Over Labor Day weekend, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Rumney, NH to try sport climbing outdoors for the first time.
I say privilege because I don’t know shit about sport climbing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. My two very gracious friends invited me to come along, and even after I explained — repeatedly — that I would have no idea what I was doing, they said “Come anyway! It’s the best place to learn!”
So basically my friends are the sweetest people in the world. But I digress.
Both of my friends are strong leaders and have been climbing for a while (one even used to work at a gym and taught belay classes), so they were the ideal people to go with. They would lead a climb, set up a top-rope so I could try it, then another would either lead or top-rope and clean behind me.
Not only was it my first sport climbing trip, it was also my first three-day climbing trip, so one of the biggest challenge was just having enough energy to finish everything. The third day was only a half day because we had to drive back down to NYC, but by then my skin and whole body were both basically done.
I’m primarily a boulderer, so I’m used to being able to repeatedly throw myself at a problem. Things don’t count unless you do them all at one time, and even then you get pumped so fast you better just keep moving, because there’s no quitsies. As such, sport climbing was a very refreshing mental game-changer for me. In order to have enough endurance to finish the route, you have to take breaks; sometimes you can just prop your feet, lean against the rock, and take a breather for a minute or two. If you need to take at the top of a problem so you can figure out how to move through it, you can, because your buddy is right there willing to hold you. This is great for practicing tricky moves.
One thing I also noticed when top-roping was because I felt so secure with the rope, I was accomplishing things I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of. Drilling for Dollars has a move that’s a far, high left heel, that you have to pull yourself up and over. One person on Mountain Project compared it to stepping out of a six story window and trusting that you wouldn’t fall. I saw others struggle with the move from the ground, but using their beta I was able to complete it on my first try. It was a move that, on a boulder problem, I may not have tried, because I would have been so afraid of falling.
Moral of the story: I’m a stronger climber than I give myself credit for.
So while I probably won’t get the chance to do it outside again any time soon, I think sport climbing might be my new hobby. Next on the to-do list: acquire my own harness, take a belay test.
Route List, all top-roped, no lead:
Routes I flashed:
Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten 5.6
The Nuthatch 5.7
Fat Man 5.7
Drilling for Dollars 5.8
Squeeze My Lemon 5.8
Dung Beetle 5.9
Routes I finished but had to take once or twice:
Toxic Gumbo 5.8
Junco 5.8+ (ps I hate slab)
Dolt 5.10a (had to take about five times but I got there eventually)
Routes I fell off of/couldn’t finish:
Lonesome Dove 5.10a