Isaac wanted to go rock climbing. He had been to Rumney once, but that could hardly count. He had been gym climbing a couple of times. Two years ago, his grandparents introduced him to outdoor climbing during two days in WV.
Looking for a few easy climbs and no crowds, we chose the crag in Marlow, NH. It is a very short hike from the road, lightly used and has a few bolted anchor points to keep thing easy. After scouting the wall, we all hiked to the top and setup an anchor for the far/right hand end slab. Isaac and I hiked back down and Emilie rappelled. Isaac opted to climb last.
I volunteered to go first. Climbing isn’t good for my knees, so I have to keep it very easy and this would be my only climb. The last time I climbed was Isaac’s trip to Rumney. I found it notable how much I had to relearn to trust small footholds and finger grips, even on this easy slab. Next Emilie climbed, followed by Isaac. The combination of difficulty level and spacing of foot and hand holds was too much for Isaac, but he explored the lower parts of the slab before deciding he was done. It turns out that lowering on a rope is not intuitive, esp. to a 5 year old. He wanted to down-climb and had trouble with the technique to keep himself away from rock.
Emilie went for a second run, this time a route on the left corner of the slab surface. About half way up she was having a difficulty figuring out how to proceed. Then she got a couple mild stings from some paper wasps she had stirred from a “hand hold” and was on her way up with great speed.
After a lunch break and scouting for our next route, Isaac chose one that someone calls “Almost Alpine”. It is an off-width scramble that goes up behind a large separated “flake” near the center of the wall. We all hiked back to the top to move the equipment. I set the new anchor and rappelled down while Isaac and Emilie hiked back down. On the way down I found a disturbingly large green caterpillar that looked quite similar to a tomato hornworm, except without the horn and lacking some of the other markings. I stuck it on the sleeve of my shirt to bring it down and show Isaac.
Isaac was up for going first this time. He chose the easier, “alternate start” by going far to the right and scrambling up a ramp back to the route. Because he was nowhere near to under the anchor, I spotted him from the ground. Back at the crack, he was still having trouble getting up. I climbed to the lower shelf and helped him until he was out of reach. Isaac squeezed himself behind the first bit of “flake” until he got his helmet stuck. After convincing him to come out from behind the flake a bit, he found his way up to the anchor and then mostly down-climbed rather than lowering.
Emilie climbed using a more direct start, topped out and reset the anchor for the left slab and rappelled down.
Emilie helped Isaac start this next climb and then hiked to the top to get pictures from above. Isaac reached a “double sloped shelf” that went up to the right with “no good holds”. Isaac reported “holding on to bad hand holds” and found himself stuck and afraid to continue. He took a few steps left, back to the bottom of the shelf to relax for a bit. After a short time he found his confidence and friction walked the length of the sloped shelf to the right hand side and then up and topped out with Mom’s supervision. He opted to hike down. Seeing him overcome his fear and tackle the problem made both of us proud.
Emilie tied herself in then lowered down and did a variant of the same slab. By then it was late enough that we cleaned the gear and hiked back to the car.