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July 12, 2007
You never forget the first one...at least that's what "they" always say, and I most certainly remember mine. I was living in Boston in the early 90's, running my own software company, separated from my wife of the time and crashing nightly on my office floor. I took showers in the local gym and ate all my meals at a variety of area bars and Chinese restaurants. It wasn't a particularly nice time for me.
I'd climbed somewhat as a kid with my grandfather in the North Georgia mountains, but nothing of any real significance. It didn't really "get" me and as soon as I discovered girls and cars, at about 15 I guess it was, I dropped grandpa and the climbing like a rock - figuratively of course. On a business trip to California in about '90 I met some people who introduced me to top-roping and I got hooked. When I came "home" I went down to Bob Smith's Wilderness House and bought some shoes and a harness. I asked around and met some folks from the Harvard Outing Club and the local AMC who befriended me and for a couple of years I haunted the Quincy Quarries and Hammond Pond. Getting out on the rock after work and going somewhere on the weekends was a great release from the pressures of work and my impending divorce, so I jumped at the chance to go climbing whenever I could.
Through one of the Harvard folks I was introduced to a climber named John, a blue-collar kind of guy from Charlestown. He was definitely quirky, but nice enough and a good climber who was willing to take me under his wing. We came up here to Cathedral, went to Cannon and Crow Hill. I remember one particular summer day he took me up Three Birches on Cathedral. He floated up the crux arch and stood up on the slab just to the right of the top of the arch. He looked down at me and said something like; "Look out it's a bit slipp...". At that moment he took a slide and BINGO, I'd caught my first leader fall! An hour or so later at the top of the climb he took the final unprotected 5.6 slab to the trees. When I got to the top he asked me what I thought and I responded that it was "no big deal." He just stared at me and muttered something like "easy for you to say". His words came back to me 5 or 6 years later when I led that pitch & was terrified when I realized that there was nothing between me and my belayer but 2 small pieces at the base of the mantle move 40' below!
I'd been thinking about leading for a while. One late fall day we were up on Cannon on the left side in the late afternoon. I don't remember what we had climbed earlier, maybe the first couple of pitches of Artichoke or something. I felt pretty good, saw this beautiful crack (Reppy's) and decided that might be a good first one to try. John had a fairly reasonable rack for the day - plenty of nuts, Rigid Friends, hexes and a couple of tricams - however there were no doubles of anything. I strapped it on, tied in and headed up. I was doing pretty well, plugging in something about every 5 feet and getting slowly closer to the niche, when I reached down and realized that I didn't have any more gear to speak of. Certainly nothing that was going to go in that crack that was by now causing my Aces-clad feet to scream in pain. I looked down at John and he eloquently raised one eyebrow. "Got a problem, eh?"; he asked. Around this time I also realized that the clouds had blown in from up Notch, it was starting to sprinkle and my legs were starting to wobble. I somehow managed to back my way down to the previous piece and slump onto the rope. John tried to talk me into lowering down to get a couple of the pieces & then finishing it off, but I was whipped and made him lower me off. He gave me one of his stares, quickly tied in, zipped up the crack and back-cleaned the route as he down-climbed in the pouring rain. Embarrassed as hell it was 3 weeks before I would try again.
One Saturday that same fall we were out at Rose Ledge in Western Mass, probably for the last trip of the season. We'd top-roped a bunch of the climbs on the left side like the Tennessee Flake and then wandered down to the right side of the cliff-band, in what was to us uncharted territory, where I spotted an interesting looking corner with a crack in the back and a small roof at the top. I suggested that he give it a try but he just looked at me and handed me the rack. I was stuck if I wanted to do anything else that day so I gave in. John didn't say a word as I headed up the corner. I must have laid-back, stemmed, jammed and face climbed all over that corner but John never said boo. I plugged in gear, fiddled with nuts and cams and wound my way up to the roof where I plugged in what was likely my last cam. When I say I plugged it in, I mean I SUNK that sucker. The I climbed a little left and around and VOILA - I was at the top. I must have whooped and hollered and jumped around for 5 minutes - I was so happy. I set up an anchor, clipped in and he lowered me down. I was so excited that I rather conveniently forgot to clean any of the gear. When he followed the pitch it must have taken him 15 minutes to get that Rigid Friend out from under the roof but again he didn't say anything. That was the last thing we did that weekend and as we walked back down the trail to the truck I must have rehashed every move of the climb 20 times - not to mention another 100 times all the way back to Boston.
We climbed together off and on for another year or so, but we drifted apart. I was leading on my own by then, had finally gotten divorced and met my future wife. Things have changed and 17 years or so have gone by but I will always remember that crisp fall Saturday as if it was yesterday.
8th annual women's climbing event
North Conway, NH,
September 8-9, 2007
This years' event will be totally clinic based! Many clinics will be offered including anchor building, trad climbing, self-rescue, or if you just want to climb, we are offering that as well. All gear is provided and open to all ages and levels of ability.
Barbecue dinner/party, slideshow, and raffle (tons of great gear, clothes, etc.) on Saturday evening.
For more information, please email Sonya Becker at email@example.com or visit our website at http://www.sterlingrope.com
While there are swarms of bugs here and there, they don't seem to be the biting types. Or at least not too much. Bug Dope is recommended in the deep woods, but in general the weird weather has kept them at bay
Looking for something to do this Friday or Saturday night? Drop by the Red Parka Pub in Glen and dance the night away to my band Sounds Clever. Great food and drinks will abound. Be sure to say hi if you make it down...
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
|The vias normales had perfect lines but new rock was the essence of climbing for us; throwing loose holds over the shoulder, feeling the exposed grains crush like sugar on footholes....|
|Paul Pritchard |