Monthly Archives: June 2012

Weekend of 23Jun – Climbing at Cathedral and Rumney

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Saturday, 23Jun12 and Sunday, 24Jun12

 

Saturday: Cathedral

Alex and I parked at the base of the cliff, and headed straight up towards the rock. Our goal was Black Lung, finishing up on the two pitches of Upper Refuse. A super-classic line reaching from the bottom of the cliff all the way to the top. Unfortunately, we hadn’t parked anywhere near the base of that climb, and instead found ourselves in the position of needing to hike all the way back to the car in order to find Black Lung.

Nope. Instead, we found a few climbs in the area, and headed up those:

 

Still in Saigon (5.8+)

This route was scary. Seriously. This route was so run out I thought we were on whitehorse, and the moves were insanely thin – small, friction moves without any sort of protection nearby. It was good though, honestly was more of a sport route than Trad – out of the 7 or so placements Alex made, only two of them were actual gear. The rest? Bolts. Boo.

I don’t know how Alex led it, to be completely honest. Maybe back when I was leading insane routes every week I could have, but as of now… dang.

In the scheme of routes, I wouldn’t recommend it as a “definitely do it!” climb… but if you’re in the area and want a challenge, definitely try it out.

Note: it was hot. Hot as in “My hand hurt from the heat of the rocks. I think I got burnt”.

Kiddy Crack (5.7)

This route is classic. It’s so good that it’s scary… every move is fun and interesting, but at no point do you get bored by the simplicity of it. This is definitely my favorite climb at Cathedral, hands-down.

I led this one, since it’s definitely my style – cracks and edges. There was one rough move right off the deck, but it was followed by super-clean crack climbing which closes out to some small face moves near the top.

It’s slightly challenging at it’s level, but so good. 100% recommended.

 

Child’s Play (5.6)

Child’s Play is another “super-classic” route, right near Kiddy Crack, rated at being one of the best routes in New England. In my opinion it’s not as good as KC, but still very clean and fun moves covered by very solid protection.

Alex led this one, and had a pretty good time of it from what I could tell. For me, seconding was a bit scary – not from any danger on the climb, but from the worry of rain. The sky opened up on us literally minutes after we finished rappelling off the top.

 

Sunday: Rumney

Unfortunately I don’t remember any of the route names from Sunday, since I wasn’t the one looking them up in the book. But the basic plan was that five of us (Alex, myself, Sean, Adam, and Liz) would climb a bit on the Main Cliff (since it would definitely be dry from the rain), and then we’d either continue climbing there, or head up to something a bit tougher as the day wore on.

 

Main Cliff:

 

5.7

This one I’d done before a few years back – it sits on the bottom tier of the main cliff, and leads up to some of the bigger and burlier climbs at Rumney. It’s got a quick tricky start, but once you master the movements the rest of the climb is classic Rumney – clean and fun face climbing. I think it was something like four bolts long though, so it doesn’t last long enough to really loose yourself in it.

I lead it and set it as a toprope for the others – simple and easy lead, definitely a good one if you want to try out the grade.

 

5.8

Unlike the climb above, this one you can get lost in it. Alex took the lead, and it was long. As in “we used almost half of the rope” long. And in climbing, that’s the farthest that you can go on a single rope… assuming you want to get the rope back afterward.

It was fun, but a bit boring to be honest. Most of the climbing was simple rock-scrambling, although near the end it did turn into a rather interesting and steep route. I’d recommend it if you want a long route with an amazing view at the top. Otherwise, don’t bother.

This was supposed to be a two-pitch route, but when we looked over to see the next pitch… it was nowhere to be found. I’m guessing that it’s very rarely climbed, and that lichen has overgrown most of the route in the meantime – we chose to rappel off instead of continuing, since missing the route up meant accidentally getting onto anything from a .10d to an .11a. Not safe.

 

G-Spot Wall:

 

5.10b

Oh man, this route. This route. Oh man.

This route was excellent – hard, challenging, but workable with very interesting and technical moves throughout. Alex again took the lead, busting it out after a few short falls / rests at the bolts; a very burly lead none-the-less though. I took the second cleanly (much to Alex’s chagrin), but cleanly due to the fact that I didn’t have to lead it.

100% recommended if you get a chance, and have strong faith in your outdoor leading skills.

