When life on the ground has got you down, take a trip to the vertical world and leave your cares behind. The area surrounding Middlebury offers a number of climbing opportunities for those interested in exploring this exciting sport. The most accessible location is the increasingly popular climbing wall in Fletcher Field House. This man-made structure offers routes for climbers of all abilities and is the local hang out for those looking to hone their skills. Equipment and basic instruction are available at designated times each week. For a broader indoor climbing experience the Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center in Rutland provides ample opportunities for top-roped routes of all levels. A bouldering cave and lead-climbing practice area round out this extensive climbing resource.
If the weather is nice and you know how to anchor a top-rope, the cliffs at Lake Dunmore are excellent for beginning climbing and rappelling. If you’re looking for more difficult climbs it is necessary to drive a bit, but the rewards are well worth it. The Keene Valley of New York, only about an hour away, is one of the best areas for climbing in New England. However, if staying in Vermont is of interest, the Smuggler’s Notch area is loaded with cliffs of all varieties just waiting to be scaled.
Climbing is a sport that requires some know-how, but is possible for anybody to do. Furthermore, climbers tend to be friendly bunch, so if you need help learning a move or just getting directions don’t hesitate to ask.
Smugglers Notch Area
This area north of Stowe is a popular skiing spot in the winter, but provides excellent climbing opportunities year round. There’s heaps of bouldering on schist faces off the side of the road and a few nice rock routes on Elephant’s Head Buttress. The climbs are fairly obvious from Notch Road.
Directions: Take Route 7 north to I-89 in South Burlington. I-89 south to exit 10 for Route 100. At the town of Stowe find Notch Road (Route 108) leading north to Smuggler’s Notch. Note: This is about an hour and a half away.
Keene Valley, New York
This spectacular scenic area offers the best place to climb within an hour’s drive. Top-rope and multi-pitch lead routes range from 5.3 to 5.12 on nice Anthrocite cliffs. Chapel Pond Canyon and the Bierwalls are the most popular spots. For more specific information consult the Guide to Climbing in the Adirondacks listed in the additional resources section.
Directions: Go west on Route 125 until Route 22A intersection. Take a right and soon after a left to rejoin 125 west Cross the Champlain Bridge and at intersection with 22 and 9N take a right into Port Henry. Continue on 9N through Westport and Elizabethtown until reaching Route 73. Take a left on Route 73 to Keene Valley. Continue through the town of Keene Valley and look for roadside parking areas. All trails lead to cliffs suitable for climbing.
Lake Dunmore Cliffs
This nearby climbing area above the shimmering lake offers unobstructed views west to the Adirondacks and south down the Green Mountain range. Climbing opportunities include a few moderate top-ropes and leads of 50 to 100 feet. The routes range from 5.3 to 5.7. Be sure to bring plenty of webbing or other anchor material as the trees are offset from the cliff edge.
Directions: Follow directions to Lake Dunmore in the swimming holes section. Use the trail above the falls and cross the river towards the lake. Continue a short distance west until you reach the cliffs along the ridge edge.
Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.