As is the usual with my climbing posts, this is split into two sections: the storytelling portion, and the technical climbing section. This is the storytelling section
Friday, 20JUL12 through Sunday, 22JUL12
It started with a moonlit drive.
And when your adventure starts with a moonlit drive, how can it go wrong? Seriously, it’s like a law of nature or something.
I had left Medway a bit after 21:00 on a Friday night, with the aim of setting up camp at Rumney just a bit after midnight – a nice relaxing drive where I finally got a chance to unwind from the week of applying to job, calling recruiters, and dealing with people who hire engineers, but honestly don’t even know what an engineer is, much less what makes one qualified for a role.
The night sky was perfect that evening, not a single cloud dulling the starscape, and so when I did finally arrive I didn’t even pull out my headlamp. Instead, I sat about near the car for a bit while my eyes adjusted – while there was no moon that night, the milky way was bright as day, and easily afforded me enough light to set up my small little tent.
But… I didn’t want to sleep in it. Not when the sky was that perfect.
So, instead of heading right to bed as I had planned, I carried my sleeping bag and pad into the middle of the field next to the campground, and stretched out to watch the stars until I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.
When I awoke, it wasn’t to my alarm.
It wasn’t even to the sounds of climbers getting ready for a day at the crag.
Instead, I woke up to the stiff feeling of sleeping with a rock directly implanted into my spine. And not implanted well either – this wasn’t some “Boston area hospital” implant, this was a “backwoods Mexico” job.
I had fallen asleep on my ultra-light sleeping pad, with a full three-inches of inflation keeping me stellarly comfortable… but unfortunately, the small leak that it had developed back in Auckland seemed to have widened, and instead of lasting 8 hours before becoming noticably deflated, it now lasted a mere four hours.
So, I rolled around until I found a more comfortable patch of moss, and went back to sleep.
A few hours later I was awoken again by Joanne – the woman who runs the campground. This time I actually fully woke up, and noticed why she was waking me up… or more importantly, why she was waking me up.
I thought I had parked and set up my tent snugly in the back section of the campground. Instead, I was in the middle of their hay field.
Not really sure how I did that, but Joanne politely reminded me where I should be parked, and gave me the morning to wake up and move the car over to my correct campsite.
After moving the car and my tent over, I prepped myself a bit of breakfast, relaxed a bit, and set about waiting for the others to show up. Daniel, Stef, and Erin were inbound from Boston and aiming to arrive around eleven, so I made up the time by reading, sunbathing, and going for a quick swim in the river.
On my return, I found a text message waiting for me: “slow morning. Leaving now, eta 15:00”. Meaning, that I had another four hours to kill before I could actually start climbing in earnest… nope, screw that. Rumney may be known for its sport climbing, but that’s not all it has – there’re also a few rather interesting boulder problems that were calling me by name.
And so, I spent the morning bouldering.
It was nice, relaxing, and a bit boring if truth be told. I enjoy bouldering every so often (usually when I want to feel manly and burly) but this weekend I was looking forward to a bit more relaxation – the relaxation and purity of focus that a long and difficult sport route can give. And bouldering just wasn’t doing it for me.
So after only an hour or two of bouldering I got bored, and headed back to camp to do some reading, maybe a bit of writing as well. I wandered a bit, and found myself perched up on a sandbank on the river that borders the campground, letting the current lap at my legs as I typed away on my little netbook.
The time passed quickly enough, and finally I got a call from Erin that they were pulling into the campground. We took a bit of time to unload her gear from Daniels car, since Him and Stef were leaving early, and Erin was catching a ride home with me, before I finally snapped and started dragging them towards the cliff, berating them on their lateness the whole way.
It was possibly due to the drama that had kept them trapped in Boston so long (drama I wouldn’t be privy to for nearly two weeks), and possibly from the fact that the cliffs were nicely crowded, but climbing went slowly. It wasn’t bad, actually quite relaxing and fun, but I was a little disappointednon- overall, especially since I had been waiting for it so long at that point.
