Finding Fun Amongst Rumney Crowds
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” –Shakespeare
With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, making a decision about what to do was conflicting. I desperately wanted to get outside and into the mountains and was especially anxious to climb, but feared the crowds and traffic that coincide with a typical holiday weekend in the White Mountains. While the Whites are rife with out-of-the-way cliffs and hidden crags, the convenience and quality of Rumney once again led me to New England’s most popular—and therefore busiest—sport crag.
Although I feared the potential cluster fuck that Rumney can present on the typical weekend, much less a holiday weekend, a few recent trips in which we seemingly navigated around the crowds without issue left me feeling confident we would find something to climb. It’s hard to say if the recent successes at Rumney have been due to a solid strategy of where and when to climb, being more opportunistic, or coming to the crag with a more tolerant mindset and realistic expectations. I can remember the days of arriving at Rumney late and still getting a spot in the first parking lot, and even though those days are gone, I have recently discovered that it’s still possible to have a good time there even when you have to share it with (a lot of) others.
Not too long ago, I heard someone talk about the hypocrisy of being in a crowd while at the same time complaining about the crowd. After all, if you are there, you’re as much of the problem as everyone else. It’s this attitude that I now try to bring to Rumney. If I pull in and see the parking lot is busy, I no longer let it put a damper on the day before it even starts. After all, everyone is here for the same thing—fun routes, numerous crags, and proximity to much of Southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
In spite of my attempts to find zen at the crag, I can still be hyper-motivated at times. Pulling into the Rumney parking lot on Saturday, I was shocked to discover that we were one of the first ten cars there. Even better, in front of most of the cars, people were sitting in camp chairs and fiddling with stoves, busy making breakfast, coffee, and easing themselves into the long weekend. We quickly pulled our stuff together and made a beeline for the Parking Lot Wall. Thanks to its abundance of moderate routes visible from the main parking lot, this crag is easily Rumney’s most convenient and busiest cliff. Heading up to the Parking Lot Wall, I was shocked yet again to see the cliff empty. Not wanting to squander our good luck, we uncoiled our ropes, donned harnesses, and racked draws before briskly climbing one route after another as the crowds slowly made their way to the cliff.
As the climbs added up and the crowds began to grow, so did my patience. I no longer felt the race against the impending crowds. Rather, we slowed down, shared beta with the people climbing next to us, and waited to climb a few routes worthy of the break in momentum. Waiting for a climb to open up (something I don’t think I have ever done), we watched others climb, ate sandwiches, basked in the summer sun, and observed others finding the same joy and fulfillment we had found earlier in the day. Running into a friend from work, our party of four joined their party of four on the wall—talk about a crowd!
When the Parking Lot Wall eventually became too crowded, and we had climbed our fair share of the routes, we moved on. Walking along the cliffs, we stopped to climb wherever was open and appealing, sneaking in on open routes when the opportunity arose and seeking out-of-the-way cliffs when Rumney’s more popular spots were occupied.
For the last handful of years I have, to some degree, avoided Rumney, only going during the week or at other times I thought it wouldn’t be busy. Scared of the crowds, tired of waiting for climbs, and indignant at the gym-like atmosphere that Rumney’s cliffs can possess, I hiked, rode my bike, and bouldered instead—in some ways, I like to think I’ve helped ease the overcrowding that plagues Rumney by not going there. I don’t know what I thought to accomplish by avoiding Rumney, but in hindsight, my avoidance was to my detriment. I love climbing at Rumney, and being a little more open minded has helped make the climbing even more enjoyable. After all, everyone is out for the same silly thing—to climb rocks.
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Read more of my outdoor writing at goEast.com