burgers outside

Gruel and Refuel – Rock Climbing and Burgers on a New England Weekend

For most people, the weekend is a time to let go. But for rock-climbing die-hards, holding on is the name of the game.

Boston is often associated with its proximity to the ocean, its revolutionary history, and the winning records of its professional sports team. Boston, however, is also home to a vibrant and enthusiastic rock-climbing community.

This New England city may not be smack dab in the middle of the Rockies, but we have our own local spot—the White Mountains of New Hampshire, home to some of the best rock climbing on the east coast.

Building Up and Appetite

On the weekends, that’s where we go. We leave early and drive a quick two hours up to Rumney Rocks, a climbing area nestled into the side of Rattlesnake Mountain that is home to over 1000 climbing routes. For many people, it might be odd to walk into the woods and hear strangers yelling seeming nonsense, like, “Stick it!” “Clip the anchors,” and “TAKE!” But for us, those grunted syllables are more than just common words. They are the call to adventure.

We spend the day trying our hands at routes of different inclines, difficulties, and height. Climbing is one of those strange sports that is simultaneously individual and group-centered, all at once.

When I’m climbing, it’s just me. It’s meditative and requires intense focus. Every hand and foot placement matters. There’s breath regulation, fear regulation, muscle regulation. I have to know when to rest, and when to give it every last ounce of ‘try-hard.’ There is no one else to blame for my shortcomings, and no one else to claim the glory of my success.

On the other side, climbing, by its very nature, is social. The rope and belay system is designed so that a climber has another human on the ground, feeding out slack as the climber ascends, and there to secure the rope and ‘catch’ the climber if they fall. So while the effort is individual, the experience is shared. The climbing culture is one of camaraderie, where everyone is on the same team, cheering on whoever is climbing, celebrating those try-hard moments, and witnessing grand successes.

The author on a climb. Photo via Natalia Boltukhova.

Post-Climb Traditions

When the sun starts slipping behind the trees, we coil the rope, hike back to the car, and drive back home. Being outside, doing strong things with strong friends calls for a strong meal. The go-to celebration is often the same; burgers and beers.

Why this tradition?

Maybe it’s because we worked our muscles, and need the repair effects of protein. Maybe it’s because we spent all day outside, in the wilderness, and are craving something homey, and familiar. Maybe it’s just because burgers are delicious. Whatever the reason, nothing seems to top off a hard day outside like grilled burgers and cold beers.

Best way to do it? Big, ½ lb patties of grass-fed beef, packed round, topped with cheese (I prefer bleu), crispy bacon, and if you can swing it, sautéed mushrooms. And, since we are in New England, we wash it down with a hazy New England IPA.

We sit around the grill, recounting tales of epic success and epic failure on the wall, sharing laughs, and refueling our tired bodies after a grueling day. The adventure, after all, is never complete without some celebration.

littauer jonathan
Jonathan Littauer
Jonathan is a freelance writer/editor and rock climbing route-setter based in Boston, MA. When he’s not wielding words or making people fall off walls, he’s probably outside somewhere, hiking or climbing or surfing poorly. He’s been known, on occasion, to drop everything and travel the world for months at a time.