Rock Roots: Nancy Lane


Nancy Lane on Predator (5.13b) at her home crag in Rumney, NH

Every time I see that big maroon van in the Rumney parking lot, I know the fairy godmother of Rumney is here. The first time I met Nancy Lane, she floated up my project using completely different beta than I’d ever seen (…and I had spent a good bit of time waiting in line, trying to pick up new beta). I didn’t see her again until she whirled around my next project, making it look effortless by twirling her body into heel hooks, knee bars, and shoulder scums where I’d never seen them used before. Watching Nancy makes me want to get on rock immediately and try to achieve a fraction of the grace she’s just displayed.

LH: It’s hard to ignore your extremely fluid and methodical climbing style, and your unorthodox beta on the most popular of climbs. How do you find your own beta?

NL: To me, the appeal of projecting is figuring out the beta. My beta is really impacted by my height (5’1”), so I’ll listen to what other people are doing and adapt by using a higher but worse foot hold, or finding a small intermediate crimp. I haven’t been the most dynamic climber, so I used to go to the bouldering gym and get on v0s and v1s and throw for every other hold. That way, I could work on my weakness without boring my belayer to death.

LH: What do you do when you’re not outside?

NL: I am a sports photographer for the Boston Herald and cover the Patriot’s games. Unfortunately, football season is also prime-time sending season! I try to climb Friday and Saturday, and then on Sunday I “rest” and shoot the Patriots, which means I run 30 yard sprints on the sidelines while hauling huge lenses. I feel this struggle to give my all on the rock on a Saturday, but also not be so tired that I can’t do my job on Sunday. Just like everyone else, I always have in the back of my mind that I need an even work-life balance.

nancy lane big lenses

Nancy with her other type of gear

LH: How has your love of climbing evolved over the years?

NL: My sister’s boyfriend started taking me and my sister trad climbing at the Gunks. After a while, I felt I couldn’t improve because the trad climbs were beginning to get hard and scary. I remember meeting people at the Boston Rock Gym, and hearing that they were developing sport routes at Rumney. I thought to myself, “I got to get myself there to fall on bolts and get stronger at trad climbing!” But since then, I’ve spent much more time clipping bolts than placing gear. I’ve chosen to make Rumney my local crag because my social circle is there – I otherwise wouldn’t be able to see my friends who are spread around New England.

LH: What was Rumney like before it became a “popular” destination?

NL: When I started coming to Rumney, “Team Tough” (Ward Smith, Mark Sprague, Dave Quinn, and all those other names you see in the guidebook) would head to the cliffs in any weather, and climb from dawn to dusk. I missed a lot of the development period, but I do remember seeing Mark Sprague hanging on a rope and cleaning routes from the top of Orange Crush, like Michaelangelo on the Sistine Chapel. That is something great about the Rumney community – these guys have spent a lot of time learning how to set routes right, from the placement of bolts to the hardware they use. They would draw in potential bolt holes and asked people to toprope a new route, to see if everyone (even 5’1” me!) could reach from a good stance. To this day, they still go up there to replace bolts and pull off mangled gear.

Nancy Lane feeling right at home even though she’s in Red River Gorge, KY

Nancy Lane feeling right at home even though she’s in Red River Gorge, KY

Nancy, you remind us that physical attributes are never an excuse, and that our outdoor climbing sanctuaries have fascinating histories that required countless hours of work. We love your rock roots!

Climb on!

Special thanks to Lily He for doing this new regular feature, interviewing all the inspiring “every day” climbers she can find. Check out previous Rock Roots features on Anna Morenz and Mia DePaolis. Want to be interviewed for Rock Roots or know someone you think Lily should interview? Send us an email at cruxcrush(at)gmail(dot)com.

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