet up, see a bunch of stacked rocks with a tree about a foot wide growing out of their midst -- that's the start of Gelsa. Above is an obvious crack going from 15 feet to 30 feet up. And about 50 feet up see a semi-triangular ceiling sticking out from the face.
. (After this the trail goes down a little past an evergreen bush, and about 75 feet past Gelsa ... if you find an open book of orange rock with a thin crack ("Roseland"), with an overhanging bulge about 30 feet up, capped by a ceiling about 60 feet up ... you've gone too far)
|By Andy Weinmann|
From: Alexandria, VA
Oct 31, 2012
We ended up doing an alternate P3 because the original was a slimy mess and my friend's leading limit is about 5.6. I wasn't about to put her on that last pitch. Instead, she led up the blocky corner above the P2 belay then moved out left around the corner and onto the face. She climbed straight up this face and then moved back right near the top to join the original route for the last few moves. Still 5.4, but PG on gear and a little dirty. This alternate is in the Williams guide.
She also learned a good lesson in creating rope drag for herself with her gear placements. I ended up short-roping with the rest of the rope in a mountaineer's coil over my shoulder.
Oh and she led P3 in the dark with a headlamp. Couldn't be prouder of her for keeping her cool and getting it done!
Sep 7, 2013
At last figured out why we were having trouble with the left half of the low long traverse (left of the tree). I actually stopped and belayed at the tree. Next I tried the traverse two or three different ways ... Discovered that there's one way which is easier for somebody like 5ft6in-5ft7in or taller, but very difficult for somebody less tall than that. Another way which is do-able at a wider range of reach/heights. So Sharon did the second way, and got through just fine.
Just after that for the first time I tried continuing horizontally even farther left, around the outside corner, down a little into a wide L-facing corner - next to the Roseland bolts-and-chains anchor. (I guess that's the lower "alcove" in the description above?) Then up the L-facing corner over a bulge, then back R around the outside corner and up to the belay ledge.
Then seemed better protected and more positive holds than my previous way of simply climbing up the outside corner.
Though this way farther left even more calls for double-rope technique: I used one strand for belaying Sharon on the initial upward moves from the tree, the other strand for protecting myself on the horizontal traverse and then up the corner.
(Note that it's straightforward to use double-rope technique with a single rope: one climber just ties into the middle.)
Oct 31, 2013
Absolutely loved this climb - a real classic! The whole time I was leading the 3rd (final) pitch I had to keep reminding myself, "it's only 5.4, it's only 5.4". Then later looked in the guidebook and saw that pitch is actually rated 5.3!!! Just goes to show great climbing knows no grade...