Each subsequent edition of the Guide has described Rumney in increasingly glowing terms: first it was a fairly worthwhile local crag, then an extremely good climbing area, then the premier sport-climbing area in the Northeast. Now we may confidently report that in terms of its reputation for both overall quality and the difficulty and number of its hardest routes, Rumney has “arrived” as one of the top climbing destinations in America. In fact Rumney is now attracting interest from top European climbers.
Rumney is sport-climber paradise. Each of the over twenty-three crags scattered across the south face of Rattlesnake Mountain has it’s distinct character, resulting in a fantastic assortment of routes and climbing styles. We are incredibly lucky to live fifty minutes’ drive from an area that other climbers regularly drive three or four hours to visit! Added bonuses are the frictiony, non-polishing rock which typically provides secure, positive handholds and velcro-like traction for the feet — plus the wide range of techniques you can learn as you begin to tackle the harder routes. Knee-bars, underclings, crimps, slopers, pinches and various-body-part “scums” are all included in the repertoire of useful Rumney climbing styles.
Geology: Some 300 million years ago, when the Iapetus Ocean (now the Atlantic) closed up, it crushed America and Africa together, and eventually the trapped marine sediments were transformed into the gorgeous hard dark-grey Rumney schist we see today. Some of the crags also have extensive amounts of fine-grained orange-white granitic rock, the result of magma penetrating the schist (these intrusions often contain pegmatites, which are characterized by large crystals and mica “books”).
Some of the Most Popular/Important Rumney Crags
The following list is definitely not exhaustive. There are many more outstanding crags which, due to space limitations, are not described below. We urge you to seek them out!
Parking Lot Wall
Dash sixty seconds straight up from your car to this cliff with large numbers of worthwhile easy-to-moderate climbs: fun routes at a less-than-vertical angle, including climbs suitable for one’s first lead climb. (For steeper challenges — hard 5.10 and 11, visit the adjacent Espresso wall twenty feet to the right).
The “oldest” crag at Rumney. Some people are irritated by the sometimes-sharp, spiny rock, and mud/dirt “floor”, but there are nevertheless lots of excellent climbs here. Perennial favorites include the classic Apocalypse Later (11c), Lies and Propaganda (5.9), and Flesh for Lulu (12a/b — beware the top traverse pump!). Need a place for a beginners group? Set-up at the long lineup of low-angle 5.7-5.9 routes at mid-cliff, near False Modesty. Beginner’s Route (5.5) and Holderness School Corner (5.8) are good places to practice and teach trad-gear placement.
Something for everyone! This awesome area offers: many routes, long routes (including numerous airy two pitch-ers), super-clean rock featuring the glowing tan/orange, fine-grained granitic rock of Iron Man Wall with its interesting, highly technical stemming corners — and perhaps the widest range of difficulties of any Rumney crag: from 5.2 to 13d. Perfect for a mixed-abilities group. The only drawback is the peregrine falcon April-July closure of the main part of the cliff, but to it’s left, Armed and Dangerous and Venus walls remain open year-round. In terms of aesthetics, and number and quality of routes, Main Cliff would get many people’s vote as “best all-around cliff at Rumney”. The cliff is protected from wind, and its parabolic curvature catches full sun in cold-weather; in summer it comes beautifully into shade as the afternoon progresses. There are simply too many great routes here to describe! Keep in mind that an ascent of Underdog, one of the best 5.10's anywhere, gives you ready access to toprope anchors for Thin Man (13) and Peanut Man (11d/12a).
A feast of spectacular 5.11’s — and three (at last count!) of the most stunning 5.13’s at Rumney: Tin Monkeys, Dyno-Soar, and Predator. The view of this incredibly soaring cliff from the upper-left side of this wall is one of the best at Rumney. The crag has a nice mixture of very short and very long climbs, including the two-pitch 11c extravaganza Tropicana, long-pitch 11c Black Mamba, and wildly-traversing 11b Lions and Tigers and Bears (with its "Oh My!" alternate finish). Only a tiny number of easy climbs here, but for great 5.11 to 5.13 routes, hot-weather shade, and photo-opportunities, it’s one of Rumney’s best. Aim your zoom-lens at the complex and challenging routes Crusher (11d) and Vaporizer (12a), among others.
Located adjacent to Orange Crush and on a higher tier, the white, blocky rock of New Wave is reminscent of some European limestone crags. It's rich in excellent short-to-medium length routes from 5.9 to 5.12 — especially known for several fine 11’s and the ever-popular 12a Weevil Knievil. When dry, Smokestack (5.9+) is fun and “different” (face-climbing and stemming outside a monster chimney).
What Waimea is to classic 5.12 to 5.14’s, Bonsai is to classic 5.9 to 5.10’s. On everyone’s “Top Five Rumney Crags” list, this overhanging, big-holds wall is outstanding as a destination crag — or for warm-ups for the harder routes at nearby Waimea, Orange Crush, and Darth Vader. Social Outcast is one of the more doable 12’s in the area (big holds, 5.11 moves individually); and the 5.9-5.10 “Pieces” (pumpy Centerpiece, overhanging-ladder Masterpiece, and wild-arete War and Peace, together with bold and intimidating Peer Pressure), are on the ticklist of every entry-level hard-man and hard-woman.
