Vanity Grading

By Chris O’Connell

Photos by Bob Evans and friends


I visited a new rock gym not long ago and found myself excited leaving the gym later that evening. I had just flashed a half dozen 12’s, and that was straight off the couch. While I was feeling really good about myself, I also recognize that I haven’t gotten any better or stronger with my training regimen of atrophy. I was just enjoying the phenomena of “Vanity Grading.”

“What about climbers being offered a steady diet of vanity graded gym climbs? Should that climber dare venture into the wild, they could conceivably find themselves in deep shit.”


I don’t know if vanity grading is a harmless practice that will simply foster higher self-esteem or if it’s a harbinger of the coming apocalypse. I suspect that it falls somewhere in between. I’m not sure that ‘vanity sizing’ has any serious risks other than not being able to fit your fat ass into a euro designer offering when your sizing measuring stick comes from JC Penny. I see that as being more amusing than anything else, but what about climbers being offered a steady diet of vanity graded gym climbs? Should that climber dare venture into the wild, they could conceivably find themselves in deep shit.

“Do we owe the minority that do venture outdoors a grading experience that is more in line with the regional norms?”


It’s a given that the vast majority of gym climbers do not cross over to outdoor climbing, but do we owe the minority that do venture outdoors a grading experience that is more in line with the regional norms? Is it time to recognize that gym climbing is a separate branch of the ‘Climbing Tree’ and not worry about what ‘crosses over’ and what doesn’t? I’m not sure what the answer is; grading is always a contentious topic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Trip to the South

By Becky Aspell


It was two weeks ago that I was finishing the last of a 17-hour drive to Alabama with my sister, Emily. This day would mark the beginning of our first climbing trip together. To put this into perspective, I should mention that we have been climbing together off and on for a decade. Our intentions with this trip were to hit three of the big bouldering areas in the south; Horse Pens 40 – Alabama, Stone Fort (Little Rock City) – Tennessee, and Rocktown – Georgia.


2002 and last spring at Farley Ledges

Horse Pens 40 sits on top of Chandler Mountain, the third highest mountain in the state of Alabama, and was our first stop of the trip. The property is home to an overwhelming abundance of sandstone boulders with a fortress-like appearance.  The rock features here are unique and jaw-dropping to anyone who is unfamiliar.


The Shultz family have been the owners of the property for the past decade. The family live on the property and have opened their home for recreational use. They offer day use and camping for a small fee. Camping consists of either car camping or the option of renting one of a dozen small cabins on the property. We camped out in a tent and paid $15 per person / per night. The campsites can be found conveniently located next to the bouldering field. There are three bathrooms and two which have showers. Most of the campsites have water and electricity. There is also a small but well stocked convenient store on the property and a restaurant.


We started off slow on our fist day and caffeine was very much a necessity after a 17 hours drive. We were cold getting up, but the weather quickly warmed up to a comfortable, sunny day in the mid 50’s. The temperature this day ended up being the average temperature of our trip with a couple of warmer days in the 60’s. Climbing on day one could be summed up as follows, walk up to a boulder, flip through the guide book until you find something that even slightly resembles what’s in front of you, flip more pages until you find the boulder you are looking for, then repeat. After spending way too much time on that step, we committed ourselves to a location and warmed up. By the end of the day, we had a pretty solid idea of what we wanted to work on day two


First day climbing!



On the following day we were ready. We started the morning at a cluster of boulders known as the Front Area. I had been shut down on a pesky v2  called Copa Cabana the previous day, and I wanted to finish it up. I didn’t know it that morning but being shut down at HP40 would become a theme, well for me at least. The Front Area was great for warming up. It has an abundance of easy to moderate problems and handful of classics. We were joined by our camping neighbors, Adam and Rebbaz for the first part of the morning. Adam has spent time at HP40 in the past and had great information that he was kind enough to share with us. We later found out that Adam is fortunate to be able to work remotely and thus he gets to spend a lot of time traveling and pursuing his passions. Emily quickly moved on to working a v3 called Sometimes that she quickly finished and moved on to a v4 called The Beach.


Copa Cabana v2

After breaking for lunch, we moved on to the Spirit Area, which was home to a v2 and v3 that Adam suggested to us. We both had hopes of banging through these problems quickly but ended up getting shut down. Horse Pens 40 is different from what I am used to climbing. Everything felt stiff, really stiff. Note to self: if you are heading to HP40 train on slopers! The experience was very humbling, and although I experienced frustration at times, and got shut down a lot, I loved being there. We finished up day two at the millipede boulder, and Emily made a quick send of the classic Bum Boy v3.


Millipede Boulder, Bum Boy v3

I can’t speak for my sister, but my lack of skin became apparent on day three. We spent a few more hours at HP40 that day so I could try to finish my projects. I had no luck, but Emily scrambled up one last boulder problem on our way out. That afternoon, we drove north to Chattanooga with the intentions of finding a place to stay and to plan out our next couple days of climbing.

