It’s Wednesday morning and I am ready to climb down to the Cliff Palace and check the place out up close and personal. Our tour was at 4 pm, so we had some time to kill, drove in to Cortez to pick up a few things at WallyMart and find the post office to pay some taxes. We headed back to the coach for some lunch and button up to leave the pups there while we head out for the long, windy drive to the Cliff Palace.
We arrived with about a half hour to spare and started reading about the history of the place. As 4 o’clock approached, we headed out toward the overlook where the tour starts, listened to the spiel about how strenuous and steep the climb is, and how the high altitude can affect us. There were about 50 of us standing out there. Then we were off.
There were some steel stairs leading down to a locked gate where you had to hand your tickets to the ranger for admission. Then the adventure began.
There were large rocks all around us and a narrow passage to the right with some jagged steps cut into them, very narrow steps, maybe a foot wide and all different heights, as if a blind man had carved them out of the rock.
Those steps probably went down about 120 feet. Very cool and narrow. Not many handholds, so the rocks filled in for that part. The only adverse issue was the jarring shock as you stepped down and found it was closer to 18″ on some rather than 8 to 10″ steps.
At the bottom was a narrow path that led off to the left toward the Palace. It was a few hundred feet to the first 10′ ladder to climb.
After climbing that, we wound further down that path to a large nitch in the rocks where we all found spots to sit in the shade while Ranger Carol told us about the history of the people that lived here and wait for the previous tour to leave the Palace ahead. The view of the ruins from there was terrific! We were there at the perfect time for the sun to illuminate almost the whole Palace. It’s really hard to imagine the people who lived here left over 800 years ago and moved south toward the Rio Grande.
After the previous tour group moved on, we descended more very uneven steps, but this time they were a lot wider. As we moved closer to the ruins, we entered into the full sun and started to bake a bit. Maybe 4 pm wasn’t such a great idea… The ranger, an archeologist by training, clued us in to how they figured out when the folks built the structures and when they left. Apparently they only lived there about 100 years. It is a grand structure. The pictures don’t do it justice, you should just go there and see it for yourself.
After about 20 minutes baking in the sun standing around the actual ruins, the talks were over. We got to look into one of the towers at some paintings on the walls, then it was time to climb out of there. We determined it is truly harder to climb up the cliff than to go down..
There were some leisurely steps at first, then it got a lot narrower and steeper. You have to see the crevice we climbed out of to believe it, maybe 18″ wide at spots, and three more ladders around 10′ each. I had originally thought I wouldn’t like the ladders as they seemed to say they were on a sheer cliff with a narrow ledge, and I do not like heights. But these ladders were in such narrow places with almost no way to see how high you were, I never even thought of how high we were. But if anyone was claustrophobic, there would have been an issue.
Once at the top, I couldn’t believe we did it. And Kathy, who was so cocky that morning about running laps around me, was quite a bit more subdued. See the last picture, she could barely make it two steps from the last ladder… notice where i was taking the picture from. [I think it was more from heat exhaustion, although the ladders climbing out were scarier than I thought they would be!]
Luckily the long walk to the car was on relatively flat ground. And thankfully I insisted we pack some cold bottles of Snapple and fruit for after the trek.
Off to Durango tomorrow.