Your penchant for the outdoors is almost always satisfied by driving to the nearest national park, pitching a tent, angling and grilling a fish for dinner (that is definitely better than a canned dinner in a camp), and yes, stargazing while lying down on the grassy ground or from your tent. It is relaxing, and almost always, it is easy to do even with kids. Certain activities can make you sweat, but it won’t get your heart thudding hard, unless you are doing it in some scary spot or destination.
Introducing an old concept in a totally new environ can get your sweat dribbling for fear, effort and sheer excitement: cliff camping! You have to be a daredevil adventurer to scale cliffs, pitch your tents against vertical walls at dizzying heights of about 4,000 feet, and spend hours upon hours there just like when camping on flat grounds. Imagine getting there and staying cooped up in the tent while having the rare opportunity of viewing that part of the world from the ledge.
“There are lots of great ways to see the Rockies – skiing, trekking, a road trip – but for Aaron Millar a storm-tossed hike, abseiling in darkness and (not) sleeping halfway up a cliff proved to be the best.” In his blog “Cliff camping in Colorado: postcards from the ledge” posted in The Guardian – Travel Section, Millar accounted his exhilarating experiences to get his tent precariously pitched
“I am hanging from a cliff, 150 metres above the ground, in the middle of the night, with nothing to occupy my thoughts but pitch-black air, bare rock walls and a dose of vertigo strong enough to cow a harpy eagle. I should be sleeping; I’ve been trying for hours. But six billion years of evolutionary common sense is keeping my pupils dilated to a steady panic. Some fears, I realise in sudden horrific clarity, are too primal to be conquered. They must be endured.
This is cliff camping: a new extreme activity offered by Colorado operator Kent Mountain Adventure Centre… The overnight tour, on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountain national park – … puts vertical virgins in the hands of experienced climbing guides for a night on a professional mountain portaledge that is guaranteed to provide dinner table tales for years to come.
The experience was intense; adventurous activities in the Rockies, after all, are always intense by themselves. The jagged peaks, the mighty Colorado River and the wild animals, not to mention the cliffs to climb to be able to pitch tents, make cliff camping here most extreme.
Camping is made possible during vertical wall ascents using Portaledges. It can be likened to a portable camp bed that can be hoisted up and anchored to the vertical walls using gravity-defying contraptions. It has as little space as a church pew with no sides. It is suspended at a dizzying height and held there by nothing more than bolts and rope.
Millar’s adventure started with some easy instructions and practice. The hiking to the base was something beginners can do and find interesting with the view of the peaks and the animal sounds. For Millar and his guide Buster Jesik, the adventure took a frightening twist when dark clouds blew carrying hail, high winds, thunder and lightning. That meant waiting out the storm for safety.
Getting to the ledge meant scrambling up the mountain and abseiling down, in the dark. They have to cling to precipices, cross gorges, jumped crevasses, and all these in the middle of a bear country and by the light of head torches.
A similar experience is shared by A Daily Mail reporter in the news: Is this the most dangerous campsite in the world? Pitching a tent on the side of a 4,000ft cliff face. This is posted in Mail Online News – News Section.
Cliff camping is a way to get rest and sleep to conquer the most massive walls in the planet that can take weeks to complete. Big wall climbers do not consider the height or staying in Portaledges dangerous. They are more scared of falling rocks. Climbing during the melt season (in places where the peaks are covered by snow) can constantly send falling rocks and chunks of ice down, some even the size of a car.
You think rock climbing and cliff camping are crazy. Those who find themselves fighting vertigo or sleep (lest they fall while they doze off to the dreamland) ask themselves why they take the challenge. Buster warned Millar, “Your mind will tell you shouldn’t be there.” With muddled thoughts, that can be hard to digest. As the sun rises, however, the brightness gives you a postcard-perfect image of the Rocky Mountain, of Canada’s Baffin Island, or some other majestic view; you understand why you are there.
It is a priceless experience and view reserved for the fearless and those who are not afraid to take on new, even dangerous, possibilities. Once the adventure comes to an end and as your feet feel the safety of the stable flat ground, you will looked up and know in your heart you will be back one day.