Escape the Crowds at Zahnd: Chattanooga's Hidden Boulder Field

Graham Hodge
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Bouldering season in the southeast is in full swing (though a bit wet at the moment) and Chattanooga is filling to the brim with climbers from both near and far just waiting to put their hands on some high friction sandstone. Lining up to get on your project and bumping pads as you hike at Horse Pens 40 in Alabama or Rocktown in Georgia becomes the norm, as these bouldering areas are undoubtedly crowded through fall, winter, and spring.

However, there are still a few quieter areas that may not be boasting the same quantity as the more frequently visited areas, but surely doesn't lack in quality, and Zahnd is one of them.

Located south of Chattanooga and just a few minutes from Rocktown in a remote area on Lookout Mountain, Zahnd has plenty of sandstone with enough unique features and texture to keep you busy for a few days. The main cluster of boulders are just a few minutes' hike from the newly constructed parking lot.

Adam on Razor's Edge, V6 at Zahnd.
Adam on Razor's Edge, V6 at Zahnd. Sofia Bunger

Once you reach this cluster, you will find the Phantom Boulder along with a few warm up spots. This main area hosts at least a dozen of problems including classics like Harvest Moon (V8) and Razor Edge (V6) and Scream 3 (V5), which are all worth the trip alone if you're a more experienced climber.

(Harvest Moon is basically a two move problem with a squat start moving into a sloping crimp rail, where a lunge for the top is inevitable. Razor Edge starts at an overhang sit and moves up to pockets and crimps, and eventually finishes at a jug up top. And finally, Scream 3 starts by hugging the arête as you heel hook your way up to the left and out to the face, where there are pockets and rails that require more heel hooking as you work your way left onto slopers for a final push to the top.)

For a lower grade but still stellar quality, The Sail (V1) is a proud, thin arête and a must-do. To find this boulder, return to the split at the main trail and follow this trail to the left. There are plenty more boulders here, some climbable, some not. But that's part of what makes Zahnd so great. It requires some adventurous spirit and motivation to explore.

As for the nitty gritty details, Zahnd is on public land but adjacent to private land so please be courteous and do not trespass on this land. Parking is available on the west side of the highway only, and it is free to use. The area does close for hunting at times so check the Georgia Wildlife website for closures before going.

If you are heading back to Chattanooga for the night be sure to stop in at Mojo Burrito while passing through the St. Elmo neighborhood for some post-climbing fresh-mex and Tecate. And if you'd rather have a more formal culinary experience with less of the "stuff-my-face" atmosphere, 1885 Grill is just a block away and offers one of the best outdoor patios in town.

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