 

5.7

This was a simple route that Adam and Liz had set up, since Sean had headed home after we left the Main Cliff.

This route was full of interesting moves, strange bolt locations, and generally sketchy bolting stances. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy anything about the route – the moves weren’t very fun, the route itself was scattered and unclear, and the bolts were never where they should have been – a foot above of below where they were would have been fine, but whoever bolted it was definitely not thinking about a climber of my height.

Not horrid, but unless you’re really searching for routes… pass this one over.

Weekend of 23Jun – A few days up at the Loj

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Friday, 22Jun12 through Sunday, 24Jun12

 

It had been a hot week. No, “hot” doesn’t really cover it… This was New England heat – 97+ Fahrenheit, with 80% + humidity. If you’ve never lived in New England, this is much like what it’s like inside of that pressure cooker that your grandparents would use to cook potatoes. Except that you are the potatoe. And it’s not pleasant, or buttery.

Thankfully I had planned out an escape from the heat – heading to the Loj with my friend Alex. Her and I were planning on trying for some rock climbing, with the backup of hiking if it rained, and I was very much looking forward to the chance to get to hang out away from Medway. Job-searching is important, but it’s just as important to sneak away every once in a while to recharge the batteries.

To be honest, this drive to the Loj was one of the memorable ones – Not only did I not have to drive (thank you Alex!) but I had another climber to chatter on with. We talked routes, gear, and things that would probably have bored any non-climber to tears within the first few minutes. It was relaxing, exactly what I needed after a week full of melting heat and stressful job hunting.

When we walked into the Loj I got pulled into a “spirited discussion” almost immediately;

“BEN! Help us with this! Life or death!”

“Ok… what is it?”

Who was Obi Wan Kenobi’s Master?!?!

Yep. For a good portion of that night, I sat in on a game of Star Wars Trivial Persuit – made even more entertaining by the fact that it was from before the prequels… and thus had the “old” canon to it, some things that had been changed since the game had been released. My friend Peter and I spent more than our fair share of time mocking people for their lack of Nerd Cred, before Alex finally hauled me away to try and make some plans for the weekend.

The rest of the night was spent pouring over climbing books, trying to pick out which routes we wanted to try out the next day… assuming the rain held off that is. And even after Alex headed off to bed, I stayed up on the couch reading through the hundreds of routes nearby… remembering some, and dreaming of the rest.

 

Saturday morning took it’s time rolling around. That night was horrible – the loj was sticky and hot, and for one reason or another I was not ready to pass out. I spent the night tossing and turning, getting sleep in short snatches only a few minutes long.

At one point I was shocked back to conciousness by someone in the bunk nearby having a full-on Night Terror – I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, and thankfully someone else knew to kick the poor kid awake before his screams woke the rest of the Loj. Seriously, I thought someone was being murdered.

 

The sun did finally break over the horizon, but of course it was just as I was finally settling into a clean rhythm of sleep. But adventure was calling, and so I made myself a tall mug of the most vile-tasting instant coffee I could find and slowly started waking myself up.

Breakfast quickly became a staging area for Alex and I – pulling out the climbing books, maps, and notes we had taken the night before. We finally settled on going to Cathedral and climbing a super-classic route (one of the “best in New England”, according to the guide) called Black Lung. Once that was decided and lunch was packed, we were on the road within half an hour – a rather impressive start if I may say so.

<See post: Weekend of 23Jun – Climbing at Cathedral and Rumney for specifics on the climbs>

We got back to the Loj early – really early for me. Usually I arrive back just in time to stop being from sending out a search party to find me, but this time Alex and I were the second group back, stepping over the doorstep only a few minutes after 16:00.

We spent the afternoon relaxing – listening to the radio on Mark’s old-school boombox, reading, swimming in the swimming hole, and just kicking back and chatting about everything we could think of. Soon enough we were starting dinner, eating dinner, and everyone was settling into their normal Loj routines.

My evening broke down pretty cleanly into three segments – Nerdy, Climby, and Introspecty.

Nerdy was, not surprisingly, a nerd-fest. Peter, Tim and myself geeked about about Diablo 3, bragging about our characters, and what part of the game we were on at the time. It’s true: even adventurers can be nerds.

Climby found Alex and myself stuck to the couch going over various routes and climbing areas, picking and choosing things that we could do over the next few months. Excellent, but a bit too exciting for an evening event – I left the couch wanting to climb El Capitan, instead of being sleepy.

