Spend a night in ‘hotel room’ 200ft up — suspended by a rope

AS hotel rooms go, there is no arguing with the spectacular views – it’s just that everything else is a little bit. . .  ropey.

Let’s be clear, I’m not complaining about the ropes. 

The bed is no wider than a church pew


The bed is no wider than a church pewCredit: Mark Chilvers 2015

My bed is no wider than a church pew and the roof over my head is non-existent. The ropes are absolutely my favourite part of tonight’s accommodation. 

That is because they are all that is keeping me from plummeting 200ft — or 18 storeys — to the forest floor below. 

It’s going to be an interesting night. 

This is cliff camping, the latest — and possibly most extreme — adventure sports craze to date.

Previously a means for elite climbers to grab a few hours’ sleep during long vertical ascents, it is now on offer to brave members of the public, up here in Estes Park, Colorado. 

Instructor Brett hangs from his portaledge to hand Jonathan a bowl of lentils


Instructor Brett hangs from his portaledge to hand Jonathan a bowl of lentilsCredit: Mark chilversq

And, according to the man behind the trend, thrillseekers from around the world have been queuing up for a taste of life on the edge. 

Harry Kent, owner of the Kent Mountain Adventure Center (KMAC) which offers the experience, tells me: “People seem to love the intensity of it — of pushing their limits and seeing life from a different perspective. 

“Folks seeking out extreme adventures tend to see this and think, ‘Holy mackerel, I can sleep on a ledge 200ft off the ground. I have to try that’.”

Holy mackerel doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

After rising early for the  dramatic 90-minute drive from Denver to the Rocky Mountains, I meet Harry and his team at their headquarters in picturesque Estes Park, for some basic rope training.

Welcome fear

Harry says ominously: “Don’t worry if you feel a little afraid when you get up there. 

“You should always welcome fear — it’s the only opportunity you get to exercise your  courage.”

Brett has Jonathan safely locked on the cliff face


Brett has Jonathan safely locked on the cliff faceCredit: Mark Chilvers 2015

With harnesses clinking and internal alarm bells clanging, we hike  towards Deville III, the towering cliff face that will be our hotel for the night.

Reassuringly, Harry’s sending me up with one of his best guides, 24-year-old Brett Bloxom, who is so relaxed that you would think he was on his way to hang out at the mall, not from the side of a cliff. 

After clambering up to the 400ft summit, we abseil half-way down the rock face until our boots touch the delicate nylon fabric of the portaledges. 

My stretcher-like bed grates perilously against the rock as it takes my weight, lurching  to one side. 

I delicately feel my way to a seated position, ledge and legs both wobbling independently of each other. 

A few seconds later, Brett has me safely locked — by an ingenious assortment of gravity-defying gadgetry — to both the cliff face and the flimsy portaledge itself. 

Jonathan settles in for the night with the ropes keeping him from plummeting 200ft to the forest floor below


Jonathan settles in for the night with the ropes keeping him from plummeting 200ft to the forest floor belowCredit: Mark Chilvers 2015

It’s time to enjoy the sunset over the lush, lumbering Rocky Mountain National Park, before settling in for the night. 

Dinner is boiled quinoa and vegetables, carefully lowered on a rope from Brett’s portaledge a few feet above mine. 

The “toilet”, meanwhile, is a three-litre plastic bottle formerly containing “tropical fruit punch”, which is lowered in similar  fashion (and raised even more carefully afterwards).

Soon we are left with just the stars, the moon and a bubbling river somewhere in the dark abyss for company. 

By 10pm my right foot — wedged between the cliff and my rucksack — has gone to sleep, but the rest of me stubbornly refuses to follow. 

My heart is racing on the precarious portaledge and I find myself counting the minutes until sunrise.


GETTING THERE: Estes Park is 90 minutes’ drive from Denver International Airport. Fly there direct from London Heathrow with American Airlines (aa.com).

MORE INFO: An overnight cliff camping experience for two – with all food, training and climbing equipment included –  costs from £625pp (kmaconline.com). To plan your own trip, see visitestespark.com and colorado.com.

Blaze of colours

Don’t get me wrong. The night sky over the Rockies is insanely beautiful. The stars glisten approvingly as the moon marches across the heavens, and I watch and wait — inspired and terrified in equal measure. 

It is a night for soul-searching and self-reflection, but also for trying to stay as warm as possible — and avoiding the need to use the toilet again.  So extreme is the body’s fight-or-flight response to this gravity-defying predicament that I don’t sleep  a wink  — not even a few seconds. 

But that marathon night shift makes dawn all the more rewarding. 

The sun, when it finally resurfaces, roars across the sky like a wildfire, illuminating a forest I’d almost forgotten. 

Daybreak from the cliff face feels like…

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