Posts Tagged ‘Rock Climbing’

Yesterday we finally found a day were the whole family could head out for some rock climbing and decided a day trip to Rumney, NH would be worth the drive. After picking up our friend Becky in Madison at 9:30 we took the scenic drive through Sandwich, NH and after one wrong turn ended up at the Rumney main parking lot by 11am. The lot was almost full, which wasn’t surprising given the perfect Fall weather and the long holiday weekend.

Alex was ready to go…

And this time Mommy could join us on our adventure!

We hiked up to the nearby Parking Lot Wall and found an open line among the masses. This was Michelle’s first time to Rumney and she let me know she wasn’t crazy about all the distractions. She’s relatively new to the sport, and while Rumney has a somewhat relaxed atmosphere it can get a bit disconcerting when you can’t hear your partner well over the cliff side chatter. I led the easy “Glory Jean’s”, 5.6, and left the rope in place so both Michelle and Becky could get a run on it.

Alex was more interested in the dirt and leaves that I would let him play with than the climbers above him. Minutes later I heard a familiar voice call my name, and my good friends,  John and Sandy from Connecticut, were hiking up to join us. We caught up quickly then decided to relocate to the Meadow’s area with hopes of a calmer scene.

While hiking over to the meadows area we stopped and chatted with a nice family whose 3 year old was enjoying what I would come to find out his regular climb.

Old enough to walk, old enough to climb!

We knew some of the same people from Mount Washington Valley and I was reminded what a small world the climbing community exists in.

We hiked up to the Meadows and were stoked to find it almost empty. After setting up the Pack & Play I led two more routes, both 5.7, and we casually traded belay duty, with baby watching duty, and occasionally getting to climb.

Alex started to pay more attention to the climbing and was happy to see Becky return to the ground

Sandy & John enjoying the Meadows

In between watching the climbers he liked playing with some of the gear

Some other friends, Bob and Mike, also from Connecticut showed up as we were winding down. By 3pm everyone had had enough and since John & Sandy needed to get on the road to drive back to Connecticut we decided to pack it up so we would all have time for a quick bite to eat at the Common Man Inn in nearby Plymouth. While I was coiling the ropes Alex decided it was definitely time to be done, as he fell asleep in his mother’s arms. Not wanting to wake him by placing him in the carrier I decided to carry him out, and found the climbing rope would sit nicely in the kid carrier.

3rd climbing trip for Alex, a total success!

Did anyone else get outside this Columbus Day weekend? If so, what’d you do?

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After my niece’s impressive performance while “top-roping” yesterday at Whitehorse Ledge I was eager to bring her on her first multi-pitch rock climb. For those who do not climb, “multi-pitch” simply means climbing a cliff so tall that it takes more than one rope length to reach the top, so you climb it in stages, or “pitches”. I would climb up, build an anchor, provide security for her to climb to me, anchor her in, and repeat the process until we reached the top. This type of climbing is more committing as you can’t always easily get back to flat ground if you become uncomfortable. Sometimes you only have a very small ledge, or no ledge at all, to hang out on. The rope and the gear keep us safely attached, but to the uninitiated it looks awfully intimidating. Well, except for my niece.

Michelle and Alex dropped us off at the top of the cliff, and we hiked down and around to the start of our climb. While scrambling across the access ledge tied together I grabbed this picture of Jessica with Whitehorse Ledge in the background.

I’m sure a climb to the top of Whitehorse is in her near future

We made our way across the treed-ledge, and as the path narrowed Jessica remarked how cool it was that nature provided a trail along this exposed spot. This kid really “gets it”. We arrived at the base of the climb, and where many a new climber has looked up with a bit of concern Jessica did as well, but asked a completely different question than I am used to here. Usually it is “We’re climbing this?” “Where will you stop?” “How will we get down?”

Jessica though, looks up and asks if there is more to the cliff than what she can see. I ask her to elaborate and she wants to know if there is more climbing than the 200 feet of granite she sees above her. I tell her there is another 50 feet or so above that is out of sight. She responds, “Good, I want the climb to be as long as possible”.

That is some serious motivation! I’m smiling pretty wide as I lead up the first pitch. When it is Jessica’s turn she follows quickly and has no problem removing the protection I had placed in the cracks when instructed to do so.

Jessica works her way up the first pitch of Upper Refuse

There was an AMGA Rock Instructor Exam group at the first anchor so I built my anchor on a smaller stance just below the normal belay. Jessica arrived at the anchor and had no problem leaning back and getting comfortable despite there being barely any place to sit. This was good to see as during the drive to the cliff she had asked me if there would be places on the cliff to sit down, and our current position didn’t allow for it. None-the-less she seemed comfortable and I headed up the 2nd pitch with complete confidence in her ability to finish the climb.

After a brief break at the top of the 2nd pitch we waived to Aunt Shelly who was a little black dot down on the road watching our progress, and started up the 3rd pitch.

While Jessica followed the pitch I managed to grab some shaky video. YouTube has offered to reduce the shakiness after uploading, so I am curious as to how this will turn out:


A photo is worth a 100 shaky seconds of video though;

500 feet from here back to the road, Jessica is all smiles

We topped out in just over an hour from leaving the car and Michelle and Alex arrived seconds later.

Aunt Shelly and Alex meet us at the top

The view to the north

We took in the sights and headed down to the base of the cliff for some lunch. After some water and PB&J I took one more pic before heading off to Diana’s Baths for a relaxing, albeit crowded swim.

