Climbers Buy New Cliff at The Gunks

Photo: © Chris Vultaggio

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Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) and Access Fund are pleased to announce the purchase and opening of a new section of cliffline in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York. This acquisition adds a new, backcountry climbing area to the Gunks, offering a uniquely remote experience that boasts traditional climbing, top roping, overhangs, vertical faces, and even a little crack climbing—ranging from 5.5 to 5.13.

Antlion Crag, located on ancestral lands of Munsee Lenape.© Chris Vultaggio

“We were given a rare opportunity to secure access and protect a beautiful portion of the Shawangunk Ridge,” says GCC Chair Peter Cody. “This acquisition is an important milestone for climbing conservation and will showcase and safeguard the diverse nature of the ridge itself.”

The newly acquired property includes 1,000 feet of the Millbrook Mountain cliff line, including the historic Ant Lion Crag. Although there is some historic evidence of climbing on the cliff, dating back to the 1970s, the area has never been officially opened to climbing or route development. This prized section of cliff line, situated along the southern portion of Millbrook Mountain, was not only privately owned, but also surrounded by other private land, making it inaccessible to the public.

In the spring of 2018, GCC and Access Fund began working in earnest to find a conservation and access solution to secure the property. The organizations partnered with neighboring landowners Robert O’Brien and Kevin Abberton in a unique, three-way purchase to secure the cliff line and the undeveloped forest below, as well as provide public access.

GCC worked with Access Fund to purchase the climbing area, using funds from the Access Fund Climbing Conservation Loan Program (CCLP), and struck a deal with the two private landowners, who purchased additional forested acreage around their existing home sites and agreed to an access easement across their land to make the cliff line publicly accessible. Access will be established via a new trailhead off South Mountain Road and a mile and a half of trail to reach the cliff.

“This was a complex acquisition project that required the collaboration of numerous parties working on their individual pieces of the puzzle,” says Access Fund National Access Director Joe Sambataro. “This partnership allowed us to acquire and permanently conserve a property that was out of reach of each individual buyer alone.”

GCC will notify climbers when the parking and trail system are open for public access, which are expected to be completed by fall 2021.

Ant Lion is the 29th climbing area conserved through the CCLP, which provided $109,000 to allow GCC to purchase this property. The CCLP is a revolving loan program, which means loan funds will be repaid so that those dollars can be used to open or save other threatened climbing areas. Since the CCLP’s inception, Access Fund has loaned $3.2 million to local climbing communities around the country to secure and permanently conserve climbing areas.

Help Open Antlion Cliff

Donate to the GCC GoFundME campaign to help establish a new access point for this cliff, including a new access road, parking area, trailhead amenities, and construction of a new trail to the cliff.

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