I wrote this for a now defunct rock climbing publication.
One Day in Rumney
It’s Memorial Day and my fingers hurt.
I’m on a 5.7 at the Parking Lot Wall in Rumney, N.H. The rock is hard and rough and the nubs I’m grabbing onto are all I have at the moment.
It’s my second time on rock since October and only my third time in a year and a half and I don’t trust my feet yet. They’re crammed into bright blue shoes and they’re standing on things that might as well exist only in my imagination. My feet, like the rest of me, are waiting for inspiration, hoping that the rock will reveal the secret of the next move. Five seconds pass and the rock is mum.
I’ve been here before, just not on this rock, in this town or in this state and I’m breathing heavy. I look up and dip into my chalk bag, thinking that it will make my fingers feel better.
My feet make friends with the rock for a minute and I stand to feel for a bump. It’s there, but it’s hard and it’s rough and I pull myself up with my arms, just like I know I’m not supposed to. I look up at the rock, hoping again for inspiration.
It’s my first climb of the day and my fingers hurt, but they’ve just found a hold big enough for three of them to grab onto. They hold on tight while my other hand comes up short, finding a bump worth nothing more than a few seconds of balance.
I set my feet. They shift from left to right in a way I remember from days when climbing was more of a regular thing for me. I watch as they start remembering what to do. Something clicks in my head.
My butt is low and my legs are bent and I stand up on tiny ledges that I know are there. I look left, then right, then up, and then left again to a spot my eyes remember thinking would work. I grab it and it makes my fingers hurt. My body turns sideways and I watch as my feet walk along bumps and ledges while my hands soak in the granite. I’m breathing heavy and I remember that I have glasses on and that I want them to stay there.
I start to feel good, but then I pull myself up by my arms again, once more forgetting about my legs. Unfortunately, they haven’t forgotten about me, and I’m punished for the sin when one of my knees kisses the rock. My foot slips and my fingers slide and I manage to find something to stand on to keep from falling off. I’m breathing heavy, but I’m not tired.
I dip into the chalk like an addict, rub my fingers together and try to look like I know what I’m doing. I go higher and spy the top-rope. It’s a few moves away and I feel good. My feet start to make sense again and I put them in places I remember seeing as I passed by seconds earlier. I bang my knee once more for good measure as I reach the top and I take in the scenery before I’m lowered down.
It was my third time climbing in a year and a half, and my first of the day. And the pain in my fingers feels good.