Connecticut may not have many vertical cliffs that are higher than a hundred feet. However, the Nutmeg State has a rich history of rock climbing. Many of the first vertical ascents in this country took place here. Famous mountaineer Fritz Weisner who narrowly missed being the first person to summit K2 in Pakistan established many of the earliest routes in the state.
Colebrook Cave – Hoax or Lost Treasure
For almost two hundreds years, there have been rumors of a vast cavern hidden in the side of a mountain in the town of Colebrook. Legend has it that in certain parts of the cave, it is about 80 feet wide and up to 30 feet high. It supposedly lies inside a cliff about 100 feet high with several giant boulders at it’s base. The entrance to this cave is small, but large enough for a young adult to enter. Stories relay that the cave might reside in Knapp Hill or another place called the Witches Retreat. For the last few decades, curious explorers have tried to find this elusive cave. So far, no one has found it, or if they have they’re not telling.
The most recognizable rock face profile in the history of the planet, fell to earth in 2003. The Old Man in the Mountain had his likeness on license plates and even on the New Hampshire sate quarter. Connecticut too has it’s own man in the mountain.
More known for it’s routes with names such as Pegasus and Danzig, Cathole Pass is also known as Washington’s Head. When looking at the cliff from Route 71, look at the right edge of the cliff near the Pegasus area. There you’ll see the Old Man of Meriden or better known as Washington’s Head.
This Southeastern Climbing area in North Stonington is known more for it’s owners, the wealthy Mashantucket Pequots than it’s moderate amount of mediocre routes. But what many do not know about this area is how it got it’s name. With it’s five state view and location near Long Island Sound, it was first used by the native Indians to scout out approaching enemies. These cliffs got their names when in the war of 1812, the residents of the town of Stonington were warned of the impending arrival of British Soldiers by several tar barrels that were lit on fire on the summit of the cliffs. The fires looked like giant lanterns to the residents and they and their town escaped serious harm. After their lucky retreat, the cliffs were then named in honor of this incident.
Dead Man’s Cave- Sleeping Giant
There’s no question that when looking at Sleeping Giant from another peak, it resembles a person lying on their back and staring at the sky. A place of Native American legend and myth, it contains over 30 miles of hiking trails and is home to the earliest known rock climbing in the state. On Mount Carmel also known as the Giant’s hip is a small stone castle. Beneath the castle is a cliff over 60 feet tall with a 20 foot spire. There are also 2 caves in this cliff. The more visible of the two caves is called the Dead Man’s Cave. It is the size of a small room and descends only a few feet down into the cliff. Many people do not know how the cave received this name. But according to legend, a relative of the famous circus showman P.T. Barnum went insane and camped out in this very cave. He was eventually found dead in this cave and so the name was given.
Baskin and Robbins Cliffs
Once upon a time, rock climbing was allowed by the Metropolitan District at the route 4 West Hartford Reservoir. With decent sized crags with interesting names like Sunslover’s rock and Kilkenny Rock and Finger Rock, there was no shortage of creativity in the naming of these crags. But the most challenging and creative naming of these crags belongs to the Baskins and Robbins Cliff. Named by a few climbers who liked the variety of flavors offered by an ice cream shop of the same name just a few miles down the road in West Hartford.
Who’s the Real Dummy?
Many climbing areas in Connecticut are on private land and there have been many spats between climber and landowner. No landowner has been more confrontational than owner of Winterwall. The eighty foot crag in Berlin is one of the more well liked areas in Connecticut and would be visited more often if not for the fact that it is technically closed. It was not unusual for the owner to fire his gun at the direction of the cliff and shout expletives at the climbers, and this would happen every so often. One day a few local climbers took matters into their own hands and attached an actual dummy in climbers clothing on the face of the cliff. Legend has it that the owner of Winterwall saw this climber (dummy) and screamed at this individual who would not leave his cliff. After a few days of screaming and firing his gun, the owner decided to get a closer look at this brave climber who would not heed the warning of his shotgun. Once the landowner found out who really was on his cliff, I’m sure he asked himself this question . Who’s the Real Dummy?