Due to time-constraints, a friend and I made a day trip to North Conway to climb some classics at Cathedral. I had climbed on one occasion with Lian (sport climbing at Rumney), but this was the first time we had climbed trad together. Due to my perpetually broken PIP joints, we chose to stay away from any finger cracks, and warmed up for the season on routes like The Roof, Funhouse and Bombardment. The last two are well-known moderate classics; but the first climb, a 5.8+/5.9 climb was actually super fun. Even though these are very easy climbs, it was nice to just get moves in on a nice (this translates to “not rainy” in the Northeast) day. I think Northeast ratings are also pretty stout! The combination of the wetness and foliage definitely makes things a bit challenging, especially when you do not trust both feet.
It is easy for me to look at climbs like this and think, man, these barely would have been warm-ups in my “prior” life. And not beat myself up too much about feeling a bit sketched out on some sections I led which felt incredibly run out, when I know, objectively, they were not. My pro was solid, the fall would have been clean…yet, it would make me slightly nervous. Lian said, you always look so calm! I replied, clearly you didn’t hear me swearing…
I don’t think Lian was aware of the trauma and lasting physical effects of my accident. I was curious to hear from him if there was anything about the way I climbed that surprised him. He said, no, not really, you looked really comfortable. We agreed that I spend a lot of time in sections, where I am figuring out the sequence of moves I am going to make with my right foot and where I would lock my left leg out. He said that I clearly was very comfortable hand-jamming. Well, yeah. It was nice of Lian to say that I climbed harder trad than most of his friends; but a) it’s New England – not that many people climb trad/cracks, and b) he doesn’t have that many friends who climb trad (related to (a)).
I guess on the one hand, this should all be interpreted as a compliment; that the strength I have developed in other parts of my body, and the way I use my body around my gimpy leg, hides theses deficits. On the other hand, I still feel a sense of frustration, that I can’t just stick my left leg in a crack, torque it, walk up a crack like a staircase and feel totally secure.
I think one thing that came out of this brief outing, was how these climbing trips seem rather normal now. How I am out with a partner, not as a handicapped person to him/her, not as someone to babysit (although I did ask Lian if he could carry the rope and a lot of the pro), but as an equal who swings leads with them, and who can just hang out with them, climber-to-climber. All good things I guess.
But in some ways, things are not entirely normal. I now do much more research about the approach/descent to climbs now, and I have to eliminate a lot of climbing options because of the length/steepness of the approach and difficulty of the climb. I know this is the case for most people, but it seems like the field of options is smaller for me now, and I hate feeling limited like that. Right now, I am on the fence about doing a total New Hampshire classic, Moby Grape, on Cannon Cliff this weekend, solely because of the approach and descent. It would suck to have to turn my back on some of the best cracks around here for this reason. We will see.