Best of the Outdoors 2008: Climbing

New River Gorge

The New River Gorge has more than 2,000 developed routes and more are being sent every year. The gorge is famous for hard, heavily featured sandstone and routes with killer views.

“I moved all over the U.S. checking out different climbing areas, but I kept coming back to the New. What makes it unique is the diversity. The Red has good sport climbing, North Carolina has good trad climbing, but the New has it all. It’s the best diversity of climbing in the country. On any given crag inside the gorge, you’ll have great sport and trad climbs, crack, corners. And the difficulty is just as varied, from 5.7 to 5.14.”

—Mike Williams, guide at New River Mountain Guides

2. Red River Gorge, Ky.
3. Tennessee Wall, Tenn.
4. Linville Gorge, N.C.
5. Looking Glass, N.C.
6. Tallulah Gorge, Ga.
7. Sunset Rock, Tenn.
8. Seneca Rocks, W.Va.
9. Potomac River Gorge, D.C./Md.
10. Whitesides Mountain, N.C.

Southeastern Climbers Coalition

The Southeastern Climbers Coalition fights for climber’s rights in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, securing access to some of the Southeast’s most cherished crags.

“Whenever possible, we purchase climbing spots across the region, but the other side of the equation is making sure we take care of the climbing areas that we do not own—on both private and public lands. To ensure access, climbers have to continue to be good stewards of the land. One of our greatest achievements is energizing climbers to preserve their local crags. Seeing people step up to keep their crags clean and open has been really powerful.”

—Paul Morley, climber and board member of Southeastern Climbers Coalition

Rick Weber
Muir Valley Nature Preserve, Ky.

Muir Valley Nature Preserve is a privately owned tract of land within the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. Lifelong climber Rick Weber and his wife opened their property specifically to climbers, leading the way for a new realm of private stewardship.

What made you decide to open a climbing preserve?
We bought it in 2003 with the specific purpose of opening it up as a nature preserve and climbing area. We’re at that point in our lives where we’ve been successful and want to start giving something back.

How many climbers visit Muir Valley?
It’s growing fast. We got 10,600 visitors last year—almost one-third of all climbers in the Red River Gorge. People come from all over the world, making it the most popular private preserve in the East.

You’re retired now—do you still climb?
I try to get out a couple of days a week. I’m also a certified guide, so I do some instruction and guiding as well as climbing for fun. It’s a great way to spend our retirement. But it’s a lot of work too. I don’t think some climbers understand that [Muir Valley] is privately owned. They think it’s state owned or something. But I know they appreciate it as a good place to climb.

Rocktown, Ga.
Sitting atop Pigeon Mountain, halfway between Chattanooga and Atlanta, Rocktown is full of house-sized sandstone boulders, some of which top out at 40 feet high. Climbs range from sweet beginner’s routes to classic advanced problems.

“Rocktown has an underground reputation that’s spreading fast. The variety is incredible. It’s got great problems for everyone from novices to sick climbers. The Orb section alone has everything from 5.0 up to 5.8, and it’s all incredibly classic stuff.

—Trey Johanson-Smith, owner of Adrenaline Climbing Gym in Sewanee, Ga.

2. Grandmother Boulders, N.C.
3. Horse Pens, Ala.
4. Rumbling Bald, N.C.
5. Little Rock City, Tenn.
6. Beauty Mountain, W.Va.
7. Sandrock, Ala.
8. Coopers Rock State Forest, W.Va.
9. Blowing Rock Boulders, N.C.
10. Little River Canyon, Ala.

Triple Crown
Bouldering Series

The series combines three of the most popular bouldering competitions in the Southeast—Hound Ears, Stone Fort, Horse Pens 40—into a single series that attracts the strongest climbers in the country.

“The original idea was to raise money for climbing access. We didn’t think it would be this big. We have to cap Hound Ears and Stone Fort, but Horse Pens is open, so this year we’ll have over 750 people at that event. To date, we’ve raised $50,000 for access issues. Some people are into it purely for the competition, but the majority of climbers come because it’s a festival. It’s the one time of year when they get to engross themselves in the climbing community.”

—Chad Wylke, co-founder of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

2. New River Rendezvous, W.Va.
3. Red River Reunion, Ky.
4. Sand Rock Hoe Down Bouldering Comp, Ala.
5. Boulderween, Ala.
6. Boat Rock Boulder Competition, Ga.
7. Sloperfest, Ala.
8. Rocktoberfest, Ky.
9. Fall Flash Fest, N.C.
10. Escalade Power Series, Ga.

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