by Gregory Locker, Counselor & Director of the Backcountry Leadership Program
Twenty minutes down the road from Camp Moosilauke is a climbing area called Rumney. Rumney is one of the premier climbing areas in the United States, offering climbs ranging in difficulty from that fitting any beginner to some of the hardest climbs in the world. Campers of all ages have the opportunity to sample rock climbing at this remarkable climbing area.
Our climbing trips involve two distinct genres of rock climbing (bouldering and top rope climbing) each offering its own value and capturing its own kind of child. We begin our trips with a bouldering session, a form of climbing that seeks out challenging rock faces approximately ten feet high and uses specially designed “crash pads” (essentially portable gymnastic mats) and spotters to protect the fall.
Bouldering is particularly fast paced, and high energy, allowing the climber to put all their energy into executing a small number of movements in order to ascend the rock. The short, intense bursts of effort are ideal for encouraging a high level of engagement where an often fidgety ten-year old will fix their gaze on their challenge with a laser-like level of focus. Bouldering is perhaps the “purest” form of climbing as the climber is undistracted by equipment and free to focus solely on the kinesthetic challenge. Consequently, the improvement in the climber’s technique in even a couple hours is astounding both to the climber and their instructor. With a slight adjustment of body position or an incremental increase in muscle recruitment what was impossible one minute becomes possible the next, instilling a mindset that anything is possible.
Generally, after a lunch brake we switch gears and head to the cliffs for a top rope climbing session. Here the climbers can ascend to heights of seventy feet protected by a top rope belay, where upon detaching from the rock they are instantly held in place by the rope. There is a general conception of rock climbing as some kind of extreme sport. In actuality it is exceedingly safe, being perhaps one of the safest things that a camper will do at Moosilauke. Using modern climbing gear and safety technique the possibility of an injury is astronomically low; however to the individual sixty feet up on a vertical ocean of granite, the feeling of danger is all too real. This allows an ideal opportunity for campers to push into that zone of fear and experience all the benefits of a high-energy risk without any actual danger. The satisfaction of watching a camper terrified of heights grow comfortable in the vertical world is powerful, in part because their positive experience is so easily transferable into other domains of their life. The lesson is this: You move into a challenge that is inherently uncomfortable and then through nothing other than determination you have the positive reinforcement of the successful completion of the challenge. What better pattern of experience is there to propel boys into a vigorous and engaging life?
An introduction to climbing trips offers different things to different campers. For some it is a novel venue where they can push their limits in the moment and check climbing off as an experience had. For others it is the burgeoning of a new pursuit, an introduction to an activity that will prove to be a rich addition to their lives for decades to come.