These days, even the most dirtbag among us has a smartphone. They are so commonplace now that we often take for granted the fact that we have a computer more powerful than the one that orchestrated the moon landing, right in our pockets (frying the family jewels with electromagnetic radiation- oh yeah!). Hopefully, you use all that pocket-power for something more than just organizing all your cat memes in Flickr, or even worse- being an anonymous internet troll on SuperTaco.
Just in case you are one of those trolls who seems to believe that hen-pecking your keyboard is legitimate finger-training for climbing, let me give you a suggestion for something more constructive to do with your soft keyboard….
This summer, I had the privilege of beta-testing the Trapps App, an application functioning as a guidebook to the Trapps Cliff at the Gunks (The Nears and Millbrook are not included, but may be separate apps in the future I am told.) In this post, I’ll review the app based on my experience using it, hopefully convince you to buy the app for yourself!
The app contains route descriptions and topos for 297 different route at the Trapps, so it is not an exhaustive list. However, what this app does better than anything is give you excellent photo topos. From the list of routes, tap a name and a clear picture of the start of the climb comes up, with a line drawn in to guide you where to go. Use the pinch gesture to zoom in or out of the high resolution photo. Tap the photo and the route description comes up. The descriptions are not uniform in the information they provide, (they don’t give too much away) but they will generally give you the most pertinent info- the grades of each pitch, a warning if the crux move is particularly dangerous, if you can set up a top-rope on the climb, etc. A third tap will then take you to an aerial photo of the cliff that will give you a good idea of where the climb is along the cliff, where the 2nd or 3rd pitch of a climb goes and the line of descent. The pinch gesture to zoom in or out works here too. Tapping “back” in the upper left hand corner will take you back through the previous pages. There are also photos with drawn in lines showing the various access trails from the carriage road- an uber helpful feature for visiting climbers trying to navigate their way around.
The clear, high-res photos with drawn-in lines, are what make this app worth the money. Contrast this with the only alternative app for The Gunks, the Mountain Project app. Since the data on the MP app is all user-driven content, photos are simply of climbers on various routes. This means that a.) not all routes will have a photo and b.) photos may be anywhere along the route. If the photo is taken on pitch 3 and you’re trying to find the start of the climb, the photo is not going to be helpful. Also, the route descriptions on Mountain Project are hit or miss, and from my experience, more miss. They are cumbersome to navigate to at best and again, user-driven content may be helpful, may not. The streamlined navigation of the Gunks app will have you doing more climbing, and less tapping and head scratching.
With all this great information literally at your fingertips, you might be tempted to think that the all the adventure is gone. Despite clear topos, the text route descriptions are sparse, for a reason. Though you may know where to go, the developer’s still want you to experience the climb on your own terms. Only the most crucial beta is included: gear protection ratings are absent, unless the climb earns an “R” protection rating.
Particularly if you always carry your phone to/on a climb, this app is more than worth the $14.99* price tag. Is it a complete replacement of the Williams’ guidebook? I would say no and so would the developers. If you climb at the Gunks frequently, I think it is worth investing in both as the Williams’ book contains many more routes, which can be helpful for finding those hidden-away gems while all the classics are mobbed on nice fall weekend. If you are new to the area or just visiting, the Gunks App will definitely get you climbing a bunch of fun routes for however long you stay, with the smallest learning curve compared to the guidebook or the Mountain Project app.
One final editorial note: This app was developed completely independently. No advance was given by a guidebook publishing company and the developers learned to code specifically to bring you this app. They are two local guys, who took the pictures, wrote the route descriptions and verified them by climbing every climb. They invested their whole climbing season into this project and countless hours (and cups of espresso) beyond that into this app. Personally, I think for all they did, they under-priced this app at $14.99. Yes, there are a few mistakes here and there that will be fixed in a future update, but please consider supporting all their hard work with your purchase of this app and remember to leave a good review of the app in the iTunes store. 🙂
*I just got the news that the $14.99 price tag is a special introductory price. The price goes up to $19.99 after the New Paltz Film Festival on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Still very much worth it at $19.99, but for those died-in-the-wool dirtbags, if you hurry, you can get the app and have enough leftover for a 6-pack of PBR.