This section of the The Whitecliff is designed to document the rich climbing history on Millbrook Mountain which stretches back to the first ascent made in 1935 by Fritz Weissner, John Navas, and Peggy Navas. Today over 100 routes have been established and remarkably the ethic of the early climbers remains. Ground-up ascents without fixed protection or rappel stations have been the norm, and this has left the cliff today much as it was when the Weissner party discovered it nearly 80 years ago.
We live in an age dominated by rapid change and climbing has not been immune to its effects. The early ethic of climbing was simply a derivative of an approach to ascending and descending a mountain. That is to say, climbers started at the bottom and left no gear behind. The ethic in 1935 did not differ much from that of the earliest climbs established in the Dolomites in the late 1800's. As years passed, fixed anchors became the norm at most cliffs. At Millbrook, the lack of traffic and strict regard for the old ethic enabled this cliff to remain in the past.
Prior to the bolting ban laid down by the Mohonk Preserve in 1988, bolts had begun to appear in the Trapps and some of the outlying cliffs, but not a single bolt was placed at Millbrook. It seems that Millbrook had somehow remained outside of time and continued to progress under the early ethic regardless of the rules imposed by the Preserve.
Despite being the first cliff to be climbed, Millbrook is the least frequently visited major cliff along the Shawangunk Ridge. Many reasons contribute to the lack of popularity of climbing at Millbrook, the main reason being its relative remoteness. Most visitors to the Gunks spend a long time traveling just to reach New Paltz and it is perhaps more a matter of impatience and convenience that people head to the Trapps to rope up rather than embark on the 3 mile hike to Millbrook.
Distance alone is not its only barrier. The routes at Millbrook are hard, in fact, approximately 75% of the routes are 5.10 or harder. Dick Williams 2001 guide to the Trapps tallies a mere 11% of the routes at 5.10 or harder. Add to this that most Millbrook routes involve at least some 5.7 to 5.9 R/X climbing, there is little chalk to lead the way, the first pitches have at least some loose rock, and route finding is notoriously challenging, so most people tend to stay away.
So why do some people so highly value the climbing at Millbrook? Millbrook provides the solitude and original flavor of the early days of climbing. With more exposure than the Trapps, wide bands of gorgeous white rock, and a sense of commitment, Millbrook offers truly exhilarating adventures. For those who enjoy these qualities, the Bank delivers.