The persistent rain throughout the day on Friday, and a relatively late night out, put my plans of bouldering at Lincoln Woods the following morning in jeopardy. When the text came from Doug on Friday night asking if I thought the Woods would be dry, it was too easy assume they would be soaked and to bail. With a few beers in me, sensing a late night, and with mother nature providing an easy out, the idea of bouldering Saturday morning was scrapped. As I have stated in previous posts, I have no feel for the weather this time of year, and when I guess at it, it seems that I am wrong most of the time. Thus it came as no surprise to me when I woke up Saturday morning to sun, temps in the high forties, and the everything looking relatively dry. Oops!
Fortunately, I had Sunday off and was hopeful to make up for Saturday’s misjudgement by heading to Pawtuckaway for a full day of bouldering. Even better was the fact that Doug was the one who mentioned heading to Pawtuckaway. While I really enjoy bouldering at Pawtuckaway, Doug is lukewarm on it and getting him there can be even more difficult than getting him to Rumney. In fairness, the drive to Pawtuckaway is always longer than I think it is, and the road leading to the boulders is always in various states of disrepair (at times, the most adventurous part of the day is the drive in). However, the climbing is of amazing quality, and every time I’m there I discover a new great problem.
For some reason, I never realized how cold it would be at Pawtuckaway…a problem enhanced by our decision to get an early start. Furthermore, the cold and wind were magnified by a light dusting of snow Saturday night. Why I hadn’t assumed it would be cold with snow on the ground is still a mystery to me. Also, after a week’s worth of talk about the weather for the impending Patriots game hinged on just how miserable it was going to be outside, I find it difficult to believe that I hadn’t anticipated the cold. But with Doug sounding confident about good conditions and actually being psyched on Pawtuckaway, and my confidence in my judgement faltering, we headed north. Subconsciously I must have known that it was going to be pretty miserable because my bag contained a collection of hats, gloves, fleece, puffies, and hand-warmers. (Sadly, I probably could have packed more.)
My first indication that we might have made the wrong decision came at the park and ride where Doug and I meet. It was cold at the park and ride, and the parking lot was white with snow and empty. The park and ride is typically pretty full on Sunday mornings, and I believe it’s a popular spot for people heading toward the mountains to meet. It seemed on this day most people decided to bail and stay some place warm. Stepping out of the car, the first words from Doug’s mouth were, “do you think it will be dry?” Not nearly sounding as confident as the night before, I knew I had just got the second sign that I was in for an uncomfortable day. The third sign should have been that these words were uttered between windows rolled down less than a quarter of the way each, neither one of us ready to fully expose ourselves to the elements, but I was too busy trying to remain optimistic to notice. Having already made it as far as the park and ride, the decision was to forge ahead and hope for the best.
Getting out of the car at Pawtuckaway was a slap in the face, as the wind whipped and the cold quickly lowered our core temperatures. As we hiked into the Boulder Natural area, we decided to push on toward the Round Pond Boulders, partly because they sit in the sun and partly because hiking was restoring some warmth. While the sun was shining, the wind was working to undo any extra warmth created as it gusted off the pond and into the boulder field. Also, the snow was a bit problematic as I needed to use my boulder brush to remove the snow from cracks, ledges, and crimps. But the snow on the rock was only part of the problem; navigating the ground and keeping our climbing shoes dry proved to be another issue. Climbing shoes do not insulate well to begin with, and once wet they quickly begin to turn feet into ice cubes. Despite the adverse conditions, Doug and I took a few laps up some of the classic warm-ups (literally warm-ups that day as movement was the best solution to not freezing).
After roughly two hours (more of that time spent huddling into our puffy jackets and grasping hand warmers for dear life than climbing), Doug and I sought refuge in the car. As we headed to the car to warm up, I surely thought the day was over. At the car, I thought I had never in my life been so cold, with both hands and both feet feeling frozen. However, I was surprised by the restorative powers of sitting in the car with the heat blowing. After about twenty minutes I was ready to go, and after thirty minutes I actually got out to brave the elements again. With our spirits up-lifted, the wind calming, and the sun coming out, Doug and I managed to get in a few more hours worth of climbing. We worked on some projects, Doug sent a new line, and we revisited some classics. By the end, we had managed a full day of climbing and had nearly forgotten about our frigid beginning.