Photos Evelyn Jeong
"Never say no to a tour". This is what I was told by a friend when I first started climbing on the East Coast. "It's different here; just go even if you don't intend on climbing hard". Their words were in my mind as we crammed into the car and set off to Connecticut. It was cold, a lot colder than they'd forecast, and the snow on the ground increased the further north we got. My skin unfortunately stayed the same thickness, about as thin as it gets from my last sessions on rock. As we drove, talk soon turned as it always does to the best lines on offer, the classics, the holds, the moves—that was what I was here for, the knowledge.
The U.S. East Coast is stocked with amazing climbing, sure there is no one Hueco-like spot, but there are multiple smaller areas of exceptional quality all within a short drive. In many of them the rock is some of the best you'll find; it can rival Swiss granite in places. With months of blue skies the conditions can be pretty much guaranteed well in advance too, and with its proximity to Europe it could easily be a great climbing trip destination. But it isn't. Hardly anyone travels here to climb the classic lines. The only people you'll see out are locals and there is a reason: They know where to go.
Like some other areas in the U.S., many of the best spots on the East Coast are on private land, access can be tricky, information scarce and without a guide you'll likely never make it to the spot. Which is why you should always take a tour when it is offered. We ran a circuit of the classic moderates, and checked out potential projects. Three problems in I looked down at my tip; the freezing air almost masked the pain, but a hole had appeared in the middle of my forefinger. The others were close to going through too. On any other day I'd have been frustrated; a two-hour drive to split a tip that quickly without pulling on a project would have probably left me shouting expletives. But this was different. The tick I needed here was the knowledge.
As the dogs led the way on the walk out I looked back at each turn and made a mental note of the route we'd taken. The subtle shift in the path, a pipe that marked a turning. There was nothing to stop me returning with better skin, the classics would be waiting. I knew they were there.