The Beautiful People

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Chad Greely is bullish on America.

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Jason Kehl’s face is freshly shaven save for two triangular tufts of twisted hair, teased to grow outward from the middle of his jawbone, forming a Tut-like “beard of divinity.” Every twenty minutes, Timmy O’Neil tells Jason that he missed a spot while shaving. Passersby laugh at O’Neil’s banter and Kehl’s soft-spoken retorts. I’m in the ring with heavyweight rock stars at the second-annual Petzl Roc Trip at an after-hours party. Steve McClure walks by, mumbling something about being “a bit knackered,” and I realize I’m caught in the midst of international personalities, brought to the Gunks by a shared passion and a good cause: raising some serious coin for the Mohonk Preserve.

Toni Lamiche pulls belay duty.

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The evening’s festivities kick off with a premiere of the film Pilgrimage, and Chris Sharma and Nate Gold receive hugs and accolades for their parts in the flick. At home in the crowd — that’s where Chris seems to be. Young climbers flock to him seeking his autograph on posters, hats, T-shirts, and body parts, hoping that his karma will rub off. Katie Brown, also featured in the movie, hides in the shadows, her quiet nature at odds with this bursting-at-the-seams gathering. Nate, aka Biggie Smooth, is living in the moment — dreadlocked, grinning face, forearms full of tattoos and bulging veins, a confident smile on his face.

ABS champ Tom Durant hikes the Carriage Road classic, Marrakesh.

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Obe Carrion warms up the industrial way.

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Stephan Julien watches his friends on the Lynn Hill Traverse on the carriage road.

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Lurking outside, Dave Graham shows off the distinct fashion sense of his adopted European home. Hiding behind a stylish scarf and beanie and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, Dave shies away from the crowd. I hear his voice motoring, only a little slower than usual, practically foaming at the lips, his limbs flailing about, pantomiming precise Beta for his latest proj. Graham is the antithesis of Sharma; habitually unsatisfied, his mind turns and turns, and his lips never stop moving. Joe Kinder, sporting a newly grown porn-star mustache, listens to Graham and watches intently until a girl slinks by: Kinder’s eyes dart back and forth, perplexed by the juxtaposition, unable to decide which is more important.

Jackie Chiddo reciting her mantra on The Buddha, the Gunks.

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Joe Kinder is number one.

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As if Dave hasn’t brought enough of the Euro-scene with him, the French contingency is on hand: Daniel Dulac, Antoni Lamiche, Jerome Meyer, and Stephan Julien represent the men. Truly a superstar among superstars, Dulac, or “DD” as his friends call him, epitomizes the French approach to climbing. From methodically calculating every detail of a boulder problem before each burn, to maintaining his professional focus off the field, DD is serious. His passion and drive crown him captain of the group — a group that can send V12 on command. Yet not all the Euros are all business. Jerome Meyer’s wild facial expressions and contagious energy make him climbing’s David Beckham wherever the crew travels.

Jason Kehl on Satan in a Half Shell, Rumney, New Hampshire.

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Steve McClure dodges the rain at the Gunks.

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Daniel Dulac pre-burn, Rumney, New Hampshire.

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Flashing back in my mind, the day’s events resembled any other’s at the Gunks — except that the names, biceps, and average grade of send were a bit bigger. The women unite on the crags and boulders, fighting off the useless Beta dispensed by their male counterparts, who outnumber them two to one. The French and Spanish stars Liv Sansoz and Leire Aguire seduce the quartzite blocks with fierce eyes and flawless movements during the day, and at night the male suitors present the next challenges. Flashing fancy Manhattan business cards, I watch grown men, “Me llamo,” “¿Cómo estás?” and “Hola” themselves to Leire, only to be suckered into deeper Spanish conversation. Leire takes it in stride, while Liv hides behind the small-yet-built frames of the French male contingent — knowing DD could double as her bodyguard if need be.

Liv Sansoz works the Boxcar Arête.

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Isaac Caldiero exhibits his consummate youth and optimism, Rumney, New Hampshire.

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Here comes the sun? Joe Kinder works a night sesh on B-Boy Stance.

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Not all the women here are foreign: Ally Rainey tours the region, working on her Bouldering for Beginners guidebook. Rainey, who writes and competes and occasionally guides to survive, stumbled unaware into the Gunks in the midst of the invasion. Her personality is contagiously all smiles. Whether she’s aware of it or not, Rainey is a role model for other girls hoping to live a climbing life — spitting the gimmick to make ends meet.

Dave Graham has the Beta.

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Colete McInerny tells me about how she’s going to pack up an old Civic and drive to Squamish after she finishes her last semester at Fordham University just outside of NYC. Taking a drag from her menthol cigarette, her highlighted-blonde hair masking half her face, she asks me if I think she can exist on the road. Obe Carrion jumps in, “Do you have the desire, the heart? ’Cause that’s all you need!” Obe’s been living life on the road for several years, specializing in competitions. Carrion is gregarious — at times excessively — such that he has earned the moniker “50/50,” “Because half the people love me and the other half are haters.”

“Strong” Steve McClure on his way to onsighting Survival of the Fittest, Lost City, the Gunks.

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Toni Lamiche warms up on White Boys and Ricans.

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DD works the new-wave Rumney classic Livin’ Astro.

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Colete McInerny tells me about how she’s going to pack up an old Civic and drive to Squamish after she finishes her last semester at Fordham University just outside of NYC. Taking a drag from her menthol cigarette, her highlighted-blonde hair masking half her face, she asks me if I think she can exist on the road. Obe Carrion jumps in, “Do you have the desire, the heart? ’Cause that’s all you need!” Obe’s been living life on the road for several years, specializing in competitions. Carrion is gregarious — at times excessively — such that he has earned the moniker “50/50,” “Because half the people love me and the other half are haters.”

Ally Rainey visits Muscle Beach,Rumney.

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While Obe rants and Colete dreams aloud of her future plans, my non-celebrity friends stand fidgeting uneasily, forcibly taking in the spectacle, listening to Obe’s rap. One of them, AJizzle, a nineteen-year-old high-school dropout, lives in a small room behind my local climbing gym. He paid out a day’s earnings for gas money to join the festivities. This is his first time to the Gunks and he’s getting spanked. “These problems suck, this movie sucks, Obe sucks — let’s split ... ” I’ve pitched my share of tantrums, but few of mine can top AJ on a bad day. He is a stark contrast to the superstars who are forced to watch what they say in front of journalists and strangers.

Jackie Chiddo tries the Marrakesh Traverse.

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Tomorrow this eclectic group will wake up groggy and hit the boulders and crags yet again. Some will go home, back over the Atlantic, some to the West Coast. Others will continue northward, stopping along the way at several well-known Northeast areas. Reflecting back on the first day’s events, my palms grease thinking of the projects that got sent, the several that will have to wait till tomorrow, and even harder ones that will have to wait until a Roc Trip of the future.

Jerome Meyer savors a little Mowie Wowie (flash ascent).

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