“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats
Coming home to New England — I think anyone who has spent time here will always consider it as home — to guide this summer has reminded me that the Northeast is a special place. Talk is frank, people are punctual and humble, and honest work-ethics abound! Amidst Covid-19, I have also seen a broad acceptance of responsibility, a decision-making mindset aimed at doing right by others and the communities we share. Climbers have been no different, and here are a few thoughtful things I am witnessing:
Careful Risk Calculus
In climbing, a fine risk is often worth taking, but Covid-19 has changed the calculus. Exposing ourselves to risk is also putting our community at risk, be it from overburdening rural hospitals to placing rescue personnel in close contact with a possible virus. Climbers appear to be taking these concerns seriously by removing the ego from the picture and being willing to hang on a piece of gear or choosing more conservative climbs. Such actions are way cooler than tempting an epic.
Gestures of respect
One of the more heartwarming elements to see is a sense of solidarity among each other. New England certainly has a reputation for reticence. I have spent days exchanging only a few words with those climbing nearby. Unfortunately, visitors can mistake this as aloofness. The pandemic has shown that coupled with this knack for quietness is a conscientiousness for friends and strangers alike. I have observed this the most when passing others on the trail. Despite being outside, 6 feet apart, and only close by for a few moments, nearly everyone puts on a face-covering before acknowledging the other and wishing them a pleasant day. These small goodnesses between one another, unwitnessed by anyone else, are an unforeseen silver lining amidst all the struggling and suffering the world is going through.
Searching Out Less Trodden Gems
If there is one action climbers can take to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 while recreating it is to avoid climbing the most popular routes at the most popular crags. While initial reports from Rumney's reopening counted more spiders than climbers, normal summer usage at crags like the Main Cliff, 5.8 Crag, and Bonsai pose a real outdoor transmission risk. Many climbers seem to be embracing this year as an opportunity to recalibrate and refocus their efforts into exploring the region's less traveled crags and routes. There are many hidden gems to discover!
No matter where you decide to climb here is some simple advice to follow the best recreational practices during Covid-19. Arachnophobes and acrophobes beware!