Back at the bottom of the cliff

I found climbing when I was 15. It’s guided just about everything I have done in the last 19 years. It is an indescribable passion. I can say this though, the only thing better than climbing for close to two decades, is showing someone who is just over a decade old and seeing her, or him, absolutely love it. It’s re-affirming, motivating, and satisfying, and as one old mountaineering quote states… “Just pure joy”.

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Yesterday we returned from visiting some family down at the Jersey Shore. A couple days on the beach with Alex, nieces and a nephew, lots of uncles and aunts, was very welcome. Returning home with one of our nieces, Jessica (age 11), has kept the vacation vibe going and today I had the opportunity to organize a true family climbing outing to Whitehorse Ledge. Truth be told, my wife was more responsible for organizing it as she had the foresight weeks ago to invite her cousin-in-law Cassie, and her two daughters, Kendra (age 11), and Cordiella (age 11 months, 2 days before Alex was born).

With partly sunny skies, low humidity, and the temps in the  low 70’s, the stage was set for a great day. To make things even better, close family friend and climbing partner, Bob, volunteered to help “schlelp” some gear to the crag and maybe even stick around for some climbing.

We met at EMS around 11am and geared up, then drove over to Whitehorse Ledge in Echo Lake State Park.

Jessica, Alex, and I with the Whitehorse Ledge Slabs in the background

We parked in the lower lot and headed up the cliff. I was carrying Alex in his comfy Osprey carrier, and in front of me was my climbing pack loaded with my trad-rack, harness, shoes, etc. In my arms I carried the pack-and-play. I have not weighed this yet, but I plan too. I will say this. Someone needs to make one of these out of ultra-light titanium. If you look closely at the above photo you should be able to make out my fingers getting ripped off.

We made our way past the slabs and over to the Echo Roof Area where we set-up the pack and play and got a rope hanging on “Holy Land”, a fun 5.6 with some nice slab moves at the beginning followed by interesting face climbing to an anchor 80 feet up.

Showing Jessica good places for her feet. I would come to find out that she did not need much coaching.

Two years ago I had taken Jessica top-roping on the Thin Air face. At 9 years old she scampered to the top of the 5.4 pitch with little effort. It’s obvious that her training in dance is easily carrying over to her skill on the rock, but I would soon find out that there was even more to it than that.

Eyeing the Route “Holy Land, 5.6”

Off she goes


Working towards the top

Meanwhile, back at base camp…

Alex learns the meaning of “share”

Cordy, Kendra, Alex, Jessica

Kendra got her chance next, and decided swinging back and forth from 20 feet up was her cup of tea.

Kendra’s favorite past time was swinging to and fro

While “the moms” got a run on Holy Land we set a rope up on “Relic Hunter”, the neighboring 5.7 route. After showing Jessica the tie-in knot once, the retraced figure-8, she tied it correctly herself. Most adults struggle with this knot the first dozen times, but she nailed it first try. Already impressed, I watched her cruise Relic Hunter with no noticeable effort.

Footwork is King! (Relic Hunter, 5.7)

On the way down from their climbs the girls made contact.

Does it get any better?

Jessica and Aunt “Shelly” high five while the massive Echo Roof looms above

We moved our base camp 100 feet left to the Ethereal Buttress area. Bob and I ran up Beezlebub Corner (5.5) and dropped a top-rope on Seventh Seal, the thin slabbly 5.10 finger crack I was sure Jessica would find some challenge on. And this is where my niece amazed me. With very little coaching she “flashed” the route, never weighting the rope or falling. Any time her foot slipped (only at the crux) she held on to what ever small finger jam or “crimper” she had. She never needed much beta, except for a little direction getting to the main crack, and to top it all off, did not look the slightest bit tired after completing this test piece.

I need to step back for a second. I have climbed with a lot of families and kids. I mean… a lot! Just browse my trip reports from my guiding blog to get an idea of how many 6 year olds, 9 year olds, 13 year olds, etc. that I have taken climbing. I have been impressed countless times. But today I was more than impressed. I was humbled. Here was an 11 year old girl from New Jersey who’s rock climbed one day in her life. With almost no instruction she;

1) Learned how to tie a retraced figure-eight knot

2) Problem solved and practiced solid route-finding on 5.6 to 5.10

3) “Flashed” a 5.10 test-piece with little noticeable effort

4) Showed complete faith in the climbing rope and belayer when it was time to be lowered

It is hard for me to recall anyone else I have introduced to the sport showing so much natural talent after mere hours at the cliff. Jessica… you ROCK!

This video shows her working through the crux of the climb. I wish I had some footage of how smoothly she got to this point, but you can take my word on it, it was smooth.


After we all got our spin on the climb, and we all looked a bit more tired than Jess, we pulled our rope and packed up. The hike back to the car with all the gear was easier, I think I was buoyed by the overall success of the outing. It was only the 2nd time we’ve had Alex at the cliff, but it was the first time Mommy climbed too. Oh ya, Mommy climbed very well bagging all three climbs in style!

Michelle finding purchase near the thin Seventh Seal crack

We got back to the parking lot and made plans for a cookout back at our place. Nothing could have ended the day any better… except maybe this photo Michelle snagged in the parking lot.

“This is how we roll”

It looks like a multi-pitch climb is in Jessica’s near future… stay tuned!

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