Dubbed “America’s New Climbing Capital” in 2016 by Climbing Magazine, Eastern Tennessee is a home to some of the best rock climbing in the nation.

The East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, a non-profit organization from Knoxville, is working with volunteers from across the Southeast to maintain that reputation. Within five years, the organization plans to replace all 4,000 bolts on the East Tennessee Crag of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. During this first stage of the effort, a total of 504 man hours from 63 volunteers was needed to replace over 400 bolts across 40 routes.

Stretching along the Cumberland Plateau, “The Obed” is part of the National Parks Service. With over 350 sport (permanently-bolted) routes, climbers come from around the world to challenge the crag. The area is home to some 500-foot-deep gorges, offering visitors unspoiled, rugged terrain and exceptional climbing opportunities. The crag receives a lot of assistance from local climbers who volunteer to help educate visitors on the park rules and good climbing ethics.

The Cumberland Plateau is a 300-mile ridge that runs from Kentucky, across Tennessee, and into Northern Alabama. Along the plateau lies a wide variety of high-quality sandstone rock climbing opportunities including tiered roofs, crack systems, ledges, and more.

You can follow the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition on Facebook to learn more about volunteer opportunities or to stay up to date with their latest efforts on maintaining the climbing scene in their area.

For their work in the Obed, the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition will be awarded one of 6 Sharp End Awards by the Access Fund at their annual summit meeting in New York City this September.

Photos by Mark Large and Kevin Flint


Justin Forrest is an outdoor writer, fly fishing addict, and co-founder of Narrative North—based in Asheville, N.C. He posts pictures of cats and fishing on Instagram sometimes.