Trip Report: Pawtuckaway (Round 1)

As I look through the list of people I talk to through my social media networks, I realize I am going to sound like a bumbling buffoon in this trip report. See, a majority of the folks I converse with do cool things like ice climb, photograph while dangling fifty feet off the ground, and can tie rock climbing knots in their sleep. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be like them when I grow up (now the butt kicker – some are younger than me).

Now me… upon seeing my first large boulder at Pawtuckaway I exclaimed, “Yay! Look! A boulder! Can I climb it?!?!” Oy. Very technical, huh? Anyways, here’s my first stab at a trip report and just know that Pawtuckaway will get a way better one once I get a better grasp on this whole climbing rocks thing.

On Saturday, Rob and I decided to go check out the well-known bouldering areas of Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, New Hampshire. Unlike a lot of the other outdoorsy things I have done or want to do, Pawtuckaway is kind of right there about 45 minutes from Manchester. If you’ve ever driven to the beach, UNH, Portsmouth, or generally anything known to be near water, you’ve driven right past the exit for Pawtuckaway (Exit 5 off 101 East).

Now, here’s where the ‘Getting There’ part gets screwy. Getting to the park entrance is a piece of cake, but none of the climbing areas are accessible from that entrance. I, of course, decided to wing it. Maps? What? Who uses maps? I just knew we had to get to a boat launch off Deerfield Road. From there… boulders. Happiness.

Me on what I think is 'Annie Oh' V0 - w00t for the guidebook!

We managed to find the boat launch, find a bridge, and find the first boulder that had me all excited and wanting to climb. But we had heard rumors of some warm up boulders at the back of the area, and since we’re both relative newbies, those sounded pretty ideal. So off we went. At some point we came across a group of climbers who were kind enough to show us the New England Bouldering guide and point us in the right direction. After what felt like a whole lot of going in circles and getting stuck between trees with my massive crash pad, we finally found some boulders that fit the description the climbers had given us, so it was time to climb!

I wouldn’t say I was naïve, but it rather different what is considered a V0 outside versus what’s a V0 inside. A V0 inside has full out handles and big hand holds. Outside? Crimps, moss, spiders, and lots of other fun stuff. I’m not complaining, but I definitely have a whole new sense of direction for indoor training! We started out on a route that looked pretty easy (and actually it was once you stopped thinking about the fact that falling meant potentially landing on a rather devious looking rock). I of course had no idea what it was called or the difficulty level since I was winging it without a guidebook. After that, it was lots of trying to find routes we could handle and not getting carried off by hoards of insects.

Rob on some other route near 'Annie Oh'.

After a few hours of exploring, we decided it was time to head back to the parking lot that was over that way, right? Or was it that way? Now, I should mention in here that Rob is an Eagle Scout. That combined with being a guy, he will never admit to being lost. I, on the other hand, was feeling pretty lost and a tad bit aggravated. You can only get stuck between so many trees with your crash pad before you start getting fed up. Eventually we came across the climbers from before and they (again) pointed us in the right direction (it was very much the opposite direction from where we had been going).

All in all – awesome day, but definitely learnt some lessons, with the main one being that we weren’t at all prepared. I pretty promptly went to Eastern Mountain Sports the next day to get the guidebook and my very own compass, so the next trip should be at least ten times more awesome. Oh, and I will be bringing gallons of bug spray so New Hampshire state bug… beware.

So, there you have it. My very first ever (epically failed) trip report.

3 thoughts on “Trip Report: Pawtuckaway (Round 1)

  1. Don’t give up! Outdoor climbing takes a little bit of getting used to relative to the gym, but it’s rewarding when your effort pays off! In my experience (having done it both ways) it’s usually worth it to borrow or buy the guidebook!

    1. There will be absolutely no giving up. I can’t wait to get back out there because that feeling when I did managed to complete my first route outside – addicting. =D Oh, and I did promptly go buy the guidebook (and a compass – spinning around in circles with a crash pad just wasn’t as much fun as planned), so the next trip is looking to be way better already. Can’t wait!

  2. I had a similar experience in Lynn Wood once while mountain biking. The web site said bring a map and compass…..ya right said me! I got so lost I ended up waiting for the sun to start setting so I could follow it West. so my 45 minute bike ride turned in a 3 hours how do I get out of here trek. I bought a map the next time!

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!