Sleeping Giant's trails are now marked on rocks and trees with painted rectangles, diamonds, circles and squares. The trail map that illustrates the maze of options isn't the greatest, but it is sufficient to get you around the park. Be sure to get a copy if you plan on hiking the giant extensively.
People have been rock climbing at sleeping Giant for many years. The “Chin” has the distinction of hosting the first girdle traverse ever done in this country: “The Warehouse Run” in the early 1930’s by William House and Wilson Ware. Some other notable early climbers were Fritz Weissner, Hassler Whitney, Sam Streibert and John Reppy. It was here that John Reppy pioneered the use of nuts for protection instead of pitons – al least in this country. For years, the Yale Mountaineering Club used these cliffs. David Hurrah published the first known guidebook which was a collection of “potential” routes that he saw as he walked along the base of the “Chin”. While researching “Dead Man’s Cave”, I’ve personally see photos of people standing on the top of the free-standing pinnacle – Chimney Rock – that were dated from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. There are also photos of houses that once were built on the Chin and looked to actually overhang the cliff. http://www.quinnipiac.edu/other/ABL/etext/bornamong/bornamongthehills.html
In the early 1980’s, I began work on a real guidebook with assistance from Alex Catlin and Bob Schrader. It included boulder problems and route descriptions for the Chin, the Chest, the Tower Area, Hezekiah’s Knob, the Right Knee and some other small boulders. In total, we found and documented about 200 routes of varying quality and difficulty. By documented, I mean actually climbed. These were not “potential” routes. There were only a few copies released in 1986-87. But, I still have the original manuscripts.
In addition to climbing there for several years, for research we talked to many of the locals who were currently climbing there and posted requests for information at the local climbing shops. I personally contacted Fritz Weissner, Hassler Whitney, Sam Striebert and some others. However, many routes had been done many years before and were long forgotten. For example, Sam spoke of a 5.8 he called “Vineland” but could only remember that “it was somewhere to the left of Weissner’s Rib”. The route description for Warehouse Run was obtained from an old issue of Appalachia magazine. Bob Schrader and I confirmed it’s description by climbing it in May 1986 in what may have been the first free ascent. But, because of the lack of reliable history, it’s even hard to claim that.
As development on the guide continued, we began to discover routes that had clearly been climbed years before we arrived. This was evident by the many rusted pitons we found as we explored the cliffs. Some of these had been in place for 50-70 years. I have some from “The Warehouse Run” that I pulled out with my fingers. For identification purposes and because we had little hard information we began to give some of these routes “working names” until we could learn more. It’s amusing to see how some of our “working names” have stuck and were adopted. “That bolted route” became “Bolted 5.9” on the Chin. “That route with the rusty pins” became “Rusty Pins 5.8” out at the Tower Area. And there are lots more examples.
Because of this long history, I suggest that people currently climbing at Sleeping Giant and future guidebook authors should be really careful about claiming first ascents.