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Justification to speak up (Tree Rappels Gunks)


Original Post
Gunks Apps · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 239

Based on Seth G's post I thought a new thread was needed to clarify why wrapping a rope directly around a tree is damaging to the tree and climber access at the Mohonk Preserve.

I realize this is primarily preaching to the choir but here goes.

1)  It is banned by the Mohonk Preserve
2)  It damages the tree even if done only once
3) The Mohonk Preserve is private land and climbing access is a privilege that can be revoked

If you don't believe the practice damages the tree, stand at the top of the cliff, wrap the rope around your leg and have your partner pull the rope and then deal with the nasty rope burn. Think about why rings are added to the slings. Alternatively, look at the countless trees that have deep grooves worn into the bark.

We have worked with Mohonk Preserve, GCC, Access Fund, and Petzl to install bolted anchors that eliminate the need to rappel from healthy trees with slings and rings. The primary reason for this action has been to reduce impact on the trees. By monitoring the trees we have direct evidence that this has worked.

Currently there are enough rappel stations and walk-off options that a VERY short walk will lead to a bolted station, healthy tree with slings, or down-climb descent. The Gunks apps and forthcoming print guidebook have detailed information that provide LNT descents.

If you feel there is a situation where there is no good LNT descent you can contact me directly and I will bring it to the attention of the committee that reviews environmental impact on the cliff. gunksapps  AT  gmail

Personally I think it is incumbent upon us as climbers to speak up when witnessing environmentally unsound practices. Strike up a conversation first and then explain why these practices kill trees and jeopardize future access.

I think SethG did what we all should be doing.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,028

Amen, Chris.

Taylor D · · Williston, VT · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 86

Thanks Chris. At the risk of being lambasted: I've never rapped directly off a tree - I was taught by someone who showed me the right way without explaining why other ways were wrong - I didn't actually know that it was such a no-no to go directly off a tree. I completely understand why and I think the policy makes complete sense, but I hadn't been confronted with the idea before SethG's post and I'm really glad this is a lesson I've learned without doing any damage to crags.

I've never climbed at the Gunks so I wasn't aware that it's explicitly banned there either, so I appreciate this post for educating me (and hopefully others) and putting us in a better position to 1. not rap directly off of trees and 2. explain the harm to others. And thanks to SethG for speaking up.

Gunks Apps · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 239
Taylor D. wrote: I've never climbed at the Gunks so I wasn't aware that it's explicitly banned there either, so I appreciate this post for educating me (and hopefully others) and putting us in a better position to 1. not rap directly off of trees and 2. explain the harm to others. And thanks to SethG for speaking up.

To your point my mentors taught me to use trees whenever possible rather than fiddle around with gear. They also didn't tell me not to put the rope directly around trees so I probably did that on occasion but I can't remember that far back. We've definitely hit a period of time where at least in the Gunks it's unsustainable. Some people might disagree with me here, but I think we are also seeing unsustainable wear simply from wrapping slings around the same trees to belay or as directionals. For that I think the solution has to be education.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,506

OP, thanks for posting the reminder!

B DeMers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2018 · Points: 0
Gunks Apps wrote:

To your point my mentors taught me to use trees whenever possible rather than fiddle around with gear. They also didn't tell me not to put the rope directly around trees so I probably did that on occasion but I can't remember that far back. We've definitely hit a period of time where at least in the Gunks it's unsustainable. Some people might disagree with me here, but I think we are also seeing unsustainable wear simply from wrapping slings around the same trees to belay or as directionals. For that I think the solution has to be education.

As a young/newer climber, I can see this without knowing how trees looked in the past. Girdled directional trees and old stumps are things I come across enough to understand it's an issue in NC and WV. You can even tell when a tree is being used as an on-route hold with a perfect bare spot at hand height and perfect bare spot at foot height. There are comments on mountain project for routes that have become pg13 or simply harder to protect because of the loss of previous sling trees

Dillon Schwertz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

Only tangentially related but are there any plans to add a bolted rap station to Millbrook? Or maybe there is one and I just don't know about it (fairly likely, I'm pretty new to the gunks)? Obviously it's not 'completely' necessary, but especially since the old tree is dead and the tat has been removed, seems like a little project worth some time.

David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 145

Some things we can do to help:

  1. Can we have an "Access Issue" added to the Trapps/Nears/Millbrook sections about rapping? Peterskill has similar rules but I think we'd want the text to be a bit different because it's under different management.
  2. I'm going through and submitting changes to add descent instructions for all the routes on MP, and to put a "Descent" header to make it easier for people to find the descents. (EDIT: I just realized this isn't a thing we can do. I made a feature request.) However, there are a bunch I don't know, and a few that have less than ideal descents, so I'll ask questions here as I work my way down the cliff.
Troll Reformed · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 1

At Woodson all the trees are manzanita - hard as iron, so we don't worry about this kind of pansy plant nonsense you east coasters have to worry about.

Standard protocol is to double-wrap the trunk, punch the trunk, punch yourself, and then rap, and then pull the rope while you punch your partner.

We're tough.

