Meet Patty! Patty has been guiding with EMS Schools for 20 years. She is an AMGA Certified Rock Instructor and a Single Pitch Instructor Assistant Provider, as well as a New York State Licensed Rock and Ice Instructor and Hiking and Camping Guide, with certifications in WFR and AIARE Avalanche Level I. Learn more about Patty in the Q+A below, and book an outing with her in New York by visiting emsoutdoors.com or emailing schools@ems.com.

goEast: Thanks for connecting today, Patty! Where are you from originally?

Patty: I grew up in  New Hampshire. I graduated from Keene State College with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in painting. I spent most of my early adult years hiking up Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. I used to race up the mountain as fast as I could trying to beat the previous time.

goEast: How did you get into rock climbing?

Patty: When I was a student at Keene State College I met a group of people who were climbers. They invited me to join them one day. I knew nothing about the sport. On my first day I clawed my way up a 5.7 layback crack. Something that a “beginner” rarely has the skill to accomplish. But I was tenacious. After much blood, sweat, and tears I made it. I knew I was hooked from that moment on. There was nothing like the feeling I got when I reached the top. The more effort I put forth the more reward I felt. The harder it was, the more pride I felt in the accomplishment. It really ignited a spark in me. That fire has burned ever since.

goEast: How long have you been climbing for?

Patty: I’ve been climbing for 28 years. The journey has been unique. There have been many changes in my climbing and career in the last 28 years. Some years I feel strong and confident, and others I have to work really hard at it. But it has fed my soul like no other activity. I truly cannot imagine any other career path for myself.

goEast: What brought you to EMS Schools?

Patty: After college, I traveled around the country living a little of the “nomad” lifestyle. I had been to New Paltz, NY previously on a climbing trip with friends and fell in love with the Hudson Valley. I had been a recreational climber for a little more than 8 years at that time and was in a transitional period in my life. I was unsure what I wanted to do professionally. I moved to NY (Gunks area) looking to settle there for a while. I decided to get my New York State guides license as a way to make a living doing what I love. I was hired by EMS Schools. That was 20 years ago! My love turned into a career and I have never looked back.

goEast: If you could climb anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Patty: There are a lot of places I’ve never been. I have never climbed anywhere internationally. So the list is quite long! Lately, I’ve been excited to go to places that offer a strong array of sport climbing. Since I live in such a saturated traditional climbing area, the thought of clipping bolts is very appealing. I am currently interested in Kalymnos, Greece. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece in general. Kalymnos boasts one of the best sport climbing areas in Europe. I think that’s where I’d like to go next.

goEast: Favorite place you have climbed locally?

Patty: I love my home crag, the Gunks. I never tire of it. There is something for every climber. There are so many beautiful routes at all levels. It is a wonderful training ground for larger objectives. If I had to choose a second favorite crag I’d say anywhere I am planning to take my next trip! I love visiting new climbing areas. It feels like Christmas for me. I get so excited. I obsess over topos and research project lines. I search the web for any beta I can get. Not just on route specifics but on the history and culture of the crag and the community.  I plan my rest days with as much vigor as my climbing days. However, my honorable mention would go to North Conway, NH. I love Cathedral Ledge and Mount Washington. It feels like going home again every time I get on the Kancamagus highway.

Photo: @chris_vultaggio

goEast: What was the most challenging route you’ve ever done?

Patty: I typically don’t like to put too much into the numbers game. It can become an unhealthy place to be.  I can struggle on something I would have thought easy if I’m not in the right headspace or level of fitness. And on the same day I can totally surprise myself on something I wouldn’t have thought to try. In my younger years I capped at 5.13. But honestly I’m most proud of coming back from all of my many injuries. I have had 5 knee surgeries. Every time I get back on rock after surgery, I’ve had to adapt and reinvent ways of climbing. It has set me back in so many ways. It has taught me patience and humility. Adapting to my aging body is my biggest accomplishment now. But, I can still crush!

goEast: Three favorite pieces of gear you can’t live without?

Patty: My climbing shoes, my chalk bag and my purple .5 cam. Honestly, most of my climbing kit I feel like I could not live without. I live and work in a strictly “traditional” environment. That means protection bolts are rare and not allowed. In order for a leader to protect themselves, they have to have the knowledge and know-how to place removable hardware safely and effectively. So honestly my entire rack of gear I wouldn’t want to go without. At the Gunks, the purple .5 BD cam is probably my most placed piece and because of that I usually carry 2!

goEast: What is your favorite part about guiding?

Patty: I love the look on peoples faces after they accomplished something they thought impossible at the start of the day. I love meeting new people and showing them all the things I love about this sport. I love seeing the transformation happen between the person in the morning vs. the person at the end of the day. Everyone walks away with a feeling of accomplishment. It’s not always about getting to the top. The journey is where the growth happens.

Patty instructing at a 2022 Staff Training.

goEast: When you aren’t climbing, what do you do in your free time/hobbies?

Patty: I am an avid runner. I enjoy participating in running events such as marathons, triathlons, and track events. Trail running helps me clear my mind. I love watching the sun rise while out on a long trail run in the cool crisp air. There is no better start to my day. Besides running, I also enjoy baking. My husband is a vegan so I like to experiment turning traditional recipes into vegan delicacies. I have often thought about learning formal cake-decorating skills! I don’t live far from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), where I would love to take professional baking classes.

goEast: Best piece of advice for people looking to get into climbing?

Patty: Keep an open mind. I hear all the time, “I can’t do that.” or “I’m too old” or “I’m too out of shape” or “I don’t have enough upper body strength.” Your mind can either set you up for success or failure. Saying those things out loud or even thinking those things—the outcome is already predetermined. Keeping an open mind allows you to try things you would never have thought possible. Literally free your mind and the rest will follow.