Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Stories from Rock Climbing, or something in that general area

A flight of New England Fancy – Visiting Massachusetts in the Spring


It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Massachusetts… I think it was for Dillon and Liz’s wedding, wasn’t it? That’s sounding right… though I frankly can’t believe that was only six months ago. These last few months have felt like forever, and it was high time that I got back East. The rock was calling, family and friends beckoned, and I hadn’t seen my Grandma in far, far too long…

This… uhh… this post was supposed to go first. So… pretend that it was first?

Friday, 15-May-2022 through Monday, 25-May-2022

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to New England… and now thanks to COVID I have full capability to work remotely… So off I flew to Boston!

The plan was pretty simple:
– Spend Passover with the family in Amherst
– Spend Easter with the family in New York
– Work remotely for the middle of the week
– Go climbing with friends on Friday
– Spend Saturday at a convention that my Mom and Stepdad were running
– Spend Sunday catching up with friends
– Work remotely on Monday, then fly home in the evening

And, if I may say so, it went off without a hitch!

I’ve been working at being slower, this year… not trying to pack in as many little things, and focusing in a bit more on what I’m actively doing at the time. It’s been challenging, especially with constant injuries needing more and more of my time to deal with, but… this week was a chance to really focus in on that plan.

Not being home meant that I didn’t have access to the infinite distractions of my apartment, which definitely aided in zeroing my mind in on a single activity. I wasn’t perfect, of course, but… you know what? I had an amazing time, and felt quite happy by the time the flight home rolled around.

A flight of New England Fancy – Visiting Rumney again!


It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Massachusetts… I think it was for Dillon and Liz’s wedding, wasn’t it? That’s sounding right… though I frankly can’t believe that was only six months ago. These last few months have felt like forever, and it was high time that I got back East. The rock was calling, family and friends beckoned, and I hadn’t seen my Grandma in far, far too long…

Friday, 22-Apr-2022

Jeeze… how long has it been since I’ve climbed at Rumney?

I mean, it’s where I learned to climb, man! Rumney, Quincy, Hammond Pond, The Gunks, North Conway… okay, it’s one of the places I learned. Joshua Tree should be in there too, maybe Black and White boulders… Red Rocks…

Okay, Other Ben, I get the point. But still!

I definitely learned to lead sport at Rumney, that’s a clear statement. Back when Kasia and I had a borrowed rope, with borrowed draws, and the guidebook was out of print so we just sort of climbed on a wing and a prayer? Those were the good times.

How I survived those good times alive, I’ll still never know… do I have a blog post about the time I ran out of draws 7-clips in, and traversed to another climber to borrow two of his? No? Maybe?

I learned lessons at Rumney. Good lessons, to say the least, and lessons that I’ve been lucky enough to carry across the globe since those carefree, halcyon days.

Since then, Rumney’s grown and expanded, just like the rest of us.

It’s become more popular, more official, and new zones have been purchased and opened up for public use. New guidebooks have been published, and new parking lots graded and opened.

Truth be told, I kind of felt like a small-towner going to visit a old friend who’s been killing it in the big city. I mean… I remembered when I used photos of the guidebook to find routes! Now there’s apps, fancy guidebooks, and actual signage! Huge new swaths of rock, being developed and climbed by folks I knew back in 2009!

Daniel and Brian took the day off from work with me, and we drove North, as early in the day as we felt viable. See… you don’t want to get there too early, because then the rock is still cold and damp from the evening frost and morning mist… but the later in the day you arrive, the less climbing there is!

We got there just in time for the hail to hit Daniel as he worked his way up a route… Which, you know, isn’t actually the worst thing while rock climbing. I mean… we had helmets on, and it was cool enough that we had long sleeves too… so we were pretty well armored against any pain or injury. And the nice thing about hail? It doesn’t make the rock wet!

So… Daniel just sorta kept climbing. Like a boss.

Brian and I followed suit, and an amazing day on the rocks was had by all. We started off at Buffalo Pit, a new area that I hadn’t been to before, and then dove down to Below the New Wave… somewhere that (I’m pretty sure) has been around since before I started climbing at Rumney.

Both spots were amazing, and both spots saw us sending a glorious number of really run routes… and I even climbed a bit harder than I was expecting, which was a super nice ego boost!