1449341741304 copy

Emily working The Beach v4

We ended up staying at a Days Inn on the outskirts of Chattanooga. It was fairly inexpensive as far as hotels. It was clean and comfortable. A second option we had briefly taken into consideration was The Crash Pad. It’s a local hostel with the option of shared and private rooms. I’ve only seen photos online, but I was instantly won over by the warm and inviting atmosphere captured in those pictures. The pricing at The Crash Pad ranges from $30 a night to $100 a night based on the option of shared or private accommodations. In the future, I will be picking The Crash Pad. I think we ended up at the Days Inn because we were exhausted and my sister had stayed there previously. Our hotel was $64 a night and included breakfast. We stayed there for the last two evenings of our trip.


Stone Fort (Little Rock City)

Day four and five of our trip took us to Stone Fort also known as Little Rock City. Stone Fort is located just outside of Chatanooga on the property of Montlake Golf Club in a town called Soddy Daisy. I loved Stone Fort. Mountain Project claims that it has the best bouldering in the south, and I understand why. The area has a high concentration of boulders, and the climbing is high quality. There is a great mix of crimpy and slopey classics.  I found the bouldering at Stone Fort to be more forgiving than HP40. This opinion seemed to be shared by other climbers as well.


Emily on V0

We covered a ton of ground at Stone Fort in the two days that we spent there. Day one took us to Your Sisters Boulder, which has a mix of easy to moderate climbs. We then cruised over to Super Mario Boulder where Emily cruised up the classic V4 Super Mario. If you are visiting Stone Fort, I highly suggest you add this problem to your tick list. She also worked the v6 extension of Super Mario, a variation that should be on your list. We spent the rest of day one projecting various boulder problems in different locations that I am unable to recall the names of. The end of the day took us to a hidden v7 called Face in the Crowd. Emily made moves, and I suspect she will get it next time. If you get a chance, you should google this problem. There are a ton of videos floating around the internet, and it has some great movement.


Emily working Super Mario Extension v6

Day 2 took us to a wedge-shaped boulder where we warmed up on a v0 called V0 and a v1 called Mizzen Mast. This boulder was a great warm up, and it shouldn’t be missed. It has a very flat face and slopey edges with an occasional jug hold that you use to traverse your way up the wedge. From there we headed over to the classics Sternum v4 and Rib Cage v3. We finished the last day of our trip projecting and finished on a v4 called Black Carpet.  At the end of the day, we left Stone Fort and drove back to Massachusetts. We decided to save Rocktown for a later trip. If we had a few more days available, we would have been able to make it there. We did not have enough time to afford rest days and because of that, we were beat on day 5. For those interested, Rocktown is located in LaFayette Georgia about 40 minutes south of Chattanooga. There is primitive camping available down the road from the climbing area if you are interested.


Brian’s Brain v1

Here is some additional info that you might find useful if you are planning a trip of your own.

The peak season for bouldering in the south is November to January. If you end up with lousy weather, there are a couple of gyms in the Chattanooga area. High Point Climbing and Fitness have a two locations in the area. We checked out their downtown location while we were out to dinner one night. They have an outside wall, lead climbing, top rope climbing, bouldering, weight room, yoga room, etc. It was a pretty impressive facility.

We spent about $500 on our trip. We drove a Prius, which I can only assume cut down gas costs. We did some grocery shopping when we got to Alabama, but we didn’t plan too well and ended up making less than ideal choices which cost us. We could have cut back on lodging by staying at the hostel or camping at Rock Town.
I loved climbing in the south and I can’t wait to make it back there again. I am looking forward to visiting Rocktown because I have heard nothing short of amazing things. I am also looking forward to being stuck in the car with my sister for another 17 hours. Lastly, I think this might be a great trip for our adult climbing team in the fall.






Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Community Bouldering Competition

By Becky Aspell

Photos and video by Bob Evans and Mark Jodoin

12244797_10206150783907413_1005669204516019625_oOn Saturday, November 14th we hosted our first Community Bouldering Competition. This event marked the first citizens bouldering competition we’ve had in over 4 years. 12115453_10206145170447080_447008066078501630_nWhen I initially started planning the Community Competition I had the intentions of creating an event that would cater to varying different skill levels and would appeal in particular to those who would be competing for their first time. We ended up with an intimate event that was shared by a diverse group of people, all who experienced a high level of energy and camaraderie. By creating a laid-back atmosphere we were able to eliminate the intimidation that comes with the idea of competing.image1 copyEmily Aspell and Nicholas Pellegrino took the win overall for the girls and guys. Kim Wall and Stephen Sanborn took Intermediate. Rebecca Flynn and Adam Kane took Beginner. I would also like to give mention to Kevin Donovan for finishing 32 boulder problems during the competition, covering the most volume by far. 12247890_931613003600801_2633419582741126054_o11057470_931613016934133_248441506039939645_oI am looking forward to planning our next competition! In the meantime check out our video recap to view all the highlights and/or to re-live the event!


