Classic Routes: The Gunks' Traverse of the Clods

Amazing views, good gear, thoughtful 5.9 climbing, and 5.14 exposure: One of the least-climbed Gunks routes is also one of the most classic.

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Andrew Bunn walks the plank while Pierre De St. Croix belays the second pitch on Traverse of the Clods. Photo: Christian Fracchia

Location: Shawangunks, New Paltz, New York
Grade: 5.9 PG-13
Type: Traditional
Length: 250 feet
First ascent: Ivan Rezucha, Paul Potters (1976)

Beginning on the Trapps’s Grand Traverse Ledge, most easily accessed by climbing the first pitch of Andrew (5.4 PG; 100 feet), the 250-foot Traverse of the Clods moves right above a massive white overhang. This freakishly exposed ceiling also features Twilight Zone, one of the Gunk’s most classic 5.13s, and the area’s two hardest pitches, the 5.14s Ozone and Bro-Zone. Threading through such wild terrain while climbing “mere” 5.9 is almost unheard of, and the airiness only increases as you go.

From a dizzying hanging belay, you begin the “walking the plank traverse.” Says Gunks local Christian Fracchia, “It’s like riding a mountain bike along a railing, except when the railing ends you have to do a 5.9 move.” This move, a long reach to a jug, comes just after a scrunched mantel.

Traverse of the Clods tops out at the highest point on the Trapps Ridge, providing views of the Skytop Tower at the Mohonk Mountain House and of climbers ascending the Trapps mega-classic High Exposure (5.6). While High E sees up to 30 ascents on busy weekends, Traverse of the Clods rarely sees more than one party a day, likely due to its paltry one- and two-star ratings in early guidebooks. However, the current Gunks Apps guide bumped it up to four stars for interesting movement, exhilarating exposure, and incredible views.

Traverse of the Clods requires good route-finding skills, a strong partnership, and creative gear placements, as the leader must place pieces a few feet above or below the climbing line to safeguard the second against a pendulum. With judicious ropework and at least 10 alpine draws plus four 4-foot slings, you can skip the hanging belay and climb from the Grand Traverse Ledge to the summit in a single pitch. Bring a standard rack with doubles from microcams through thin hands—and a stomach for exposure.