In total, we were able to bust out three or four routes each before Daniel and Stef gave up the ghost and headed back into Boston. Not a bad catch, by any metric, though I did have the dubious honor of being the only one to actually incur a legit injury – I got my fingertip caught in the rock when I fell on one of the harder routes, pulling it sideways and somehow tweaking a nerve in it. Tweaking the nerve enough, in fact, to loose all sensation in that finger for the next few days.
After Daniel and Stef left, Erin and I debated staying on to climb a bit more… but in the end chose to follow their lead and head into Rumney proper for a proper bite of dinner at the nearby pizza place. We chatted, ate, and waxed poetic for a while, keeping a more-than-interesting stream of conversation flowing all the way through two pizzas and back to the campground where we finished setting up camp and starting up a cheerful little fire to relax around.
The nights conversation was one of the better one’s I’ve had around a campfire. Not to insult the awesome fire-side chats that I’ve had with everyone else, but this was unique – Erin and I hadn’t hung out in years (literally at this point), and had a lot to catch up on. And, for one reason or another, we were both feeling rather open that evening, allowing the conversation to stray to non-standard topics such as relationships, the idea of love, politics, and even humanities role in the universe itself. And to make it better, this whole conversation was held while completely sober, if you can believe that.
A few minutes before midnight Alex pulled into the campground, so we took a quick break from introspecting in order to help her park and set up her tent.
Events took an interesting turn when Alex accidentally locker her keys in the car, but seeing as we couldn’t really do anything about it at midnight, we gave up on retrieving them and decided to relax for the night and deal with them in the morning when we could call AAA.
But, that problem put a bit of a damper on Alex’s mood which unfortunately spread to the rest of the night. Erin and I stayed up continuing our chat for a bit, but the momentum died out around 01:00 or so, when we finally gave up and turned in for the night.
It was another amazing starlit night, and I slept comfortably under the stars yet again.
In the morning, Erin and Alex set to unlocking the car while I tended the campstoves and made us up some quick breakfast. It took a while, and some assistance from Joanne and her husband (the couple that run the campground), but in the end the car was unlocked thanks to some very dexterous manipulation of a coat hanger. Keys retrieved, we laid into breakfast with a passion. It was simple, but honestly perfect for the day – nice toast and berries with a pot of pressed coffee is the perfect way to get started for a day of climbing, in my personal opinion. Not too heavy, but gives enough sugar to give you that kick.
After breakfasting we headed to the Meadows to warm up, but quickly got bored with the “same old routes”. Meadows is a nice relaxed crag, and it’s where I really cut my teeth with sport climbing, but it’s gotten a bit dull – the climbing is fairly regular between the routes, and the plethora of climbers there means that waiting in line is almost a requirement for any fun sections.
So, we moved along. Not far though – our walk took us over and up a bit to the 5.8 crag. The perfect median section, where we’d have fun warmup routes as well as a few quite heady challenges waiting for us.
And, as it turned out, a few friends too. When we arrived we found a whole group of climbers from Vertical Dreams, a climbing gym that both Alex and I used to climb at, already encamped around the crags. We had a rather amazing time – we each got to lead at least one route, and I ended up nearly sending a 5.10c that would have been the hardest that I’ve ever climbed on lead. And, thanks to the guys next to us, I didn’t even loose any gear since they were able to climb up and bring it back down for me.
We climbed for most of the afternoon, until our arms finally gave out and our fingers went numb… or at least, the rest of my fingers went numb.
From the crag we headed back to the campground to break down our tents, but took a nice “shortcut” through the swimming hole – there’s really nothing much better after a hot and sticky day of climbing than jumping in a nearly-ice-cold stream with a whole gaggle of random bostonians. Many of whom I had known before, it appeared – I actually met one girl who said that, a few years back, I had been the one to teach her how to belay for the first time. NUHOC did have some advantages, it appears.
But with swimming completed, and our tents packed up, it was time to say goodbye to Rumney once again. Or, at least, until the next time we all swung back to make a weekend of it…