As the warm weather settled in for the weekend and we spent Saturday absorbing the sunshine, we felt a strong determination to get to Pawtuckaway, NH for the day. There has been a thick blanket of snow covering New England, but shuffling through it seemed possible. We knew the climbs might be wet and therefore, not climbable, but there was bond to be something dry. Either way Pawtuckaway is such an enchantingly, peaceful place, it seems well worth the trip regardless.
We woke up early for the three hour drive, tired from the lost hour of daylight savings time, but excited for the gain in sunlight. We made it there around 10 o’clock pleased to feel the air was not as chilled as we worried. It was looking like the makings of another perfect climbing day. We were lucky to have four wheel drive as we struggled slightly down the snow covered driveway to the parking lot of the Blair Woods section. Everything was quiet and empty except for two people on snow mobiles. The sun was warm, the air was still and smelling richly of pine, and the sounds of nature surrounded us.There was a river half frozen and half running, sparkling with the white rays of the sun.
We had packed a little portable heater, energy snacks (various nutritional bars, mandarin oranges, and cheddar penguins for a little junk food fix), our climbing gear, and plenty of water. We first hiked around without any of our gear to get a lay of the land. The hike started with well established snow mobile tracks, and then turned into a footprint/snowshoe mix of tracks. There were sections we glided along easily on top of the snow, and sections our feet broke through sending us to our waists in snow. Stepping in the snowshoeing tracks helped keep us dry, but felt awkward like trying to follow the steps of someone much larger than you.
Josh’s first climb was a V6 called Ball Doctor that he was anxious to avenge himself on. Currently being able to climb V11, it bothered him that this V6 still seemed difficult. The bottom moves require balance and appropriate body positioning, but they are not terribly difficult moves. Then one has to dynamically grab a sloper and proceed to complete a scary, insecure feeling top out. Though this climb has plagued him in the past, and still proved difficult on this day, he rose from it victoriously with a send and plenty of energy to spare.
After warming up on some easier climbs despite them seeping with water, I had high hopes for the slopey traverse that is general lee. Unfortunately, the climb was dripping on every inch from the melting heap of snow on top of it. We worked on some other climbs. One was a classic V3 that was seeping on some seemingly crucial holds, though Josh was able to climb it in a way that did not use any of them. Josh also flashed another V6, and grabbed the send of a V8 after only a couple tries.
Then it was time for Josh to try Stand and Deliver. It is V11 that would be the final climb for the day. We were exhausted from hiking around in the deep snow. I was, in particular, exhausted from a few times of accidentally turtling myself from slipping on ice or falling unexpectedly deep in snow. We both had been putting in a lot of work on the climbs too. This area of Pawtuckaway has beautiful crystal features in the rock that feel amazing to hold until they slice your fingers with their sharpness. Despite the little trails of blood, however, we were feeling good. The crimps were fantastic. The slopers felt delightful in the cool weather. We had perfect conditions.
The rock that Stand and Deliver is on, however, seems to be the best quality rock in all of Pawtuckaway. It has beautiful black swirling lines, fantastic color, and impressive strength. It is awe inspiring to look at, and just as impressive to touch. Many of the climbs on this were icy or wet, which is the only reason we didn’t try others, but luckily, Stand and Deliver was perfectly dry.
Josh gave this climb a few solid tries. The bottom moves felt easy to him and were quickly mastered, but the big move to the crimp felt far away, and as the sun quickly lowered, we knew it would have to be saved for another day. There is no doubt that he will accomplish this send on a future day. He was close and quickly linking all the other moves. Sometimes when we come back to a climb with a fresh view, suddenly everything just pulls together in our mind.
Of course, returning to Pawtuckaway will not be a problem. We have a couple projects each to work on, and many more boulders to see. The park is loaded with climbs. After purchasing the guide book, we were stunned to see how much more there was than what we had once known.
We packed up and started the walk back to the car, with the sunlight dimming around us. The smell of pine and cool New Hampshire air refreshingly filling our noses. The snow was crunchy and firm beneath our feet as the chill started to ice it over once more. Around these boulders there is nothing but nature that can be heard. Cars, people, and all the other bustling aspects of life seem so far removed. It is a restorative, peaceful, solitude among those boulders. Though the desire for a hot shower was growing strong with our soaked socks and frozen feet, and the need for bed strong for our sore bodies, it felt difficult to leave behind such a place. We look forward to the next trip, and the next adventure.