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Adventure / June 6, 2016

“Cliff Camping” is a thing now.

Written by: Brenna Stevens

I’m not a serious rock climber, and I don’t really want to be. I’ve been to the local crag a few times (which, in Boulder, is respectable), but you’ll never see me on the side of El Capitan. All the gear those guys use looks really expensive to me, and the climbs they use it on look scary and hard.

But there is one component of big wall climbing that has always appealed to me: sleeping on a portaledge. Those are the hanging tarps that climbers sleep on when they have to overnight on the wall. They’re sort of like hammocks, but way, way gutsier. Something about them has always intrigued me; as someone who can fall asleep almost anywhere, they seem like sort of a dare.

I’ve never seriously considered sleeping on one, though, because like I said… climbing is hard.

I recently learned that the market has provided a solution for people like me. Or, more accurately, it’s provided a solution for people who are like me but richer. The guides at Ester Park, Colorado’s Kent Mountain Adventure Center will hook clients up with a night on a portaledge, no climbing required, for as little as $800 per person.

That’s too rich for my blood. But Kent Mountain’s promotional video for the experience does make it look pretty cool.

The folks at Kent Mountain team have engineered their “Cliff Camping” experience to suit almost anyone. Guides rig the portaledge 160 feet up a cliff, and clients can reach it by rock climbing, ascending fixed ropes, or rappelling from the top. The cliff is about a 10 minute hike from the nearest trailhead.

At camp, a guide cooks clients dinner (usually rice, quinoa, or stir-fry) in mid-air. Depending on the number of clients, the guide will either share the portaledge or sleep in their own. Sleepers remain tethered all night, so there’s no risk of falling. Because the cliff faces west, clients can watch the sunset over nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Clients are treated to breakfast the next morning, and usually return to their cars by 11 a.m.

Cliff Camping bookings are available through late September. The experience costs $1,600 for couples and $1,200 for solo sleepers.

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about the author

Brenna Stevens

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Brenna has spent more of her life outdoors than in. An avid camper, backpacker, and wine drinker, she writes primarily about outdoor culture for Shoulders of Giants.

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