“Ohh seven hundred”
Those are all ways that I would have described when I woke up, had it been two months ago. On this morning though, on a Saturday in New Hampshire, I called it something else.
That’s one of the upsides of a full-time job, especially one where people show up very early. 07:00 was sleeping late for me, and combining that with the fact that I’d doubled-up on my sleeping pads meant that I was rather impressively well-rested by the time I finally stumbled into the Loj in search of a cup of coffee.
First on the order of business was breakfast and lunch – anyone who’s been to NewComers can tell you that food runs out. Fast. And that it you don’t jump in early, you’ll be one of those guys stopping in at Subway for your lunch, since the only thing left is a hellish combination of spicy hummus, a slice of roast beef, and a bit of a bagel that was left in the toaster a bit too long.
With my food secured, I started searching around for an interesting trip to help out with. Unsurprisingly everything was a bit insane, but after a bit of confusion and yelling I was able to get the gist of the day – lots of hiking, a few “go apple picking” trips, and one brave attempt at doing some climbing.
My choice, it seems, was obvious.
And that’s how I found myself hanging off the edge of a dripping-wet cliff face, desperately clawing for some kind of sharp edge that I could grab onto… anything that didn’t require a single iota of friction to hold onto.
Because friction? It was gone for the day.
Sorry, fresh out.
The rain the week before had done a number on the cliffs, but we trucked on like the stubborn mules that rock climbers generally are. I set about putting up three routes, one of which was actually interesting and viable, while the majority of the other climbers snuck off to the far end of the crag to knock out a few of the harder routes.
Overall the climbing was actually rather interesting, truth be told. It was hard, thanks to the lack of friction and grip, but I actually had a fun time scrambling around and finding ways to claw my way up the seeping cliff faces. I wouldn’t want to lead a route in those conditions, but when you’re on top rope there’s generally no penalty for slipping off… so why not?
We kept on through to the early afternoon, keeping a constant eye on the skyline. The forcast called for a rather abrupt change from “wet fall weather” to “complete and torrential downpour”, so we did out best to keep the gear ready to move out at a moments notice. That decision paid huge dividends when the rain did finally appear – instead of slowly ramping up to full rain, it came on like a switch had been flipped up in the clouds.
I quickly set the folks with me to packing and stowing the gear back in the vans while I clambered my way up the back trail to retrieve our ropes and anchor setups. Thankfully there was no lightning, and I had remembered to bring all my rain gear, so it was actually slightly fun scrambling around on the wet rock up top. Of course it would have been stupidly dangerous in any other situation, but I had left my harness on and packed a few extra lengths of rope – so I was easily able to keep making new anchor points as I descended, making a new one, cleaning off the old one, and then moving down a bit further.
Once everyone was packed into the cars and vans we headed back to the Loj. Or… we were going to.
I really had no interest in going back just yet, so I found a group of like-minded folks and set off on a short adventure – trying to find a second climbing crag called “Shell Pond” that I’d heard was down the road a bit.
We weren’t planning to climb, of course, but it was still far too early in the day to be going back. A short hike seemed perfect… assuming we could find the dang parking lot, of course.
For almost an hour we searched, but no luck. Shell Pond just didn’t want to be found.
But honestly, it didn’t matter – we had a blast anyways. As I mentioned, I really enjoy hanging out with people who I haven’t met before, especially folks who’re seeing all of this outdoor adventure stuff for the first time. The people who’d come with me were two girls, one from LA and one from England, who were moderately outdoorsy but had never been exploring in New England before. So, we chatted, stopped to stare at trees, and generally had a fun time just relaxing and driving around aimlessly.
By the time we finally gave up on the search and headed back to the Loj, everything was in motion – food was being cooked, drinks were being drank, and fires were being lit in all the firepits. I quickly mixed myself a glass of hard hot cocoa and joined in on the fun of keeping people from lighting themselves on fire.
You think I’m kidding. I partially am – what I was really doing was keeping people from lighting each other on fire. Seriously, I had to take away the fire fan from someone because they neatly covered someone in embers when they fanned the flames directly into someone walking by.
Even with the few random incidents of unintentional (in theory) pyromania, the night was excellent. I showed a whole group of newcomers the ledges for the first time (they’re amazing at night), tended the fire, ate some quite-excellent baked ziti, and did a whole lot of stargazing / story trading. Since part of being an LC is making sure that the fire stays well-contained I spent most of my time around the main bonfire, alternating between trying to keep it small and putting excessive amounts of wood on it to keep everyone entertained by the giant fwoosh.
So the night went on. Fire, guitars (there was actually a couple playing – a guy and a girl who were both quite skilled) and stories. We didn’t get any rap battles, unlike earlier years, but I was quite contented by the time I finally wandered back to my tent.