Tackling Lonesome Dove in Rumney, NH


Connor Murphy

Lonesome Dove in Rumney, NH.

Hanging well above my clip, shaking out my hands, trying to calm my nerves, I take a deep breath and reassure myself. I am looking at a decent fall from my position, but I know that this route is well within my abilities. If I were in the gym or on top rope, it wouldn’t even be a thought. 5.8 is a warm-up. Get it together. The rock is cool and rough on this beautiful mid-October Saturday, and it seems almost impossible to slip from the jugs I am grasping. I lock off my arms and throw my foot up as high as I can, laying back against the crack so I can use my legs to push up over the bulge in the wall. I make my clip, ending the biggest runout of the climb, and scamper through the last few moves to the top. “Take!” I yell, informing my belayer that I am secure on the anchors. Colin congratulates me and hastily brings me back to solid ground.

I stick to the more technical, 12-foot-tall climbs. Harder moves but short and close to the ground. I enjoy the puzzling nature of bouldering and am especially grateful for its simplicity.

I am what many climbers (myself included) would call a “boulder bro.” I stick to the more technical, 12-foot-tall climbs. Harder moves but short and close to the ground. I enjoy the puzzling nature of bouldering and am especially grateful for its simplicity.  I haven’t got my lead head in just yet. When I climb up the 65-foot walls at the indoor climbing gym, Carabiner’s, even after all these years, I get the “Stanky leg” as my friend Anthony calls it. My legs shake when I try to rest, my mind wanders to weak ropes or disastrous falls, keeping me from focusing on the goal at hand. Reaching the top. So I hide in the boulders. (and do quite well I might add.) However, this past weekend I ventured up to Rumney, New Hampshire, a sport climbing haven in the Northeast. Booking a spot in a hostel’s ‘hammock loft,’ and packing my climbing shoes, rope, and four-pack of bagels, I set off on the longest drive I had carried out. A whopping three hours! I had spent countless hours on the climbing website Mountain Project admiring routes in Rumney, dreaming of whippers and sends instead of listening in Geometry, and now I was going to put myself to the test.

Once I had arrived and found the rest of my party, all hailing from Carabiners, our shared gym, in the large parking lot, we set off on an hour-long hike up the mountain. There were many crags (climbing spots) along our path – we crossed Bonsai, 5.8 Crag, Waimea, and others, but we finally settled at Jimmy Cliff, a slab wall with multiple classic routes. After setting up camp at the base of the wall, our group of nine made conversation with the other clusters of climbers and awaited an open route. I met people from Montreal, Germany, Florida, and Mexico. There were people on their first trip to the Granite State and certified dirtbags sleeping in their car for the fourth straight night thinking of nothing but climbing. 

Once the climbing began, I allowed everyone else to hop on the wall first, slinking to the back to read my book and take photos. I was not quite afraid of the climbing as much as I was afraid of being afraid. I hadn’t done any lead climbing for at least a year, and I was worried that I would lose my nerves on an easy route. After finding my legs on some easier climbs and feeling more confident in my abilities, I looked to the prow of the wall where the 5.10a “Lonesome Dove” sits. When I first started looking at Rumney routes online, I had just completed the Western novel by the same name so it obviously caught my eye. This classic route also had some stellar photos on its page which allowed me to visualize the moves for years. So when we ended up at its base, I knew that I couldn’t let myself walk away without getting to the top, after the crushers of our group gracefully danced up it, expressing some fear of the exposure but an overall enjoyment of the delicate moves.

Once it was time for my bout, I decided that I would be better off to top rope the route, with the rope already anchored at the top, than leading it, which would allow for a large fall at times. I wanted to ensure that I could climb with my whole head and not worry about my fear. Most of the group had moved on to the next spot, so it was just my belayer and I when I quietly set up on the sharp crimps (holds about the size of your fingertips), focusing my breath and movements. The route flowed beautifully, allowing me to get high feet and pull hard through each section. There were multiple times I could stop and look back at the setting sun over the white mountains, a too-good-to-be-true moment. Once I descended, forearms pumping, I knew that the whole trip had been worth it no matter what the night or next day brought. I pulled down the rope, removed my shoes, and met up with the others to tell them about my send.