Crag VT — Bolton cliff

The Crag VT approach sign to Bolton's Upper West climbing area.

The woods of Bolton and Richmond will be the setting this weekend for all things climbing at CRAG-VT’s first Vermont Climbing Festival, featuring demos, clinics and competitions, music, camping and food.

Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond will serve as base camp for the festival, hosting camping and demos with climbing clinics and competitions planned across Bolton Valley.

Now almost 20 years old, CRAG-VT (Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont) is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of climbing areas in Vermont. The organization’s goal is to prevent wall closures, and secure the right to climb on Vermont rock for generations to come. Members work with the state of Vermont and landowners to open and maintain climbing areas.

CRAG-VT’s mission includes land purchases, for which it relies on donations from the climbing community. This weekend’s festival will serve as a fundraiser and the group hopes it will become an annual event.

Organizers say holding the festival in Bolton offers a chance to highlight one of Vermont's best climbing venues, which they hope will continue to attract more climbers in years to come. CRAG-VT has maintained a strong relationship with Bolton Valley, opening many of its schist rock faces to the public.

CRAG-VT board members and Vermont natives Emily Harwood and Mischa Tourin came up with the idea for the festival during a climbing trip in Red Rocks, Nevada.

Harwood described her vision for the festival as “an event where climbers young and old can unite over their common love of climbing.”

Speakers and climbing instructors for the weekend are listed on the festival’s website. Among them is keynote speaker Matty Hong, a professional filmmaker and accomplished climber, being the fourth American to climb the grade of 5.15b. He will teach a climbing and photography clinic on Saturday.

Festival goers also will have the rare opportunity to explore a never-before-climbed area of Bolton in Saturday’s Black Barn Bouldering competition. This event will provide a first look at what may become a brand new bouldering area in Bolton. Registration is free with the purchase of a festival pass.

Black Barn Farm is on private land on Bolton Valley’s Joiner Brook. Owner Michael Hunter said he had a feeling the spot had potential for bouldering. The property is packed full of water-eroded schist boulders, he said, none of which have ever been touched by climbers.

In May, Hunter said he contacted Pete Cudney, an old friend and climbing partner, who has set dozens of bouldering lines in the area.

The setup should make for a unique experience this weekend. “It’s so exciting to be able to hold an outdoor bouldering competition in an area nobody’s seen before,” Cudney said.

Hunter said the festival is a perfect opportunity to introduce his farm to the climbing community. More work is needed before Hunter can open the area for regular access, but he said he hopes it will be ready by next summer.

More information and registration are online at vermontclimbingfestival.com. A festival pass ($35) allows access to all Base Camp events Friday through Sunday.


Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.

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