Is this the single most impressive half-pitch sport-climbing wall in the entire U.S.? Possibly so! Waimea boasts a massive line-up of shockingly difficult and spectacular lines. On the “easy” end of the scale are suberb classics like (the climb) Waimea (10d) and the unique, epic Flying Hawaiian (11b), with its four cruxes and beautiful, notoriously scary upper stemming dihedral. Need pure technique practice? Get on the deviously technical 12a twins Silver Surfer and Luau. Technosurfing (12b) is one of the most coveted Rumney 12’s and one of the best lines in the East Coast, period. Adjacent to “Techno” are soaring routes on some of the most aesthetic and perfect rock anywhere, including Aquarius (12d) and the Whip Tide crux and corner (12c) — which branches into four spectacular finishes. The great hard routes at this cliff are simply too numerous to describe — you will have to go there and stare up in wonderment on a busy day and watch some of the best climbers around grapple with world-class desperates like China Beach, Jaws, Livin Astro, Urban Surfer, etc. Pumping tr-laps on Butt Bongo (13a) will get the higher-level climber in great shape fast!
Waimea proper is not the cliff for a group widely divergent in skill levels. Nor is it a place for casual warm-ups. Very fortunately, however, a thirty-second stroll away from Waimea there is a cliff which fufills both needs: Triple Corners. This modest wall in the woods has a nice array of popular 5.7 to 5.10 routes (from Sun Bowl to the Dirty Dozen corner), plus some less-often done harder routes farther down the hillside.
Another Waimea warm-up area — and a worthy destination in its own right. Not many climbs here, but stellar quality. Unlike at the Gunks, 5.8’s at Rumney are often mediocre, but Junco (5.8) is an exception with nice moves and velcro-secure footwork. Its impeccable-rock mate, Lonesome Dove (10a), offers dozens of thought-provoking, delicate sidepull and thin-face moves up the less-than-vertical arete. Clip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3 or easier) is an exciting outing: a dead-easy and fully bolted two-pitch romp up a low-angle slab with spectacular vistas of the surrounding valley below. Need a tiny and easily stick-clipped 12a tick? Do Things As They are Now or Curl Up and Fly.
It’s a longish slog up the hill to get there, but at least three of the routes in this hidden cul-de-sac Shangri-la will boggle your mind. Jolt (5.10) and Dolt (5.9) are two of Rumney’s most unusual routes — taking opposites sides of a soaring, exposed fin of rock. When you get to the top of either, peer over the top of the fin and look down and be shocked at how narrow it is! (These two are known for some loose rock, so belay off to the side.) The other mega-classic at Hinterlands is the looming, big-holds monster Giant Man (12b/c) — one of the best routes at that level one could conceive of. Rounding out Hinterlands routes are a myriad of other pleasant lines, many in the low-angle moderate category.
Dense with steep, if short, routes, this small crag is a long-time favorite with its brief approach and wide range of route difficulties, from 5.7 to 12b. Pumpy Romancing the Stone (10c) and Arm and Hammer (11b/c) are the top classics here.
Monsters From the Id
The “boulderers’ delight” crag! Very short and violently overhung, nearly all the routes here are rated 13a or harder. Blast your way up any of these fierce things and it means you are very powerful, or very good, or both! One-move-wonder Cosmic Monsters (12a) offers a nice relative respite from the craziness.
The Pound is located a couple minutes drive east from the main climbers’ parking lot and offers perfect landings, generally drier and less buggy conditions than Blackjack, and it’s heavy on pleasant and easy routes. It’s a wonderful, comfortable place for contemplative hanging out, for contemplative movement — and beginner boulderers also will have a great time here. The approach is (quite literally) five seconds from the car.
Blackjack Boulders offers many more routes, harder routes, and some truly huge stones with wild features. It tends towards bugginess and muddy dankness, but don’t let that deter you. It’s centrally located just off the main Waimea/Bonsai path, and is on the path to Hinterlands, Starship Enterprise, Triple Corners and the remoter Northwest Crags. Bouldering supposedly “doesn’t develop stamina”, but multiple laps on the Umbrella Traverse will have your abs and forearms screaming!
Best Beginner-Route Destinations
Parking Lot Wall (best); Meadows (best); Upper Darth Vader (best); Main Cliff-Dirtigo Gulley; Jimmy Cliff (“Clip a Dee Doo Dah” — a two-pitch 5.3); Hinterlands.
Yes! A pleasant dip in the Baker River (off big rocks just west of main parking lot) is a perfect way to end a summer day. The river bottom is composed of pleasant, fine-grained gravel and the water (originating at Mount Mooslilauke) is clear and lovely. Word of mouth may net you other fine swimming holes not far distant.