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Two Thursdays ago we (me, Jesse, and Adrienne) traveled 4 hours to this place (you may have heard of it) called Rumney. I’m not sure if it’s considered the best sport-climbing crag on the East Coast, but it’s definitely the best crag I’ve ever been to. Although I usually have specific grade-oriented goals when I go outside, I didn’t have any expectations going into this, other than to improve my leading and overcome my fear of falling and camping.
Yes, I was (am) immensely terrified of camping, even more so than falling. I mean, first of all, there are wild bears and coyotes in New Hampshire. What if one of them decided to have a midnight snack or a pre-breakfast hors d’oeuvre? I was also a tad worried about the stash of bread I left in my backpack—who knew what sorts of creatures that would attract. On top of that, all I had to defend myself was a shitey plastic knife that could barely put Nutella on bread, never mind gauge out the eyes of my attacker. Surprisingly, I didn’t really sleep well that first night. Especially after mistaking Adrienne (who had gotten out of her tent to take a pee) for a Grizzly Bear…I guess there’s still room for improvement in the camping department.
The leading, on the other hand, went better than expected, especially after I took a few practice falls on the second day. Admittedly, Day 1 was kinda crappy sending-wise because I didn’t take a single fall. Instead, I bailed, grabbed quickdraws, and down-climbed, over and over again. In retrospect, it probably would have been smart to start off with the practice falls, to speed up the conversion from Boulderism to Leadslam. However, true to Murphy’s Law, I didn’t, and the hardest route I sent was our 10d warm-up. Pathetic.
Which is why Day 2 started off with practice falls. Lots of them. I took at least 4 or 5 at the last clip, trying to climb a bit farther past the bolt each time. It was terrifying, to say the least, though still not as bad as camping. My hands were actually shaking after I lowered. Which is weird, because I don’t even get that freaked doing 20+ foot highballs, yet here I was, completely unable to control my anxiety.
Flesh for Lulu
After the falling fest, we hiked 10 feet left to this stunning 90-foot line called Flesh for Lulu (5.12a/b). Flesh had been Adrienne’s long standing project, and she done each move at least 15 times, taking the devastating fall at the last bolt twice. Yesterday, she had, once again, blown off at the last move, which involved rocking over on a good right foot off a left-hand gaston and right-hand side-pull. Damn. Just watching that was painful, because I could see how much she had invested into this one route, and just like that, it was over. But today was going to be different. For all of us. (On my flash attempt, I had “fallen” at the same place, after failing to locate the left hand gaston.)
Adrienne went first. Sailed up the first 20 feet of slab, past the roof corner, to the resting ledge 45 feet up. Clipped the bolt above the ledge. Came back down for more rest. From here on out, the real climbing began. The actual crux encompassed a big right-hand lock-off to a two-finger pocket, although for me personally, the difficulty of the problem came from the pump factor. Then again, that’s coming from a boulderer. But Adrienne KILLED it, finally clipping the anchor of her hardest climb to date. It was pretty inspiring to see someone completely commit and SEND. I’ve never had a project that has lasted more than a couple sessions, but this really just made me wonder how hard I could climb if I did. (Colorado, get ready.)
In true, send-train fashion, I also topped the climb. Afterwards, I gave Good Earth, a sustained, crimpy 5.12c, another burn, but it was too sunny and I didn’t make much progress from Day 1. No worries, I’ll crush it next time.
What I didn’t realize the first day was that these climbs were warm-ups compared to the other cliffs. After about 20 minutes of dreadful uphill hiking, we found ourselves on this massive slanted crag, surrounded by acres of sky, trees, and mountains. In one word: exposure. The cliff itself was split in half by a prominent, 50 degree arête called Predator, which quickly forced itself to the top of my hypothetical ticklist. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to try it (and I would definitely need to train a bit before committing to something of this caliber). Instead, we hopped on Orangahang, a brutally overhung 5.12 that transitioned from a 50+ foot crack up the left side of the wall to very awkward and crouched ledge traversing up until the anchors. But, because this was only the first day, the idea of falling once again kept me from flashing. Although I did enjoy the route, especially after I clipped the anchors
I suppose the real question is would this have been my first 5.13 or fiftieth V7. And would I have gotten it had I tried it on the first day, or at least at the beginning of the second. The thing about this gemstone is that no one climbs it. It’s that 20-foot mini-route at the base of a 100-foot cliff filled with classics. Even the locals who climb there just about every weekend knew virtually nothing about the route. The only beta I had to go off of was that it was a 5.13a called Bottom Feeder and, at a remarkable 20 feet, surely made for me. Knowing the beta definitely would have made things a hell of a lot simpler, as I’ve never had this many problems figuring out a climb. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure which grips to use as hands, and which hand to place on which grip. (Translation: I was clueless.) But after about 15 minutes (at least I’d like to think it was only 15), I had figured out the majority of the crux, which occurred within the first 10 feet of the climb, and eventually gave way to massive jugs and edges. But, seeing as I promised Jesse and Adrienne to spend no more than 20 minutes on the climb, I decided to let it be, without giving it a solid, ground-up go.
But as soon as Jesse took down the rope, my mind flooded with what-ifs. Of course, it was only after we walked back to Social Outcast that I mentioned my burning need to try it one last time. Fortunately, Jesse also wanted to give his project (which happened to be about 5 feet away from Bottom Feeder) another go, so I felt somewhat less guilty about dragging everyone back up the hill.
I ended up hitting the right-hand crux hold, but didn’t have enough strength to hold on. I probably would have gotten it if I was slightly less worn out, but I’m still glad I tried it again. At least I could leave knowing I gave it my all. On top of that, Jesse absolutely annihilated his project (this mega-burly, knee-barry 5.12c called Restless Native) so the extra hike was by no means a waste.
Rumney was by far the most incredible climbing experience I’ve had, and I honestly cannot express how grateful I am to Jesse and Adrienne for giving me this opportunity; for the sleeping bag, the wool socks, the delicious pasta sauce and brownies, the belays, the life lessons, and the homemade bread; and for showing me how much more there is to climbing than training and five-move boulder problems.