Multi-pitch climbing|Staff Training Day 3 Highlights

Events / Rock Climbing

The Eastern Mountain Sports Rock Climbing Convergence is a 404 level staff training event where our most passionate and most accomplished store guides connect with rock climbing gear vendors and profesional athletes for two days of on-the-rock clinics and presentations on the latest rock climbing gear. I asked Abby Nash from our West Hartford, CT store to keep a journal and provide a recap of the event to give our customers and fans an inside look at this unique event that helps our store guides provide great service and support to rock climbers of ALL ability levels. Day 1 of the Rock Climbing Convergence was all about getting settled in, before the first full day of hands-on learning and rock climbing gear testing. Day 2 featured clinics on the latest climbing gear from our top vendors. On Day 3, it was time for the guides to put everything they learned to work on some classic New England multi-pitch rock climbing routes. — JD

8:00 AM.  I wake up significantly warmer than the night before. As cheesy as it sounds, as the sun is rising, I do a little Yoga on my Crash Pad to prep for the days activities, which include (drum roll please…) Multi-pitch rock climbing! I’m more than ready to get my multi-pitch on. Today we go out to White Horse, to learn and to test our knowledge and skills.

Don't let the look on her face fool you, Rosie from our Concord, NH store is ready for some multi-pitch rock climbing!

Don’t let the look on her face fool you, Rosie from our Concord, NH store is ready for some multi-pitch rock climbing!

After repeating yesterday’s delicious breakfast scene, we head out the ledge. Again, the Petzl reps generously let us take out harnesses and helmets to try on the wall. I grad my Selena and Elia and head up the trail to The Slabs. Ian and Anne, EMS Climb School guides extraordinaire are ready to teach us as much about multi-pitch rock climbing as our minds can hold.  We go over auto-blockers, prusiks, and scramble up to the Launch Pad.  There we go over placing solid gear anchors, and practice changing over belays from the leader to second, and vice versa. We go over how to belay each role. It’s a lot to take in, but I become more confident in placing gear, and my clove hitch is looking SO-LID.  I dream of seconding in the near future.

At 12PM, same as yesterday, we break and are treated to a lunch of wraps á la MOAT.  The break doesn’t last long. We all are itching to get back on a wall, and I am no exception. I’m pumped to see how the La Sportiva Katana’s play outside, and I head up to South Buttress to squeeze some on my feet and get to work.

Happy Eastern Mountain Sports store guides waiting their turns.

Happy Eastern Mountain Sports store guides waiting their turns.

I’m so impatient to get on a route, I disregard grades and names and head up a facey climb on the only free top rope. Unfortunately, this one happens to be a 5.11b, WAY beyond my current 5.9 outdoor grade competency, and the crux, which is literally within the first 15 feet of the climb, conquers my ability (for now…)

But later, I watch as even some of our best guides can’t get beyond the crux, so I don’t feel totally useless.  Again, I’m impatient to get on the rock, but it’s busy and everyone is itching to get on something.  For a couple of minutes, I wait as people zip up and down ropes, becoming more and more impatient to redeem myself. Finally, I get on a mellow looking 5.9 that I belayed Nick on beforehand, and I anticipate that this will be an easy ride as there’s a giant flake staring us in the face.

WRONG. This thing kicks my butt, and I’m so thankful that Nick, who is now belaying me, is being such a saint. My climbing performance anxiety kicks in as people walk by and say it’s a hard 5.9.  As I struggle, whine and curse my way up the rock, Nick is all calm smiles and encouraging words, and I am constantly apologizing for my 12 year old bratty behavior. I ask to come down and try the 5.6 next to us to try and gain some confidence back. It’s a breeze, so I ask to try the 5.9 one more time. I realize this time that if I want to be the female Cedar Wright, I’m going to have to be able to tune all the white noise, and I ask Nick to chatter away at me while I’m on the wall to train my brain. This time, through the miracle of side pulls and Nick pretty much jugging me up the rope, I make it to the top. I’m not happy about my performance, but I’m happy I overcame my own mental blocks to get up there, and I feel the day was well spent. I hear Cedar free soloed a multi-pitch rock climbing route on South Buttress and I smile to myself. Someday, Abby. Someday.

Getting ready to call it a day after an epic training event.

I was having so much fun I didn’t take many photos of Day 3 but here’s one of my favorites from Day 2!

Time flies and it’s time to head back again to our last Moat Supper/slideshow. This time the presenter is Mountain Hardware’s sponsored athlete Janet Bergman.  In her presentation, she recalls her adventures of first ascents, world travel and some serious mixed climbing in the Indian Karakorum. She becomes one of my many new heroes.

After Janet’s presentation, a motley crew of gentlemen, sets up some instruments, and we all start to realize, now it’s time to get DOWN. Classic seventies rock pours through the air as we dance the night away with Petzl Reps and EMS associates alike. Nick is an animal on the dance floor, and I’m just trying to keep up.  The happiness in the air is infectious, and soon, the once small group of revelers has now turned into a full on dance party.  The robot, the running man, and the worm have all come to party, and it is serious business. I have no idea what time we leave for the tent, but it’s later than late, and I collapse into my tent exhausted and happy.

Today is May 31st.  Convergence is now over. But the feeling of excitement for climbing and the outdoors hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s only gotten stronger.

I want to thank everyone who made this year’s Convergence a reality not only for me, but for all the attendees.  To the vendors: thank you for educating us, for listening to our questions no matter how idiotic or crazy they seemed, and for showing us the tricks of the trade and things we would have never known otherwise. Thank you for keeping us excited to go back home and get back to work. To Brandon:  you are a genius and a great human being. Thank you for making this a reality. Wes: Thank you for always smiling. And to EMS: Thank you for giving me a place to work that feels like home.

Here’s a little video I put together that sums up this incredible experience. I hope you like it and if you have any questions or have an idea for me to blog about in the future, please leave a comment and let me know!!

Abby Nash

Abby’s love of the outdoors began as a young child, when every Saturday, her mother would take her on family hikes on the Alice Newton Memorial Park Blue Trail in Southern Connecticut. Since then, her love of exploring, traveling, volunteering, and outdoor sports has taken her across the globe–from Cuba to Turkey. Abby describes herself as a weekend warrior in skiing, rock climbing and backpacking. Since joining the West Hartford, Connecticut store in 2011, her passions have expanded to ice climbing, snowshoeing, and bike touring. She looks forward to expanding her repertoire through attending EMS Schools, going on more outdoor adventures, and of course, blogging all about it here on the EMS Blog.