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Max Your Days Chattanooga Gym to Crag

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This summer, The North Face and Rock/Creek challenge you to #MaxYourDays. We polled our staff and friends and came up with a few amazing itineraries to inspire you to get the most out of these long summer days. In this second edition, we go from finding your zen with morning yoga, to bouldering at a world-renowned boulder field, to deep water soloing downtown, and then catching a sunset from one of Chattanooga’s most iconic crags before ending the day with a refreshing IPA and a hearty bowl of ramen.

In a word (well, a hyphenated word), the climbing scene in Chattanooga is simply ‘world-class.’ Home to hard, high quality sandstone and an incredible mix of climbing styles, it’s no surprise the city has earned so many plaudits in recent years for being a climbing mecca. From the highly concentrated boulder field at Stone Fort, to the famous trad crags at Sunset Rock, to the sport climbing at Leda, there’s no shortage of routes for Scenic City climbers to choose from. In fact, it’s the ‘choosing’ process that can sometimes be the most difficult part of all. Luckily, the summer days are long, and the rock—while somewhat frictionless due to the humidity—is abundant. Here’s how to spend a long, exhausting, exhilarating day of climbing in the gym and at the crag in Chattanooga.

6:00am:

If it’s a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (the days of the week when they gym opens at 6:00am), wake up early and head straight to High Point Climbing Gym. Snag a day pass for $16, and then slide on into one of the yoga sessions that typically begin at 6:15am. This will be the perfect wake-up call for your mind and your muscles, allowing you stretch, warm up, and get ready for what will be a big day of climbing. Once you’re done finding your zen, stop by the Chattz coffee shop next door for a quick dose of caffeine and maybe a pastry or bagel, and then hop in the car to head to Stone Fort.

8:00am:

Located just thirty minutes from the High Point gym, Stone Fort, or Little Rock City as it’s sometimes referred to, is a well-known boulder field that’s long been considered one of the best bouldering destinations in the Southeast. Situated on top of Mowbray Mountain next to the Montlake Golf Course, Stone Fort is home to a densely concentrated sandstone boulder field and a dynamic variety of roughly 700 documented problems. As such, it’s no surprise that it’s been a venue for one of the legs of the highly respected Triple Crown Bouldering Series for over a decade.

And if you hit LRC early enough in the day—even in the summer—before the sun gets too high and too hot, you’ll likely be able to scale some pretty challenging problems. Not to mention, there are also a number of juggy routes that can be done even without the kind of friction you can expect to find during the fall.

That said, once the humidity starts to rise and the Cumberland sandstone starts to become a little too slippery, it’s time to head back into town for some fuel. (If you’re feeling adventurous, consider stopping off at the North Chick Blue Hole on your way down Mowbray for a nice summertime dip.)

North Chick Blue Hole. Roger Ling
North Chick Blue Hole.
Roger Ling

11:00am:

Once you’re back in town, stop at the Whole Foods at the 2 North Shore complex to get an early lunch and some hydration. And pop into Rock/Creek next door if you need any last minute supplies like tape, chalk, or a few stickers.

12:00pm:

Climbing in the Tennessee River.
Climbing in the Tennessee River.

At high noon, with the Southeastern summer sun blazing, it’s time to head to the water. Rent a SUP from L2 Outside right across Market Street Bridge, and then take to the Tennessee River for a midday paddle. Circumnavigate McClellan Island, explore beneath the bridges, and then park your vessels below the limestone bluffs below the Hunter Art Museum to enjoy some deep water soloing right the heart of downtown Chattanooga. There are a couple of great vertical lines that you can start from your board, or you can try the burly traverse of the bluff that some say is as hard as 5.13. Be sure to tie up your board to the wall, or have a friend watch it, as the river current can be pretty strong!

Tennessee River Climbing.
Tennessee River Climbing.

2:00pm:

Once you’re done climbing and cliff jumping, head back to High Point to put that day pass to more use. If you want to do some more bouldering, that’s an option. So too is a spin class. But what you should really consider doing is scaling the outer wall of the Block. This will give you a unique view of downtown and an unparalleled experience that you can’t find in other cities. There are a few sport and top rope routes that are sure to pump you out, which are frequently set by the world-class setters at High Point.

5:00pm:

You’re tired. Your arms are pumped. You can barely even think about gripping your steering wheel. But there’s still one more climb you need to knock off your tick list: An evening trip to Lookout Mountain’s iconic Sunset Rock. This place is considered by many to be the Crown Jewel of Southeastern sandstone climbing as well as the cradle of the Chattanooga climbing scene. With easy access, exquisite rock, and a diverse range of routes, it’s a fantastic cliff line for climbers of all skill levels. And if you climb here into the evening, it’s easy to understand how it got its name. Sunsets here are worth writing home about.

8:00pm:

After a long, hard day of getting after it, there’s nothing better than a post-adventure trip to the Flying Squirrel Bar. This local favorite—for climbers and foodies alike—has a huge list of beers on tap and a robust menu full of all sorts of hearty foods like Pork Belly Ramen, Chicken Fried Rice, and the best garlic and spicy fries you’ll ever have.

10:00pm:

Once you’ve had your fill, stumble next door to the Crash Pad Hostel, a climber-specific hostel owned and operated by the same good people who run the Flying Squirrel. It’s one of the slickest boutique hostels in the country, and it’s affordable too, with $35 bunk rooms and $85 private bedrooms. Collapse in your bed with the knowledge that it was a day well-lived.

Originally written by RootsRated for Rock/Creek.

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler