Romping in the Rain


Rain, rain go away.
We have gear to take away.

Sundown is the perfect weekend crag, with no crowds, routes that stay dry in the rain, and easy access off the Conway side of the Kancamagus highway. The classics start at 5.11c for sport routes, so you won’t find any community groups in matching helmets lined up to try toproping for the first time. It also means that for non-5.13 climbers like myself, the warm-up route is your first project of the day. There are also easier trad routes on the upper cliffs, dipping as low as 5.4, as well as several mixed routes with bolted cruxes.

If there are three groups at Main Cliff, it’s a busy day. You might have to wait in line for Eyeless in Gaza, the 5.12b four-star-on-Mountain-Project mega classic, but there’s always three-and-a-half star 5.12a Romper Room a 30-second stroll away. The other climbers you’ll meet are either seasoned locals or long-time returners who know that Rumney is too jam-packed on a Saturday to to lie out all of one’s gear yardsale-style. The crag dog to climber ratio is much higher than average, and most of the canines are friendly.

While much of the main cliff does stay dry in the rain, it is important to note that in torrential downpours Romper Room becomes a river. Project Dikenstein and Eyeless all you want during precipitation, but get your gear off Romper Room before a stream overtakes the upper crimps.

Don’t make the same mistake we did:

The cliff blocked the approaching storm clouds. Tristan had gotten himself stuck at the top of a multi-pitch trad route, so Matt and Tim had gone to rescue him with the 70-meter. Erin, Tommy, and I were finishing cleaning Dikenstein when it started to sprinkle, beginning the race to gather our draws before everything became soaked. It was pouring by the time Tommy, the only one of the three of us strong enough to lead damp 12a, was tied in. Water cascaded off the cliffs around us. The top of Romper Room was soaked. So, naturally, Tommy went for it.

After pulling onto the upper face, Tommy was stuck. There were streams running down every key crimp, the draws were too far apart to “aid” between them, and we didn’t have a stick-clip. A soaked Tristan, Matt, and Tim trio hiked by and informed us they were on their way out. Having tweaked her ankle on a whip earlier, Erin opted to head out as well. It was another two-man adventure.

Twenty-seven tries later, Tommy still hadn’t made any progress or given up. For some odd reason, I was incredibly happy to be belaying in the rain. I was outside, the mist rolling in was beautiful, and the water pouring off the surrounding cliffs gave one the feeling of being in the center of a waterfall. I’d also remembered my rain jacket. My sole concern was that Tommy frustration was increasing with each failed attempt.

After eleven-and-three-quarters more tries, Tommy decided to dirt. We waited out the rain, me climbing up the ropes and traversing the bottom of the cliff while trying to convince Tommy I was perfectly and unreasonably happy in our current situation. Worrying about getting the gear off wasn’t going to make anything dry out faster, and, worst-case scenario, we’d just have to make a detour the next day to get it back.

Toward the end of the rainstorm, the sun came out. There was probably a rainbow somewhere, maybe even over the cliff, as Tommy rescued our gear through a mix of pulling on draws and gripping damp, but no longer stream-like, crimps.

Laden with all of our gear and most of Erin’s, we hiked out in the sunshine, ready to trek to Shell Pond and climb again the next day, all draws accounted for.

Originally published September 28, 2014, on 

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