The community competition would have been impossible without the help of our sponsors. I would like to thank The Little House Inn and Hostel, Friction Labs, New England ReSoul, Metolius, Sterling Rope, IBEX, Guyaki Brand, Scarpa, La Sportiva, and Petzl.

Leave a comment

December 1, 2015 · 7:14 pm

Interview With The Little House Inn and Hostel

By Becky Aspell

Photos The Little House In and Hostel


A few months back I was scrolling around on Facebook when I came across a post by the Rumney Climbers Association promoting a new inn and hostel that would be opening up in Rumney. How exiting! The Little House Inn and Hostel is located right in the town common about 3/5ths of a mile away from the Rumney crags. Despite what the name may suggest, this charming early 20th century farm house is anything but little. The new owners Peter and Shana Jackson first fell in love with the house several years ago and are now working to renovate the property. The couple post regular updates to their Facebook documenting the progress of the renovation. It’s exciting to follow along with their hard work. The before and after photos document the beginning of a new chapter for this old farm house.


When I initially started the planning process for our Community Bouldering Competition, partnering with The Little House Inn and Hostel immediately came to mind. I reached out to Pete and Shana and they were more than thrilled to jump on board with our event. Pete and Shana have made a very generous contribution of prizes to our competition.


The inn and the project surrounding it is clearly one that is driven by passion and because of that I have always been interested in the back story. I knew from the beginning that there would be a story to tell and I am excited to have the opportunity to share it. Shana was kind enough to answer some questions for me and give us a better idea of who they are and what the inn is all about.

Could you tell me a little bit about yourselves?

My husband and I are both originally from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a veterinarian, and Pete is a software engineer. We live in Rumney with our 3 dogs, 5 cats, and flock of chickens & ducks. We’re both outdoor enthusiasts and climbers. Additionally, Pete serves as a board member for the RCA (Rumney Climbers Association).

What sparked your interest in opening and operating the inn?

Becoming inn owners sort of happened by accident. This house was most recently owned by the Hunter School. The school closed this summer, and the property went to auction. Our lives changed with just the raise of a hand!

We are very vested in helping to ensure the sustainability of our local crag and our town. Rumney is a “young” crag with easy accessibility. The popularity of this crag has grown exponentially in a very short period of time. Just like in all other areas of the world, this creates concerns about over usage and long term sustainability, accessibility, and safety. We’ve been really fortunate to have active organizations like the RCA, Access Fund, AMC, and WMNF working to maintain access, update anchors and bolts, and to do trail maintenance. If you aren’t a member of the RCA, you should be! You can do a dual membership through the Access Fund. We offer special deals to RCA members at the Inn!

How did you end up in Rumney?

I was living in Haverhill, NH, and after a 10 year hiatus from climbing, had just started climbing again. When Pete and I were looking for the house that would become our home, we knew we wanted to be as close to the crag as possible.

How did you find the house?

We originally looked at the house 5 years ago when we moved to Rumney. We fell in love with it, but it was way too much house for just the two of us. Come visit and you’ll see. It really isn’t a “little” house!

Could you tell us some history about the house?

The house was built in 1903 by Haven Little (hence the name of the inn). He grew up in Rumney on Stinson Lake, and was a successful chicken farmer. The Whitcomb’s owned the house next. They did many of the renovations that spoil us today, such as adding the sauna, back patio and fireplace, and the enormous spa like bathrooms. The property was sold to the Hunter School with the plan to use it as a boarding house for their female students.

What has the restoration process been like?

The property hadn’t seen any love in at least 10-15 years, and it really showed. We’ve had to do work on the outside, and in every room on the inside. It’s been a labor of love, and will continue to be so for a while!

What amenities can guests look forward to?

We offer private and bunk style accommodations. We have 6 private rooms, including one with a king bed. Linens and towels are included with each room. We plan to have one room be offered as a suite, with a bedroom and separate sitting area. Once renovations are completed, this will be our dog friendly room since it has a bit more space.

There is ample communal space for all to enjoy both inside and outside. The inn has 3.5 baths with two jetted jacuzzi tubs and a sauna. There are 2 living rooms and a game room inside. The game room has a foos ball table, a dart board, space to relax by the fire, and eventually will have a pool table. There is a full cooking kitchen and dining room stocked with dishes, and cookware. We do not provide breakfast, but keep the kitchen stocked with coffee, milk, sugar, bread, butter, and eggs (as long as our hens are cooperating). There are 2 porches (that have become our favorite place to spend a few hours), and an outdoor patio with a gas grill and fireplace. We also have free wifi for guests, and kayaks, a canoe or SUP board that guests can rent. We plan to offer bikes for rent, and will be opening a gift/climbing gear shop on the property in the spring of 2016.



