Winter Climbing at the Tennessee Wall

Nathalie Dupre
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Just a short drive heading northwest out of Chattanooga, right along the Tennessee River, sits a fiery orange and magnificent sandstone cliff line called the Tennessee Wall. Possibly more known as T-Wall by climbers, its climbing possibilities were first discovered in 1984 by local Chattanooga climbing legend Rob Robinson, as well as his friends Arno Ilgner and Roger Fleming. The T-Wall is about two miles long and famous for its diverse features including cracks, aretes, dihedrals, and overhanging walls and roofs. Fall, winter, and spring are the best climbing seasons here due to the great amount of sun exposure and favorable temperatures. T-Wall is mostly known for its traditional style of climbing with a few sport routes mixed in, boasting over 600 documented routes that are sure to keep you busy for years to come.

The Who's and How's

The Prentice Cooper State Forest owns and manages this breathtaking area, which includes miles of trails and roads for all kinds of recreational purposes, as well as the unimaginable amount of sandstone at T-Wall. The climber friendly attitude toward recreation here has lead to a steady development of the area, and there is still a lot more to be discovered. As a convenience to climbers, camping is allowed and free of charge near the main parking area when it isn't closed for hunting season. The campsites each have fire rings available for you and your friends to stay warm and cook up a yummy post-climbing feast. You can pick up groceries at any of the local marts at the base of Signal Mountain, but if camp stove cooking isn't your thing, Shuford's BBQ , also at the base of Signal, is a popular recommendation.

Cody Averbeck

The Beta

Parking is limited so be sure to car-pool when possible to save space for fellow climbers. T-Wall is divided into several sections so check one of the guide books for which parking lot to use before you set out. Cibola and Valhalla as well as Serenity walls have painted blazes to show the way on your approach, but expect some scrambling to reach the bottom of the cliff. Other sections have well visible trails and they clearly run from one area to the next along the base of the cliff, taking you from one to the next. Bringing a full rack of cams (or friends) is recommended as well as two ropes for some routes. Hand and foot warmers are handy to have to warm up your extremities while waiting for your turn or while belaying your partner as well as tape for crack climbing and some of the sharper routes. Remember to be mindful of other climbers, other recreational users as well as the environment. Don't leave any trash behind and always keep noise to a minimum to ensure the continued use of one  of the best crags in America. In the words of Rob Robinson " the Tennessee Wall is going to amaze, inspire, and delight you for as much time as you have here - be it days, weeks, or years."

For more information on parking, sections, routes and history of the T-Wall, be sure to pick up the newly released trad guide called ChatTrad or the Tennessee Wall guide book, both authored by Rob Robinson, available at any of the local climbing gyms and Rock/Creek shops.

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