Every once in a great while you’ll stumble across a person that just exemplifies everything you had hoped humanity could be. They’re kind, understanding, willing to help, and they just exude confidence and excitement that’s contagious. But how often do you meet a group of people like that? Rarely? Never? Then you probably ought to hang out with some climbers…
Yesterday I had the chance to crash Jannette’s (you all might know her better as @CliffMama) vacation to Rumney, New Hampshire and I can’t say thank you enough to her, her friends and family, Andy (you might know him as @aframe) and his son, and other random climbers we met along the way. For anyone who was questioning if there were nice people who can be trusted with your life still in the world, the answer is absolutely yes.
So of course you’re here for the trip report, huh?
About a week ago, CliffMama was kind enough to see my silent plea for an invite to her vacation plans, and agreed to let Rob and I come along as long as we were safe belayers and had our own gear. Done, and done! So for a week, I probably drove the Twitterverse and boyfriend absolutely nuts with comments along the lines of “So excited!!!! AHHHHH!!!” And then yesterday was this newbie rock climber’s first time actually on the rope outside, so nerves and excitement were at an all time high.
We met up with the group and headed on over to the parking lot and started the hike. Some climbing in New Hampshire is a piece of cake to get to, but Rumney is definitely one of those I suggest being prepared. Even at a great pace, it still took us about thirty minutes to get to Waimea for a break and another 15-20 minutes to finally get all the way up to Jimmy Cliff, our destination for the day. So, seriously – bring water, food, first aid stuff, or whatever you need. This is not one of those “I’ll just go back to the car and grab more stuff” crags. (On a side note, awesome cell phone reception from parking lot to cliffs – not so much in Rumney).
It could be that I’m still just a newbie, but there’s something about massive rock faces that just makes me want to stop and stare. Waimea and Jimmy Cliff were absolutely breathtaking. Waimea had me briefly forget where I was. It could have been in any state or any country, and I was shocked to find out it actually contains a 5.15a (Jaws II) as well. Jimmy Cliff is just massive and just keeps going, whether you’re slab climbing or conquering a sweet tricky route.
So, what did we do? The younger part of our group checked out Clip a Dee Doo Dah, a 5.3 slab climb, while the rest of us set up climbs on a variety of routes from 5.5 to the 5.10 range. The more experienced climbers (aka, not Rob and I) lead climbed all of them, and then it was our turn.
Now, I’ll admit I try to act like I’m pretty fearless but gym climbing and the real stuff is like comparing training on a Stairmaster to real hiking. You have the muscles for it, the skills for it, and the gear for it – but can you put it all together? Once I figured out that my belayer wouldn’t able to see me for most my climb, panic definitely set in slightly (I’m a visual person – it happens). These climbs would require all that fun communication we always use in the gym, a whole lot of climbing knowledge, and every bit of trust you have. If you’re ever wondering why the gym staff is always reminding you to say “Belay on” and ‘Take”, Rumney will quickly teach you why. Not only did you need to remember to communicate, you often had to yell over other climbers, wind, and a whole lot of distance.
I’m still far from being a pro at describing climbs, but I swear I’m getting a bit better! Yesterday I had the chance to check out two climbs, Piece of Cake (5.5) and Teacher’s Pet (5.7), and had an interesting time belaying Rob on Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten (5.6).
First up was Piece of Cake, which really should have been a piece of cake had I started in the right spot. I assumed that the start was probably right under the rest of the route. Nope, far left – but either way, it was a fun climb with a ledge to briefly break on while you considered your moves for the next section. A little further past the ledge is where I started to realize that this really wasn’t anything like the gym. Outdoor climbing is anything but straight up and straight down. Piece of Cake curved left and right, in and out. Some parts were outright tough moves, and some were slab climbing. Crazy stuff.
Teacher’s Pet was a totally different story. To this newbie, the beginning looked way out of my abilities, but thanks to amazing advice (focus on your feet!) from fellow climber and belayer Sandra – I was off and climbing in no time. It was a fantastic, awesome, and amazing climb. If there was any doubt in my mind about my love of climbing, Teacher’s Pet cleared it all away. I could have hung out on that route all day (alright, the first 35 feet of it).
So what’s up with that “interesting belay” I mentioned? Well, as we’re all hanging out climbing, a guy from another group suddenly starts shouting out to all of us “Thunderstorm warning! Flash flood warning!” Sure enough, a storm was in the process of rolling in and pretty soon we were hearing thunder. Time to clean up the routes and pack up. Rob volunteered to clean up Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten (5.6) since he still wanted a chance to climb it, and I got to be his belayer. So off he went and of course the moment he passed the ledge, the rain, wind, and thunder really picked up. After what felt like forever, a soaked Rob was ready to be lowered down. I have no idea how he so calmly pulled off his first ever clean up, but way to go. I think I might have been more nervous than him.
The trip back down to the parking lot was definitely a lot different than going up. Water, slick rocks, and heavy packs make for a slow going trip. We stopped again at Waimea for a water and group picture break, and yet another chance to drool over the beautiful wave shaped walls. I have no idea how they were formed, but it’s a must see even if you aren’t a climber.
All in all, incredible day and a huge thank you to everyone in our group: Jannette, Thomas, Sandra, Chris, Andy and the incredible kids and young adults in the group that could out climb me in their sleep. I can’t wait to climb with all of you again!