Type: Trad, 195 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Fritz Wiessner, Beckett Howorth, George Temple, 1942
Page Views: 41,213 total · 257/month
Shared By: Ron Olsen on Feb 22, 2006
Admins: JSH

You & This Route

359 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Tree Preservation and Rappeling Details


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 growing out and up from the base of the cliff (see first picture below), about 20' left of Fat City Direct, at a pile of boulders below a blocky crack.

P1: Climb the blocky crack 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 climbers' right, and look for an easy scramble back to the cliff base just before you reach the road.


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.
Decatur, GA
saxfiend   Decatur, GA  
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. Mar 27, 2007
Matt Amory
Boulder CO
Matt Amory   Boulder CO
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... May 18, 2007
James DeRoussel
Tucson, AZ
James DeRoussel   Tucson, AZ
This is a superb climb, perhaps the best in the grade...anywhere. Where else can you climb an overhanging 5.4? Jun 24, 2008

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! Jun 1, 2009
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
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. May 19, 2010
Larry S
Easton, PA
Larry S   Easton, PA
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. Aug 2, 2010
micah richard
Litchfield, Connecticut
micah richard   Litchfield, Connecticut
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. Sep 5, 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. Nov 6, 2011
Andy Weinmann
Silver Spring, MD
Andy Weinmann   Silver Spring, MD
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! Oct 31, 2012
Tonasket, WA
applewood   Tonasket, WA
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... Oct 31, 2013
K Swissto
Denver, CO
K Swissto   Denver, CO
1. Traverse after the optional belay: do not stop *at* the nose. Take a step left around the nose and the 5.6 slab moves that were daunting will become manageable 5.4 (protected) moves with feet *and* hands! The beta says you'll be "above" the Roseland anchors - but you'll sort of be parallel to them.

2. Double ropes help with rope drag management especially on and after the traverse. Also helps you protect your second if he/she is nervous about "exposed" traverses.

3. Last pitch is very chossy, especially on the left side of the corner. Lots of loose blocks. Be careful about the classic "reach for the jug" Gunks move on this climb. Gear is available - protected totally as G with certain larger gear (large cams/hexes, offset nuts).

4. The gear anchor for P2 (before beginning the last pitch) is pretty much mostly supported by .3 BD C4/X4 sizes or pink tricams. Consider yourself warned - and out of .3s for the last pitch :) Speaking of gear for the last pitch - I used a #11 Hex and a #3 and #4 BD C4. Made the pitch G instead of PG. Oct 13, 2014
David K
New Paltz, NY
David K   New Paltz, NY
This climb is as good as everyone says. Very fun climbing. A few finer points:

1. The jagged horizontal crack near the beginning (but above the block) isn't as great for cams as it might initially seem. The jagged-ness of the sides of the crack cause cams on the smaller side to have very little surface area and move, and cams on the larger side to become fixed. The jaggedness makes this a perfect tricam placement, but it's on the larger side of what most tricams most carry. Don't lose your cams or place ineffective gear! There are other protection options.

2. The third pitch definitely has some very loose blocks. Be careful what you grab. Sep 4, 2017
Amanda Milhet
New York, NY
Amanda Milhet   New York, NY
Route: Really enjoyed this route. Instead of stopping at the recommended P1 belay I continued on, intending to link all the way to the P2 belay ledge. There was a party of 3 there so instead used the bolted anchor for Roseland. This worked well, though I’d probably avoid using the Roseland anchor if there were another party on the route. After the party above us cleared out we went from the Roseland anchors in single pitch to the top of the cliff. I think 2 pitches is the way to go on Gelsa. The recommended P1 felt too short.

Descent: When you top out, follow the footpath to the right. There are rap rings around a tree (see photos). Two 70m ropes will get you to the ground in a single rappel. Aug 24, 2018
Andrew Hess
Brooklyn, NY
Andrew Hess   Brooklyn, NY
We were there the day after it had rained. We noticed after we had started that pitch 3 was completely soaked still from runoff. Sep 20, 2018