Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
TRADITIONAL CLIMBING, GEOLOGY AND BIODIVERSITY IN THE 'GUNKS'
The Shawangunk Mountains in southeastern New York are known to geologists for a variety of features including sedimentary structures (cross stratification, channel cuts), faults (normal, reverse, thrust), glacial striae, chattermarks and roches moutonées. For climbers the quartzitic nature of the rock, prominent vertical joints and ledges, easy accessibility, numerous routes and variety of placements one can make with the gear (tricams, spring-loaded cams, nuts) make the Gunks' one of the top traditional climbing areas in the east. The Gunks' are not only known for the excellent cliff faces used by technical rock climbers but also represent an area of extreme microenvironments that support numerous endangered species. Despite the difficult living conditions on the cliffs and talus slopes, these areas in the northern Shawangunks support a higher proportion of rare species than wetlands, pine barrens or forests. The Trapps cliff on the Mohonk Preserve is the only historic eyrie cliff that is completely protected by the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP). One pair of endangered peregrine falcons has used seven different nesting ledges, on the same cliff, in eight years. Research has shown that human trampling along a cliff edge, even at low levels, alters forest understory composition. Soil compaction and erosion in highly trampled areas is obvious at the top of the Trapps. A less obvious impact by recreationists is wildlife disturbance; walking along the tops of the cliffs may disturb the animals below. As the populations of cliff-nesting species have expanded, they are finding climbers and hikers invading their habitat. For example, in the 1950's if there were 50 climbers it was considered a busy day. Today there are between 500-800 people climbing in the area on a peak day.