How can we find you online? How can we book with you?

We are listed on Airbnb, have a page on Facebook (the Little House Inn and Hostel), and have a web page. Our web address is http// We are working on our page, so for now this bumps you to our facebook page. You can go directly from there to the site on Airbnb to book your reservation. You can also call us to book a reservation or for more information at 603.795.0470.

What local attractions,businesses, restaurants, etc would you recommend to those visiting the area?

One of our favorite restaurants is right across the common, the Common Cafe & Tavern. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and make an amazing pizza! Just down the road is the Rumney Rocks Bistro. They offer a varied menu, and often have live music. Just a few miles east of us is the town of Plymouth. You’ll always get a great meal at Foster’s in the Common Man or at the Six Burner Bistro. The Flying Monkey is also in Plymouth. This venue hosts musicians and comedians from all over the country, and is a great way to spend an evening.

If you are here in the winter, our local ski resort will be re-opening this winter. Tenney Mtn was a favorite among locals until it closed nearly a decade ago. The mountain will have a partial re-opening this year, and plan to be 100% open for the 2016-2017 season.

Stinson Mtn lake is just a few miles north up on Main Street. It’s a really beautiful lake with a public boat launch. Perfect way to end a hot summer day.

There is a ton of hiking in the area. Many of the climbers who come here don’t know that there is a hiking (and a biking) trail that goes to the top of Rattlesnake Mtn. It’s a short hike, but a worthy one that rewards the hiker with an amazing view of Rumney. Rumney isn’t far from many of the state’s 4000 footers. The list of trails is endless.

Do you have a favorite crag and or route at Rumney?

There are so many fantastic routes at Rumney. There’s really something for everyone and every ability. Hmm…a few favorites…we really love Rise and Shine

(5.7 at Parking Lot), Egg McMeadows (5.9+ or 10a at Parking Lot), Curly for President (5.8 at Parking Lot), Armed and Dangerous, Metamorphosis, Sesame Street, and Men in White Suits (5.8-10.c at Main Cliff), Black Mamba (11.b at Orange Crush), Clear and Present Danger (5.8 at New Wave), Waimea (10.a at Waimea), Lonesome Dove (10.a at Jimmy Cliff), and Hammonds Organ (10.d at Jimmy Cliff). And while you are up at Jimmy Cliff you can’t miss Clipadee doo dah or Lady and the Tramp (5.3/5.4). These routes are right next to each other, are both 2 pitches of beautiful slab, and give you an amazing view of the area.

What else should we know?

If you know where to go (and know how to dress) you can climb nearly all year long and in any weather at Rumney. Some of the best sends happen on some of the coldest sunny winter days or on a wet spring day. Rumney also has some amazing ice climbing!


Needless to say, I am now excited for my next trip to Rumney. I am looking forward to meeting Shana and Pete. I’m looking forward to befriending their pets! I am looking forward to the time I will be spending at the inn and enjoying all of their hard work. Rumney is a special place for a lot of us. I am excited to see how the inn will bring the climbing community together. Lastly, I am excited for new memories that will be made bonding over similar passions.

Our Community Bouldering Competition is now 48 hours away. The competition is an 18+ bouldering competition designed for climbers of all skill levels with categories for beginner, intermediate, and advanced competitors. Prizes will be awarded to male and female competitors. Early registration is available on our website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

25 Years of Climbing at The BRG!

Boston Rock Gym was excited to celebrate 25 years this August with it’s members and close friends. Originally in Somerville Massachusetts, The BRG moved to it’s currently location in 1994 after a fire in its first location.

With it’s new owner, Chris O’Connell keeping the gym moving forward for the past eight years, The BRG is constantly making changes and improvements to better suit it’s members. From adding new features and bouldering areas to renovations and new programs, the gym is making every effort to better serve its members.

To celebrate this milestone in The BRG’s history, we kicked off the weekend with a parking lot BBQ, dyno competition and raffle. The BBQ was well attended by members, friends and families all who share the same passion for climbing as The BRG team does.

In the spirit of climbing outside, Chris led a meet up at Red Rocks in Gloucester, MA for some outdoor climbing and an area clean up. A cool summer day was filled with climbing some of the staff’s favorite climbs in Gloucester with a nice break to enjoy a potluck lunch.

The future is never certain, but if one thing’s for sure The BRG is looking forward to the next 25 years of chapters in it’s book of climbing history! Stay tuned for more information about the evolution of The BRG and the exciting events we host each month!