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Hangin’ With The Boys. November 6, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
Tags: , , ,

I freed up a bit of time at the end of Saturday to head out to Farley Ledge in Erving MA, hoping to find someone bouldering in the crisp autumn air of early November.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, if you aren’t a “boulderer” or haven’t been following the death-spiral-arc of my life, “bouldering” is the branch of the rock-climbing tree which eschews ropes in favor of crash pads and “spotters,” rarely (and quite consequentially) venturing above a height from which it’s safe to fall onto a prepared landing.  Boulderers put maximum effort into navigating a small expanse of rock, by definition close enough to Terra Firma  to survive the defeat so often negotiated by gravity.

And nearby Farley Ledge offers so much potential in this category of climbing that rutting bucks come from all over the Northeast to throw themselves against these rocks, hoping to nudge their perception of the possible ever upward.

As a former climber and present-day photographer, my part in this dance of testosterone vs. gravity was to document it.  I won’t go into the psychic pain of being excluded from the action; my past physical excesses render me now eliminated from the field of participants stretching their physical horizons.

But capturing it is a different high, a chance to occupy spaces not available to those with the fire in their fingers and souls.

Here I got above an elegant boulder ridge which has begged to be climbed for some years, yet hasn’t been “sent,” as those who climb refer to Done Deeds:

That’s Jon’s hand working the arete (ridge) on this stiff problem.

A bit later, Breyton tried a toe-hook to reduce the force on his higher hand, gaining a strong meter in his quest for Upward Mobility:

That shot’s indicative of the difference between common folks’ conception of rock climbing and the reality of it as it now exists.  Rock climbing has undergone a conceptual differentiation which leaves many of its  adherents doing things which don’t fit the popular perception of climbers posed far above the normal plane of existence, reaching for the sky.  Instead we’re reaching for the next imaginary hold on ridiculous expanses of inconsequential boulders.

Inconsequential, that is, unless you care deeply about conquering the impossible.

Which these guys do: they drive the interminable hours up from NYC to spend the day doing exactly that.

Higher on the same piece of obstinate stone, Hayden throws for a tiny crimp:

…and fails to hang on, instead tumbling backward into the attentive hands of his “spotters.”

This is how the esoteric pursuit of Bouldering proceeds: individual efforts are buffered from the ravages of failure by a ground-level team effort.  This was my last love in rock climbing, as I learned the value of maximum personal effort, and of the safety net afforded by a caring community.

More to come, perhaps a bit artsier and less pedantic.



1. jomegat - November 7, 2011

When I was a foolish teenager, I would climb rocks like this too – except without spotters or landing pads. Certainly no ropes or equipment – that cost money!

We lived across the street from a 38′ tall bluff. I know its height because my brother and I measured it with a 10′ tape, leapfrogging one another as we made our ascent. Once we learned to climb that cliff, we were able to do it in 30 seconds. We used to time ourselves to see who could do it the fastest. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I am horrified to think about it now.

If we had fallen, we we would have learned the meaning of “mortality.” Sometimes I marvel that I made it into adulthood at all.

2. littlebangtheory - November 8, 2011

j, wow, “speed ascents” – you were way ahead of your time! 🙂

Seriously, I think it’s in some people’s genes to want to go vertical. I’m glad you (like me) survived your youthful indiscretions!

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