Throwback Thursday - Random Acts of Randomness

Before he went on to become one of the founders of the Camp4Collective and official North Face photographer, Tim Kemple provided NewEnglandBoudlering.com with many great photos and features.  I like to think we gave Tim his start, but really it was clear Tim was destined for great things from day one.  Here's an old article he did for us in March 2000.

You could smell the intensity oozing through even the tightest panels in the floor. Two well built men stared each other down. They had fury in their eyes. Shouts soon ensued and punches were nearly thrown as the two men vented their frustrations on each other. Finally, being restrained by friends, the two turned their backs to each other and one let the basketball he held in his hand, fall to the floor. It was Wednesday and a pick up basketball game at the Whit (at UNH) had just been cut short. As I walked away from the still tense scene, I couldn’t help but wonder how these guys could take a small, insignificant, pick-up, basketball game so seriously. I mean what was the big deal??? At least I knew I hadn’t, and wouldn’t ever, take anything so trite, so seriously, right?

After calculating fourth and fifth derivatives, and tangents of every plausible fashion at the absurd college hour of 8:00am, I picked up my friend Jon Dickey, and we started down to Lincoln Woods. There weren't any problems we had worked on lately that we were psyched to send, or at least none that had made our minds stay awake all night as we visualized sticking the final hold in our heads. There were, though, several problems in the backs of our minds that “we wouldn’t have minded getting on.” The bright sun made even this chilly, early, February day warm.

Jon and I got to talking about the events I had seen unfold before me the day prior, and it wasn’t long before we realized that we too, analogous to the b-ball players, had taken many a climb and even climbing day way too seriously. We concluded that while its great to have a project or goal, sometimes, a lot of the time, climbers tend to get sucked into their own little world. All that matters is this route or this number, and in the process of doing this we seem to loose touch of our personal reasons of why we climb, much like the basketball studs had done the day before. When we get this focused, this selfish, essentially we lose touch with the feelings that draw us back to the cliffs and boulders time and time again. When climbers take their climbing too seriously, gone is the feeling of skin gripping the sandpaper-like sloper on a crisp autumn morning, gone is the bite of the tiny crimp at the end of an all day marathon of bouldering, gone is the feeling of running it out above that number zero friend on sun warmed stone, and gone too is that creepy feeling you get when you weight, and then come face to face with that tiny sky hook that sits ambiguously on a tiny granite flake. Instead, funny moments in the car are blurred by thoughts of the route YOU MUST SEND, and all the friends you meet along your journey, what ever it may be, are lost, or rather replaced, by tiny pieces of micro beta, that will hopefully get you up that 10, 100 or 1000 foot piece of stone.

Now feeling like a Buddhist Monk instead of a climber, Jon shouts out, “holy shit, we just passed a big boulder.” I glanced back repeatedly as we weaved in and out of three lanes on Route 95 South. In fact, there was a large stone sitting besides the highway, and it was basking in the rays of sun that would force even Floridians to wear T-shirts in February here in New England. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity for an adventure and for fun, I weaved into the right and lane and exited immediately. By the time Jon had figured out what was going on, I had the car on a back road somewhere in Massachusetts, pointing towards the boulder. We hugged the highway on a pock marked road that soon lead us to a large industrial park. There, in the middle of the woods engulfing the large metal structures that made up the industrial park were several large granite boulders. Smiles cracked our pale faces. Out came the wire brushes, pads, chalk, shoes, and camera. Screw the Woods we thought, we’re climbing right here (even though we weren’t quite sure where here was).

With out a doubt, my most memorable days of climbing have been days like this one. Days when we make a random decision to go to some random area, be it a new discovery, or well-traveled destination, will always be days I’ll never forget. Its on these days, when we do something totally out of the blue, that I feel most at home, the free-est in a sense at the cliffs and boulders. It's in these days that I can seemingly feel every molecule of wind brush over my hair, I can feel every grain of chalk ground into my phalanges. Simply, on these days, something indescribable happens. I’d guess I’d call it euphoria. Perhaps its because all of the worries, and hype usually associated with “sending” a problem or route, be it a long term project or newly found gem, are dropped by the wayside. For once its truly is just you and the stone. For once their really are no worries, no names, and yes, even no numbers. Also, I feel that I climb my strongest and best on these days most likely because I’m free, “weightless” essentially on these days.

The boulders were granite, and excellent Conway-esque granite at that. Jon and I both found obvious lines up a large granite boulder. Mine started on a completely textureless sloper, and moved up a steep wall on crimps and side pulls. FUN. Jon’s problem started just to the right, from a sit on underclings. Feeling like Superman with x-ray vision, I watch the chalk crystals float away as Jon slapped a tiny edge and worked his way to the exit slab. We picked away at the plumb lines on the massive boulder, leaving the obvious leaning crack that was baking in the sun, like a Thanksgiving Turkey, for last.

The crack, started with large jugs on a steep wall, and then met the lip. The crack then turned from finger size to a tiny seam, only opening up occasionally to offer holds an ant wouldn’t like to hold on to. This situation forced a huge lock off to a mono finger lock high in the seam, finishing with the mantel onto the slab. We threw ourselves relentlessly at the problem until Jon finally unlocked the sequence, grunting and powering his way to the summit. He came down, and we just relaxed on the crash pads for a while, took a hit of water and moved onto the next boulder.

We spent the rest of the day frolicking in the woods putting up random problems, always laughing, and having a great time. Some of the problems reminded us of Rampage footage in Squamish, while others were like problems in our own backyard at Pawtuckaway State Park. In all we probably put up twenty problems that day, but we weren’t keeping track. From slopers to crimps to dynos alike, it was the best time a climber could ever ask for.

Which brings me to the purpose behind this story. I invite and encourage all of YOU to have the best day of climbing ever. I encourage all of you to practice a random act of randomness. Do something totally random, forget your project for a day, forget all preconceived notions about a route or area for a day. Instead, do something totally random, simply for the your love of climbing and the outdoors. Try to climb a 5.10 at every cliff at Rumney for the day (yes, the Northwest Territories too). Go buildering in the city for an afternoon instead of visiting Hammond Pond, or bring harnesses and a rope to the Woods and lead Loadies Traverse... in two pitches..... getting the idea?? There is no reason why you can’t still push your physical limits in any of these situations, but importantly , you’ve included the most rewarding aspect of climbing; having fun! So please, trust me, the next time you’re on the way to do the climb you’ve worked all season to do, go do something totally random instead. In the end, it won’t be that 5.12 you finally redpointed that you’ll remember and retell for days on end, it will be that day when you did something totally out of the blue, something just because it was crazy and fun, the day you practiced a random act of randomness.