Introspecty involved myself, a chair outside, a cigar, and a small glass of scotch. I’d been ages since I’d had a good cigar-night, and so I took myself away from the hubbub of the Loj for a while and let my thoughts flow around as I sipped the scotch and took slow drags on the cigar.

And, needless to say, my sleep that night was perfect and refreshing. Funny how an active day, followed by a relaxed night, can do that.

 

Usually, there isn’t really much to say about Sunday. This Sunday started out the same as any – Everyone woke up a bit late, dragged their feet through the closing proceedures, and we delayed leaving as long as we could. But once that we on the road Sunday swerved into the far lane, breaking out from the usual “blah go back to Boston”.

Instead, we started out with a bit of cliff-diving. You know… to keep things boring. Heh. I wish I could say that I dove into the water with the sun shining behind me, as dozens of bikini-models cheered in the background. Instead, I was the one sitting in the sun and cheering as Alex dove in – I was explaining my aversion away by saying it was cold, I didn’t want my dreads to get too wet… dozens of reasons. But looking back, I kind of wish I had jumped in… Lesson for everyone: If life gives you a chance for adventure and awesome? Take it every time.

After heading out from the cliffs, we headed to the other cliffs in the area: good old Rumney. Over the years I’ve climbed more routes than I can count at Rumney, but every time I go I somehow find something new to challenge myself on. This time was no different, and between Alex and I we both pushed our limits rather spectacularly over the course of the day.

<See post: Weekend of 23Jun – Climbing at Cathedral and Rumney for specifics on the climbs>

When we finally finished climbing, and dried off from the swimming that came after, everyone packed into the car and we started the long and boring road back to Boston. Aside from being scared by the time (it was barely getting dark, but was already 21:40) and stopping in for Burger King (yummy and horrid all at the same time!) the drive was pretty relaxing – Alex and I chatted, while Adam and Liz slept in the back seat.

A few climbs at Crow Hill

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“My strength is gone, but the technique is still there.”

“I can hold onto something smaller than this.”

“I know what I’m doing – the gear will definitely hold, but I don’t plan on falling anyways.”

“Just breath, heave, and pull yourself through these moves”

I keep these mantras going in my head as I climb. I’m climbing routes that are easy, technique-wise, but my body just isn’t used to pulling on tiny holds anymore, and it shows. I’m struggling on routes that normally I would use as warmups for the “real” climbing of the day. But that’s what happens when you take six months off climbing to explore New Zealand, Hawaii, and then to find a job.

Alex and I are at Crow Hill, the famous training ground for old-school climbers like Henry Barber. The rock and the routes up it are amazing – this is actually one of my favorite places to climb, thanks to the beauty of the routes and the fact that it’s one of the first places that I really got to stretch my Trad-climbing legs.

Over the course of the afternoon we bust out four climbs – two leads each:

Note that I am not 100% sure on any of these route-names.

  • Our first climb was a two-pitch route called Green Gremlin – a nice route consisting of two pretty short pitches.

    • I took the initial lead, heading up a a small crack to a roof, and then traversing around the base of the roof to land us on the first belay ledge. Simple and easy, though I had a bit of head-games moving around the roof and onto the ledge.

      Alex lead the second pitch, following a dihedral up towards a small copse of trees sprouting straight out of the rock. Nice layback moves, leading into a rather interesting roof finish.

  • The second climb of the day was another clean and easy route that may have been named Crescent.  Easy, but a great way to get used to the area… especially when most of the routes were still seeping water from the previous week’s rain. This one started off with some very thin moves up a slab, until about 10ft up where it connected to a beautiful hand-and-finger crack system that lead up nearly 50 feet to a tiny little roof, which protected it from the worst of the water. Very fun.

  • Last climb… was horribly evil. I’m not sure about the name. But what looked like a perfect finger crack from the launch point quickly turned into a route filled with small runouts, sloped holds, and uncountable moments of “Hey, that next hold will be awesome! Wait… its horrible!” I scared my way through everything but the crux – the last few moves were just too thin and too exposed for me to finish, so I ended up Aid climbing the last 4 feet or so.
    I 100% intend on returning to this route later on. I will not accept defeat.

A few climbs at Crow Hill