Southern Sandstone has always been on my list. The western climbing locations in the United States, such as Bishop, Red Rocks and Hueco, receive high recognition, acclaim and traffic for their amazing rock quality, density and movement. After my trip to the South East, I've come to realize that all of these spots lack one thing—a 15-minute drive to America's finest buttermilk biscuits. Chattanooga is a small city comfortably situated a short distance from three major bouldering spots and numerous sport/trad crags. The little riverside city is slowly becoming the southern outdoor hub because of its awesome atmosphere, excellent eats and easy access to mountains, trails and rivers.
The Chattanooga area offers exceptional climbing for all levels but it is a true bouldering mecca for the v5-v8 climber as a large portion of the classics fall within this range. Each of the three major bouldering spots, Stone Fort/Little Rock City, Rock Town and Horse Pens 40, each have their own character. The climbs boast a fun mix of slopers, pockets, pinches and awesome composite iron rails. You're sure to find something that suits your fancy.
We arrived in the southern playground and immediately started planning out our climbing days. On our first day out, I was torn between my desire to take pictures and my psych to climb. The scenery, lighting and calming atmosphere quickly engulfed me. The boulders are set in forests, whose large Oak, Maple and Birch branches cast beautiful shadows on the rocks. It was a welcome challenge to get the heavy shadows to enhance the subject matter. Shooting with such strong contrasts was a wonderful new experience.
Climbing was a different matter as I quickly felt at home among the gritty sandstone boulders. The style and movement of the climbs was wonderful. However, many of the climbs came with the highly coveted Type 2 fun mantel ending, keeping the beach whale struggle-fest alive and well in the south. Soap On A Rope and Millipede will always hold a special place in my heart.
As we planned our days, we quickly realized that the one pitfall of the area is the rain. It definitely put a real damper on the psych more than once. The rain plays a major role during the climbing season as you may only get a few clear days over the course of a two week trip. That being said, if you haven't yet touched southern sandstone, you have some booking to do. Just make sure to check the weather first.
A dabbler in all, a connoisseur of none.