Kjeragbolten is a 5 square meter (roughly 15 sq ft) rock that his wedged itself in a crevasse between two gigantic rocks on Kjerag mountain, Norway. It’s not your typical, top-heavy balanced rock by any means but that’s not to say that Kjeragbolten is at perfect rest – just ask Aron Ralston, whose arm was trapped by a similarly wedged boulder in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, requiring him to take desperate measures to free himself.
Unlike Ralston’s nemesis in an underground canyon, Kjeragbolten is lodged high up on Kjerag. How high? Those who are brave enough to walk across the boulder (and yes, this is allowed) can easily view the valley floor about 1,000 meters (over 3,000 feet) below. For sheepish hikers especially, the admonition “don’t look down” was never so appropriate.
Peyro Clabado, Sidobre, France
Peyro Clabado (Nailed Rock) is perhaps the most famous of the many enormous, eroded granite boulders and rock formations that make up the Sidobre in Languedoc, France. The rocks are all that remain of a 300 million year old mountain range that loomed over what was to become western Europe. Today, isolated outcrops loom over intrepid visitors who have hopefully updated their wills before visiting.
As hard and dense as granite may be, given enough time even the hardest specimens will be reduced to sand and sediment. Peyro Clabado is on its way to that fate, but for a brief moment in geological time we’re privileged to observe this 780-ton rock perform an exquisitely delicate balancing act.
Mushroom Rocks, Kansas, USA
Mushroom Rock State Park, located in the Smoky Hills region of Kansas, may only be 5 acres in size but it holds some of the oddest balancing rocks on Earth… and yes, a couple of them do indeed resemble mushrooms. Very, very large mushrooms – one might expect to see the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland relaxing on top of one.
The Kansas Mushroom Rocks are a work in progress, and unfortunately the end of the job means the end of the rock formation. Although weathering by wind and water is a slow process, it’s remarkably effective over long stretches of time. In the Mushroom Rocks, one can easily see how the harder, darker Dakota Sandstone cap rock protects (to some degree) the softer, lighter colored stone that forms its pedestal. Even more remarkable is the fact that the narrow pedestal was once part of a distinct layer of rock, the vast majority of which has eroded away.
Chiremba Balancing Rocks, Epworth, Zimbabwe
The Chiremba Balancing Rocks are little known outside of Zimbabwe but the locals certainly appreciate their majesty: one impressive grouping is featured on the country’s banknotes. Like the balancing rocks of the Sidobre in France, these weathered boulders are made of ancient granite and it’s taken millions of years for them to settle into their outwardly precarious positions.
Epworth is located a few miles southeast of Zimbabwe’s capitol, Harare, and the Chiremba Balancing Rocks are just a short taxi ride away. They were declared a national monument in 1994 and admission to the park is approximately 3 dollars.
Mexican Hat Rock, Utah, USA
Mexican Hat Rock is located just outside Monument Valley in south-central San Juan County, Utah. The 60-foot (18 m) wide by 12-foot (3.7 m) thick red sandstone rock outcropping is the only one of its kind in the area and can be seen for miles around.
There are two designated climbing routes laid out for those who wish to make the strenuous hike to the base of Mexican Hat Rock’s sombrero-shaped cap. Though not a “balanced rock” in the pure sense of the term, the cap rock is attached to its base by a very narrow neck which will inevitably snap sooner or later… keep that in mind, hikers.
The Steady Hand Of Man
The frozen tranquility of natural balanced rocks has inspired artists to try and replicate their beauty – not an easy proposition considering naturally balanced rocks have settled into their positions while creating such a tableau means working backwards, so to speak. Even so, the art of balancing rocks has gained a surprisingly large and talented following.
Daliel Leite is one of these artists and his creations approach – and on occasion even match – the suspended splendor of nature’s best balanced rocks. The precisely oriented chunk of petrified wood above is one of Leite’s best known efforts. Is the rock still standing on its minuscule base, or did it tumble seconds after being photographed? Leite isn’t saying – and thanks to the marvel of photography, it really doesn’t matter.