South East

South East

Posted on 10. Jan, 2014 by in News

School ended this semester with a relative whimper, which lead to one final week of work and then a much needed break. Mostly over the holidays I was psyched to spend time at home, in Michigan, with my parents. I feel very fortunate to have such supportive and loving people in my life and I cherish the time I spend with them. I did give myself 5 days to head south and sample some of that perfect sandstone in and around Chattanooga. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia are some of my favorite places to go bouldering and I was thrilled to be returning. The dark woods, deep piles of leaves and cozy hollows combined with exquisite sandstone make a top notch bouldering experience. I hadn’t been in 6 years, and was just anxious to get out and climb. The rock in the South East USA is the best sandstone I have seen in America. The shapes, texture, and color are radical. I was psyched to be back.



Interested in maximizing my time, I thought it best to climb everyday and explore as much as possible. I am convinced that relatively little effort has been made to hike and find what’s really out there, and what I saw only confirmed my suspicions.

Day 1: The first day was fairly quiet and I felt like a sloth. There are several problems at LRC on my lifetime list and so it was an obvious choice. I stumbled up a few warmups, forgetting how incredible the rock actually is and how difficult it can feel when your sense for sandstone has vanished. I was also hindered with a few extra pounds from holiday food, but the Emerson’s make some incredible cookies, so I wasn’t complaining. The first harder problem I tried was Space V8. Space is an immaculate and rounded slab arete, as good if not better than many things I saw in Font. It is tricky, demanding and a little high. I tried for a while but got tired of hitting the ground after falling near the top on several occasions. Feeling motivated to climb, we walked back to the Back 9 section of LRC. This sector holds some of the finest sandstone in the world. Classics like Deception V7, The Shield V11, and Barndoor 2000 V12 are some of the best problems in America. Barndoor was at the top of my list, and I started here because I think this is a better problem than The Shield, although I would like to climb both. Barndoor was established by Jimmy Webb, and repeated only by Tyler Landman. It is subtle, pure, powerful and technical. A true 4 star problem. It was a bit harder than I expected, but I was heavy and tired from the previous days drive. IMG_6545 Attempting Barndoor 2000.

Day 2: The second day we went back to LRC and it was a day cut short by rain. I went back to Space, this time with Brits David Mason and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, who I stayed with and Kevin Cuckovich in the spaceship house. David and Mina both made quick work of the line but I still struggled. I tried Barndoor again before the rains came.

Day 3: Looking for dry rock after the rain, I headed south on I-59, all the while passing outcrops of rock beckoning me to pull over. I pressed on with minimal time to my first objective, the Hospital Boulders. The Hospital Boulders are a fabulous success story of the South East Climbers Coalition. For years climbers snuck in and got kicked out of this hidden little collection, but in 2012 the SECC finally closed on the property and it is now open for all. It was wet on my visit but I did see a number of nice problems and at least one project that looked to be at least 8B. The rock at the Hospital Boulders is generally not as good as HP40, but that’s a high standard. Click here for more info about the story of how The Hospital Boulders came to have access and what’s new there now.

IMG_6553 Perfect sandstone at the Hospital Boulders

IMG_6549 8B project on excellent rock

Moving on farther South I drove to HP40. It was like seeing an old friend, and I was certainly excited driving up the mountain. Things were a bit wet, but we managed to dry up Sting Ray V9, a difficult mantel. I tried a lot, conditions were lackluster, and I failed. I seem to always enjoy my time outside and particularly in the south but frustration set in. We finished the day by climbing the short but interesting Great White V7 in the dark.

Day 4: I was hungry to really go for a rough, bushwhacking, difficult and longer hike so I picked a valley on public land and set off. A number of large boulders appeared across a river that I couldn’t access due to high waters. I was tempted to head back down and buy an inflatable boat from Walmart and paddle across but this seemed like a waster of time so I just continued up the quiet and trailess valley. Of course it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a number of quality boulders. It was motivating and surprising that just a mile or so from the parking lot such amazing projects just sit.

IMG_6539 Amazing 8B/8B+ project

IMG_6593 Several hard lines will come out this fabulous overhang

Hard not to think what else is out there, and surprising there was no evidence of climbers. Satisfied by what I found I headed back to LRC to meet up with the Brits. I repeated The White Face V10 in a couple tries and it felt nice to get to the top of something, even though I had climbed it 6 years ago. It’s nice to have motivated people to climb with, and at the end of the day David and Mina were psyched to check out Cumberland/Pep Boys an older area I hadn’t visited. There were some nice problems and I would probably plan a visit if I ever return.


Day 5: My last day was probably my favorite day, although I didn’t climb anything. The crew went to Dayton to try a line I found 6 years ago on one of my recon hikes. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long and while so much has changed since then, it somehow felt the same. Comforting to know those rocks are still there, and that I still felt passionately about them. It was chilly in the trees but I felt warm and aware, and the woods were silent save the river. It took a while, but I found a place to cross and get back into a side valley. I found a number of good projects.

IMG_6622 Perhaps this had previously been cleaned?

IMG_6627 Big roof, no sign of cleaning

IMG_6628 Big highball, nice rock, hard

Unfortunately I didn’t make it back as far as I would have had we not had plans to climb. I remember thinking the aforementioned project I had found 6 years ago was amazing. I had only time to rap and clean it, and I told a new friend named and young climber named Jimmy Webb to go try it. Western Gold V11 was born and it has become a classic sandstone boulder.
IMG_6638 Western Gold photo by David Mason

I was very happy to have some goes at this stunning line. So happy that although I climbed through the crux twice and failed to top it out, I left feeling satisfied and I look forward to returning. On the way back to Chatty, I found another new trail head and ran down the path hoping to see something new. I didn’t get very far when boulders started to appear and I got excited about finding another classic. Darkness fell quickly in the short winter days and I left empty-handed. I really cherish my time spent bouldering in these lovely places and I am already thinking about trying to return next year. It was a great, albeit short, trip and only confirms in my mind that this is some of the best bouldering in the States! W3rd.


7 Responses to “South East”

  1. Wes Walker

    10. Jan, 2014

    YES!!!! So motivating dude!!!!

  2. scott

    11. Jan, 2014

    Day 4 looks awesome! Alabama? Dayton finds on the main creek or the one that comes in after you pass the graffiti wall?

  3. Name (required)

    12. Jan, 2014

    Man you never cease to amaze me at how much you find and establish. If you ever make a trip back to the south you should consider coming to Boone, Nc. It’d be worth you while for sure. Happy climbing!

  4. Sean SPring

    14. Jan, 2014

    Jesus…every time i see pictures of the south it makes me want to go just that much more…

  5. Cristina

    08. Feb, 2014

    We must have been in LRC at the same time! It was my first trip down to Chattanooga these past holidays and it was absolutely amazing! I agree, the sandstone is incredible. I’ve always been in love with HP40 but LRC is at the top of my list now. I need to get back soon, I’ve got some unfinished business…

  6. Sherod

    10. Feb, 2014


  7. Joe McLoughlin

    15. Apr, 2014

    That is some awesome looking rock!

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