David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 145

Here are some routes I don't know the descents for which don't have descent information:

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,028
David K wrote: Some things we can do to help:

  1. Can we have an "Access Issue" added to the Trapps/Nears/Millbrook sections about rapping? Peterskill has similar rules but I think we'd want the text to be a bit different because it's under different management.
  2. I'm going through and submitting changes to add descent instructions for all the routes on MP, and to put a "Descent" header to make it easier for people to find the descents. (EDIT: I just realized this isn't a thing we can do. I made a feature request.) However, there are a bunch I don't know, and a few that have less than ideal descents, so I'll ask questions here as I work my way down the cliff.

Hi David,

I made a concerted effort to do (2) when I took over as admin.  So the vast majority of routes should have that information in the route description, though not as a separate section.  Absolutely please do edit/flag/improve the ones that don't.  I may well have missed updating one or two as the anchors appeared over the years.

I think an Access Issue is a good idea.  I'll do something with that ASAP.
wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 553
David K wrote: Here are some routes I don't know the descents for which don't have descent information:

I thought you walk off left to the carriage road for those routes? Are you looking for a rap decent?

There's a bolted anchor at the top of "No Picnic" a bit to the left. Dunno how easy it is to get to it.
Adrienne DiRosario · · Troy, NY · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0
David K wrote: Here are some routes I don't know the descents for which don't have descent information:

Do you mean Sudo-shit? It’s a 5.8

Per gunks app. Descent: Walk off left to join the trail which leads southwest to the carriage road.


Per gunks app for Suderiferous P1 descent. 

p1 5.2 Up the large corner and ambient chimney to a large terrace atop the Gerdie Block. Descent possible from here by moving down a bit to the Gerdie Block rappel station.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,028

OK, I added an Access Alert based on Chris's text.  Happy to take suggestions on it.

Gunks Apps · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 239
wivanoff wrote:

I thought you walk off left to the carriage road for those routes? Are you looking for a rap decent?

There's a bolted anchor at the top of "No Picnic" a bit to the left. Dunno how easy it is to get to it.

Yes, once you are above No Picnic it is a 5 minute walk back to the carriage road. No Picnic requires a sketchy downclimb to reach it and should not be used as a rappel route. That anchor was installed to protect the tree, yet I've seen a few people including guides sling the tree and drop down to that anchor. People who can't lead No Picnic to set-up a TR should go to Peter's Kill.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,861

I would think there'd be support for a corollary to the tree policy - Don't remove slings from trees. Folks who do so in the interest of "forcing" folks to descend their preferred way i.e. walk off, are not doing the trees any favor. Too many folks who want to rap down are going to rap down even if they're aren't slings in-situ.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Part of the problem is that the solutions are all implemented and dependent on things like MP and the Gunks App.  There is no mechanism for the caveman to find the descent when he arrives on top if nothing is visible.  But lots of trees typically are visible.

I know that maintaining a pristine landscape is sacrosanct at the Gunks but having some discrete markings pointing to the descent might not be so bad.  You know like most of the rest of the civilized (climbing) world has. Seems a bit inconsistent that the top of the cliff can have nothing but the bottom has the carriage road, blazed (and constructed) approach trails, etc.

Danny Poceta · · Calgary · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 41
Dillon Schwertz wrote: Only tangentially related but are there any plans to add a bolted rap station to Millbrook? Or maybe there is one and I just don't know about it (fairly likely, I'm pretty new to the gunks)? Obviously it's not 'completely' necessary, but especially since the old tree is dead and the tat has been removed, seems like a little project worth some time.

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/114812788/rogue-bolting-in-the-gunks-psa

Bolted rap anchors at Millbrook are not necessary whatsoever.
Dillon Schwertz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0
Danny Poceta wrote:

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/114812788/rogue-bolting-in-the-gunks-psa

Bolted rap anchors at Millbrook are not necessary whatsoever.

I figured I wasn't the first to think it was a decent idea. Thanks for the link homie!

Gunks Apps · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 239
Gunkiemike wrote: I would think there'd be support for a corollary to the tree policy - Don't remove slings from trees. Folks who do so in the interest of "forcing" folks to descend their preferred way i.e. walk off, are not doing the trees any favor. Too many folks who want to rap down are going to rap down even if they're aren't slings in-situ.

I agree with you for a minority of trees that are in good shape and there is no other practical descent (ie. Top of Beginner's, Weeping Willies, Guides Wall, No Glow, Wasp Airy Aria etc...) but what about the rest that crop up every year? (ie. Dennis midway and RMC, Top of Minty, Top of CCK, Top of Frog's Head Var, Drunkard's and Sixish GT, Funny Face and Immaculate Virgin etc...)

Eric G. · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

Someone with more experience and expertise can follow up, but it is my understanding that trampling and compressing of the soil around said trees is more harmful than slinging them with tat or even directly with ropes. Better conservation practice would be to leave these trees space to grow as simply fixing soft goods for rap stations is not a long term solution for high-traffic areas. Obviously this depends on the type of tree and extent of its root system.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Northeastern States
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