What do all of these amazing climbers have in common? Dick Williams, Layton Kor, Henry Barber, and Fritz Wiessner…
Other than the fact that they represent some of rock climbing’s most respected founding fathers, which paved the climbing way for us in the US? They are one of a handful of amazing climbers that have contributed to Connecticut’s (CT) awesome climbing. YES, the state of CT has AWESOME climbing for you to explore! In fact, this state has such an amazing climbing history that it would take me days, weeks, or even more to write up a proper summary. If you purchase the guidebook I recommend later in this review, it documents a pretty detailed write up on the history of CT climbing. BUT in short, know this…..much of the first vertical ascents in the US took place in CT and this state and its climbers deserve some serious mad props and respect from the climbing community. If anything, other than being inspired to check out the CT climbing, I want all readers to know that this state has a strong climbing ethic and rich climbing history worth researching.
On this trip, I visited the Central CT region, which offers hundreds of really cool climbs. Much of the climbing is trad and allows for setting top ropes. There is a good variety from slabby, technical, burly, cracks, and so on and so on. It is super hard to describe the climbing other than its super interesting climbing no matter the grade.
How to Get There? I had business in New York (NY), and since it is my birth place (I am natural maniac NY driver!), I rented a car from LaGuardia and made the 2.5 hour drive on over to see my dear friend and have her give me a tour of her climbing back yard of CT. However, it is best for most out of state visitors to fly into Bradley International Airport. Further, hiring a car is best as it is easy to drive around in the beautiful state of CT.
Local CT Climbing Associations: Although there’s solid representation in CT of well known organizations, I chose to highlight two local clubs worth checking out.
- Connecticut Climbers and Mountaineers (http://www.ctclimbers.com/) – I spent the weekend with a dear friend and active member of CCM. She has said nothing but awesome things of this group. Be sure to check them out and connect with them on a Wednesday climbing group night!
- Ragged Mountain Foundation (www.raggedmtn.org) – RMF is a nonprofit organization that own Ragged Mountain and are an Access Fund Affiliate. If you plan on visiting and climbing Ragged Mountain, be sure to visit the ‘About RMF Link’ and read the ‘Leave No Trace’ section (http://www.raggedmtn.org/aboutthermf.html) for some basic cragging rules on this property.
What Guidebook Should I Buy? You can always check out Mountain Project and Rock Climbing websites, but you will find locals using their memory (haha) or th
e guidebook authored by David Fasulo called Rock Climbing Connecticut. This guidebook is awesome and gives quite a bit of history on Connecticut climbing worth reading.
What Guide Should I Hire? Most of the climbing is traditional (trad) and many routes can also be set up as top ropes. However, if you are not 100% confident and beyond proficient setting up anchor systems in adventurous situations which at times can require a dedicated anchor rope (yup got to fetch the right tree(s) way back from the cliff line), it might be good to hire Matt Shove from Ragged Mountain Guides, a guide in CT that comes well recommended by the locals. Matt holds a gazillion certifications, and since the CT region is his climbing back yard, he can take you anywhere to climb with peace of mind.
- Matt Shove – One of the best climbing guides in CT! http://raggedmountainguides.wordpress.com/about/; Email – firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone – 203-228-2311
How do I Get Some Craggin Done?
Pinnacle Rock – I highly recommend this crag because it is a great introduction to CT climbing and rock. The approach is fairly easy and the climbs are inviting to all levels from 5.2 and on up and up and up! Pinnacle Rock is part of Rattlesnake Mountain, which has several other crags worth checking out – Rattle Snake, Green Wall, and Porcupine. This crag is nestled in a neighborhood, so here are DoristheExploris’ rules….(haha), (1) keep the noise level down, (2) be respectful of where you park and (3) park in the recommended areas (via the guidebook, ask a local, CCM, etc.). The climbing here is all trad and many routes allow for also setting up top ropes. A few classic must do’s are First Crack, Emerald City, Right Wing, Entertainer, Lost World and Zambezi Hatchet Head. After a long day of climbing, check out J. Tim’s Tavern for an awesome beer list and food (http://www.jtimothys.com/).
- Ragged Mountain – This crag is a little more intimidating than Pinnacle and the routes are stout even in the lower grades. However, given it is the largest crag in Central Connecticut and its climbs are so beautiful, Ragged mountain is totally worth checking out. What is also really cool is that this crag is owned now by a group of climbers, the Ragged Mountain Foundation (www.raggedmtn.org). Please check out the website for any updates on where to park, etc., and see an online guidebook for additional reference (mcis.western.edu/~jpeterson/me/ragged/ragged.html). Like Pinnacle, the approach is fairly easy, but a bit longer and the climbing is trad, with options for setting of top ropes. Ragged is also nestled in a neighborhood, so try following the 3 DoristheExploris rules listed above! A few classic must do’s are Carey Corner, YMC Route, Broadway, Subline, Unconquerable Crack, Vanishing Point, Wiessner Crack, AND VECTOR, the first 5.8 identified in the US, oh yes!
Other Crags Worth Checking Out – There are many fabulous crags I chose not to review (aka, Small Cliff at Ragged, East Peak, etc.) as they are situated on private properties and closed to climbing at the moment. Please take the time to check in with officials or local climbers to ensure you are climbing in an area open to climbers.
Nevertheless, if you have time after checking out Pinnacle and Rugged, go to Chatfield Hollow, and St. John’s Ledges.
Oh Shucks, Its Raining, Indoor Climbing Please! The climbing gym of the Central Connecticut region to visit is Prime Climb (http://www.primeclimb.com/). Not to be a ‘Negative Nancy’, this gym is known for its stiff route setting so please throw away that ego and embrace the harder lower grade routes that will kick your butt. I hear the route setting at this gym is PHENOMENAL, which is not a surprise considering it’s located in the state of deep and amazing climbing history. Consider it a privilege to climb at this gym, I plan on visiting Prime Climb on my next trip to CT (yuppers, I am coming back!).
What else can I do? The below are a couple of many interesting things to do in the state of CT.
Hiking (http://www.trails.com/activity.aspx?area=10258) – I enjoyed hiking the Ragged Mountain loop just as I did climbing in Central CT. Look at the trails.com link and pick out a fun hike for a rest day!
- Kayaking – If there are pretty state parks, there are also beautiful lakes and rivers! Check out this link, http://www.paddling.net/places/CT/, it is a basic and decent guide to get you started.
- Mountain Biking – I LOVE getting some bike on my Trek bike, and so can you on a climbing rest day. Check out these links for some recommendations http://www.bikerag.com/bike_trail_maps_text_ct.htm, http://www.bikekinetix.com/t_ct/ct_central.php and http://www.trails.com/stateactivity.aspx?area=10040.
- Take a Stroll in West Hartford – No big sight seeing here, just take a stroll on a nice day and get brunch or lunch and stock up on food at Whole Food. This town has charm and is cute. Parking is metered Monday through Saturday.
- Visit Mark Twain’s House (yup its on Farmington Avenue in Hartford) – If you have time check out Mark Twain’s house, http://www.marktwainhouse.org/.
- Dinosaur State Park (maybe we are cool like that, but this is just unique and out of the ordinary kind of touristy thing to do!) – http://www.dinosaurstatepark.org/
This review does not give CT climbing the justice it deserves given it’s foundation to US rock climbing history, so please take the time to research and learn what the state of CT has contributed to climbing history! As I hiked the approaches and climbed CT’s precious rock, I reflected and thanked all the amazing climbing forefathers for paving the way for me and my generation. This state deserves serious climbing respect. So….what are you waiting for, when are you visiting CT to get your climb on?