You know you are in Rumney, New Hampshire when your nose is greeted by the smell of fresh pine and everywhere you look is endless green. Along the road you will see the occasional abandon mom and pop shop making it seem like a ghost town. The only place we see open is a random gas station. Nothing about it has an eerie feel, however. Instead driving into Rumney provokes a sense of peace by being surrounded in vast solitude. There are moose signs everywhere along the road and probably more of them then there are people in the area. The weather is calm and warm; perfect for a long day of climbing. If you look to the left, you can see the cliffs peeking between blots of green forest. They are almost hidden.
We had been enjoying a beautiful day in a scenic location with the best of company. The climbs had been well worth the 3 hour drive to get there and the one that awaited us for getting home. Most of us were getting ready to hit the road since the sun was dropping down, stomachs were growling, and the bulk of our energy was spent. Josh, however, had one more he needed to try before being able to end the day.
Josh closes his hazel eyes for a moment while taking a deep breath; relaxing his mind and preparing his muscles for the physical exertion they are about to endure. He needs to make it up this climb clean. The past few weeks he has been training hard with the goal of increasing to the next level of climbing. Hours of hang board training with increasing weight, campusing exercises, and climbing at optimal times to maximize his abilities. It is not about grade chasing or beating anyone’s record. Climbing means more to him that anything else does. All his dedication, passion, happiness, and energy are filtered into the sport. The better he gets, the more interesting the moves, the stronger the feeling of accomplishment, and the more pleasure he feels. It is not so much about the grade. Grades are too subjective. Some are soft and some are sandbagged. Some are easier if you are a certain height or have a certain span. Some are easier if you are really good at a particular technique. It is all dependent on the individual perspective.
“Things as They Are Now” is the climb he is about to embark on. With a 5.12a grade, this climb is not the highest grade he has tried today, but it is one he is determined to send for his final climb of the day. He has made it up the climb several times already, but never a clean send. Now he knows all the moves, he knows the feel of the rock, and he knows he can make it.
A hot summer day ending with a cool breeze has set an ideal atmosphere for the final climb. A chipmunk tries to pull the lid off a peanut jar nearby; ready for dinner. Everyone is tired and hungry and he probably is too, but it does not matter to him. He starts the route which feels like a V4 boulder problem. He pulls himself close to the wall with chalk dusted fingertips; muscles engaged and tense. His arms outstretched, almost to full capacity, for a set of oppositional side pulls. His feet delicately dance up the left side, while he pulls his body up. Bumping higher with the right hand and swiftly moving his feet, he positions himself for a dead point throw.
The right foot planted solidly as the stability, the left foot touching on the tip of that greasy little foothold that to the belayer cannot even be seen. He throws up his left hand hoping to make it through the crux. The hardest part of the climb already accomplished, he knows the rest of the send will move quickly and effortlessly as long as he can get past this one move.
The left hand makes contact and the fingertips grip onto the hold. It’s enough strength to pull the climber up and onto the next foothold. This one is better. It feels more secure. The hardest part of the climb is over. He matches hands on the hold alternating between shaking his left arm then right. He wants to make sure he has the energy to make it up the rest. He will feel defeated if he falls now. He already knows he has made a clean send and with another deep breath of accomplishment he crawls up to finish. He anchors into the two welded cold shuts and leans back ready to be lower down with the satisfaction of piecing together the project.