Cliff Lake Camping and Climbing Weekend

Rock Climbing

The weekend of camping was the brainchild of Jani and Sarah, and the planning began about a week in advance. Originally, we were going to have a grand party of 7, however, one thing led to another and it ended up with the original planners and myself. I had been to Cliff Lake a few days prior shadowing a climbing trip with the company I guide for, and immediately decided that it is probably one of the best camping spots ever. A lake, bolted routes as well as Bald Mountain to hike should we get bored. When I told Jani and Sarah about this spot, they were very interested, and that is where we planned to go with everybody. After the other 4 bailed for various reasons, we piled into Sarah’s car and set off on Friday in the late afternoon. Between traffic and getting a little lost, we pulled into the parking lot well into the night, hiked in to the lake, and eventually had the tent pitched and our sleeping bags rolled out at 1:30 AM. The next morning greeted us with sunshine, and after breakfast and getting everything sorted out, we met Mike. One of our friends who bailed is the only friend who has a rope, and our original plan was to simply hike Bald Mountain and then hang out. However, Mike saved us. Mike was climbing the same day that I went on the climbing trip as a tail guide, and had been camping out and climbing. He remembered who I was, and we both work for the same company. He invited us to climb with him, and we accepted without hesitation. It was phenomenal. We climbed for about 8 or 9 hours Saturday. Jani and Sarah went up a couple of cool routes with little tension in the rope while top roping, and Jani learned how to belay. I climbed while Jani belayed, and was only a little unnerved. Some drizzle came, and we quickly ran up to our campsite and threw everything into the tent and put the rain fly over it. After the drizzle ended, we all came out and resumed climbing. Mike and his friend Jim were projecting what they thought was a 5.9, but was far more difficult than a 5.9 should have been. Another group of climbers came by and corrected their knowledge of the route difficulty. It was actually a 5.10c. We set up a top rope and went at it. Neither Mike nor Jim nor I got it, but we all came pretty darn close. A small roof at the top stumped the three of us. I was able to look over the roof, but couldn’t find suitable holds to pull myself over. The climber that told us that it was a 5.10c gave us quite a show and finished the climb for us. It was amazing. After that, we took a little rest, and then I tried lead climbing for the first time. I chose a 5.8 to go up, and it was phenomenal. Without any support from the rope above you, and knowing that a fall is going to be a little more involved than with a top rope, it’s like an entirely new world opens up. We climbed until dusk, and then we went to bed. There was no sitting around the campfire with a guitar and singing, because not only are camp fires illegal this year, but none of us know how to play guitar and we were all pretty tired.

The next morning came quickly, and the sun woke us up quite gently. Crawling out of the tent and seeing the sun over Bald Mountain and glinting off the lake below us was stunning. A quick breakfast of cheese and bread and salami and yogurt covered pretzels had us fueled for more climbing. Jim had to leave, and Mike offered us another day of climbing in exchange for a ride home. We happily agreed, and walked down to meet him at the bottom of the wall. We had everything set up quickly, and had another incredible day. Jani climbed while Sarah learned how to belay, and almost immediately after that, Jani and Sarah both did a lead climb. It was Jani’s 4th day ever of climbing and Sarah’s 3rd day ever climbing, and it was super cool to watch them progress like that. Mike and I had some fun leading with the bolts and looking for spots to place stoppers. I ended up setting about 3 of them, and it was wild being fifty or sixty feet up with nothing but little pieces of metal firmly lodged into cracks in the rock to catch a fall. Eventually, it became time to pack things up and head home.

Unfortunately for Sarah, this was her first camping trip. Two nights with stunning weather, beautiful scenery and amazing climbing have set a very high bar for her. Not only did the fun and scenery make this one of the best camping trips I’ve ever had, but the learning experiences and friendships created made it an unforgettable experience.


Ben White

Ben White is a natural born adventurer from Essex, Massachusetts. During the winter of 2010/2011, he set out to hike and ski the NH 48. He finished 6 days before his 18th birthday. While he has been known to ski naked, Ben loves testing out different clothing, from base layers to parkas. When he isn't skiing, he's mountain biking or hiking. His love for mountains has dragged him out to the University of Utah, where he is currently studying Geology. 

1 Comment

  1. Janet White
    August 1, 2012, 6:52 pm

    Ben has inspired us, and we are signing up for a family day of climbing with the EMS climbing school in North Conway while he’s East!

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