And, of course, as is tradition, we hit up Tilton Diner on the way home. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve climbed at Rumney, then gorged on amazing burgers and milkshakes… but you know what? It felt like I’d never left.

Routes climbed!!

Buffalo Pit:
Lonesome Buffalo (5.8)
Sunnyside Up (5.10c)
Mr. Buffalo to you (5.4)

Below the New Wave:
Bullwinkle Goes Ballistic (5.10a)
Into Air and Pleasant Danger (5.8)
Son of Sammy (5.8+)
Couch Potato (5.9)
Sixth Sense (5.6)

BCEP – A weekend at Horsethief!


Who are the Mazamas, you may ask? And what’s BCEP, you may enquire? Well, let me fill you in dear reader. When I first moved to Oregon, I pretty quickly heard about a mountaineering group in town called The Mazamas.

Similar to the AMC back in Boston, they teach classes and do conservation outreach projects. Over the years, I’d interacted with them tangentially – attending a few classes, volunteering with a few groups, but I’d never been able to actually take a course officially. I’d applied to their Advanced Rock climbing class, but wasn’t accepted for one reason or another.

Now, nearly seven years after first moving to Oregon, I was trying again. This time beginning at the bottom – while you may notice that I’m not quite a beginner when it comes to the outdoors, I was tired. These last few years haven’t been easy, and I was just tired of fighting… the chance to just sit back and meet new people while enjoying a few group hikes was more than worth the price of admission.

Saturday and Sunday, 26-Mar-2022 & 27-Mar-2022

When I first moved to Oregon, back in the Spring of 2015, the first climbing spot I went to explore was Horsethief Butte. My friend Brian had come to visit for our mutual birthdays (his in June, mine in July), and we had a blast exploring a new area and new type of rock.

Since that adventure, I’ve been out to Horsethief quite a few more times… but none in the last few years. Smith, Vantage, and a few other crags have captured my gaze with their taller walls and easier camping.

I’d heard that BCEP teams did their “intro to rock climbing” courses at Horsethief, of course – back when I lived in Hood River, I’d learned to keep tabs on that so that when I did go out, I could avoid the mob of Mazamas laying siege to the entire area… but now, it was my turn to lay siege!

Our start time was a bit later than the usual start time for a hike – 8:00am, instead of 7:00am, which might not seem like a lot… especially when the meeting point is half an hour farther away than the usual ones… But you know what? That extra half an hour of sleep in the morning can sometimes make all the difference, and I was feeling excellent when I finished parking.

I threw my pack on, met up with everyone, and soon enough I was back in my element!

Rock! Anchors, ropes and cords! Equalized anchors, carabiners set opposite and opposed, and lockers interspersed as necessary. Rapelling and belaying, exploring and wandering.

A blast.

There were a few different BCEP groups set up, laying siege to Horsethief, along with a few other non-affiliated groups of climbers sharing the space – leading to a rather raucously energetic environment for the day. Our team had set up a few specific practice stations – Belaying, rope travel, various types of climbing, all of the parts I’ve come to know and love. I worked through them one after another, enjoying myself and helping out however I could… all while keeping an eye out for opportunities for some excellent photos of Mt. Hood (and the cliffs!) peaking out through the clouds.

I rotated through various other areas throughout the day, mostly staying with my own group. Nothing against the others, of course, but it’s been an amazing opportunity for me to get back to my roots of teaching climbing, and reviewing the various skills and processes that I’ve been using for the last 15 years. I’ve learned new names for knots, different ways of tying things, and confirmed more than a few skills that I’d taught myself in years past.

One cool aspect – I ran into some friends from Boston! They were in a separate BCEP group, hence why I hadn’t run into them before, but… Hey! Small world!

In short – the day was amazing! We climbed, belayed, and had a simply glorious time… possibly getting a bit too much sun in the process, but… hey, that’s part of the fun!

This was a full weekend adventure though, so the fun didn’t even remotely end after the climbing did! Once we finished up on the walls, and packed in all our gear, we made our way East to the campsite for the evening – A spot I’d heard of before, but never actually had occasion to visit; Maryhill campground.

It… I mean, it was nice, but it wasn’t really anything to write home about. Your standard issue roadside campground, partially made for RVs and partially for campers, it was pretty much exactly what one would expect from a campground. The main items of note for us were the cooking area, and the firepit – two areas I’d normally ignore, but in this case… well, we had five groups all camping together, so the communal areas became quite critical quite quickly.

Almost as soon as people started arriving, people started cooking.

Did I mention that my BCEP leaders are amazing cooks? Let me reiterate it – not just the leaders, but freaking everyone in my BCEP team is an amazing, simply ridiculously good, cook. I hadn’t had a chance to prepare anything ahead of time, and it turns out that was definitely for the best – we had so much food, of such amazing quality, that everyone was absolutely stuffed by the end… with quite a bit still left over.

We did our best, of course, but soon enough had to throw in the towel and roll ourselves over to the second communal area of the evening; the firepit wasn’t going to start itself, of course.

The rest of the evening was a continuation of amazingness.

Great desserts, excellent company, and tons of stories and conversation around the fire. It was great, and intense, and… strangely a bit melancholic for me; I’ve missed this type of camaraderie, but hadn’t been fully aware of how much I’d been missing it. Being thrown back in was… interesting, and a bit intense for me. No matter how much time seems to pass, I keep getting reminded of just how much healing I still have to go through…

Emotions aside, the evening came and went in a flurry of positivity. I heard stories of climbing on far off continents… and even some nearby places – I ended up spending quite a bit of time talking to two polar opposites: one guy who learned to climb the same places I did (up in New Hampshire) and one lady who’d first climbed in her hometown in France.

Hearing the differences in backgrounds, and being able to add in my own, was like coming back home after a long time away from town… as strange as that sounds. It’s something I’ve known about myself, but I’m being reminded of with this BCEP group – I’m neither a true introvert, nor a true extrovert. I need both to be happy, and it’s been way too long since I’ve recharged my social battery around a campfire.

The night went on, the fire burned and died low, and I slipped back to my tent before sleep overtook me.

Sunday morning broke, but I was already up… as crazy as that sounds. Coffee was brewing, a pancake scramble was sizzling, and I was doing my best to wake myself up to the adventure of the day.

Our group was done for the weekend – of the five BCEP groups at the campsite, three had climbed on Saturday and two were going to climb on Sunday… with our Saturday complete, most of the folks were sleeping in and heading home later in the day.

I’d volunteered to help another of the students teach a boyscout group how to climb, though, so was up and at ’em early, since Mazamas and Boyscouts both have some weird obsession with the dawn…

I ate, cleaned up, packed up, and rolled up to the parking lot ready to rock the day. This one was a lot more chill – I wasn’t leading, that role fell to the other guy, so all I was doing was acting as a backup. Confirming knots and anchors, and making sure to keep the scouts from getting into too much trouble. It was lovely, and gave me a chance to relax and appreciate the cool morning and beautiful rock.

Stepping back a moment though, I want to comment on a cool part about the scouts we were teaching… while it was the boyscouts, as far as I’m aware, the group was actually just two kids – a brother and a sister, earning their climbing merit badges. They were young, maybe 6 and 9, but impressively capable for their age… and both had their requisite 3 climbs, 3 belays, and 3 rappels complete before the day got too hot.

Before heading out, I took a few extra minutes to enjoy the cliffs one last time… the drive back to Wilsonville wouldn’t be too long, and I wasn’t going directly home anyways, but I still made a point to appreciate the stillness of the gorge. There were calls and sounds from the nearby BCEP groups, of course, but… I’ve been around climbing areas for long enough that those faded into the distance for me without much thought.

On the way home I stopped off at a friends house for dinner, getting to try Sonoran Hotdogs for the first time (Ed note: See the recipe, below!) and watch a few episodes of PeaceMaker. Sort of a socialization cooldown for me – instead of going directly from “60 people around a fire” to “alone at home with my thoughts”, I was able to step it down… not a bad plan, especially when the socialization is such a “new” experience for me in recent years!

An amazing ending to an amazing weekend.

Sonoran Hotdogs!
I’ve visited Arizona quite a few times, but somehow never had one of these… and holy crap was I missing out!
– Wrap hotdogs with bacon, and grill ’till the bacon is fully cooked and maybe even lightly charred
– Toast some sweet potato buns
– Put the hot dogs in (removing any toothpicks used to hold the bacon in place!!!), and top with the following:
Pinto beans
Diced tomatoes
Diced onions
Yellow mustard
Jalapeno sauce
– Serve hot, with a single hot pepper on the side

References for first adventures: