12/16/2019

22 New Boulders Opened at Chattanooga Bouldering Park

We’re psyched to announce that twenty-two new boulders have been opened at Old Wauhatchie Pike in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the area is now 100% open and equipped with trails and infrastructure to support sustainable climbing for years to come. 

Old Wauhatchie Pike in Chattanooga, TN, ancestral lands of Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East). | Photo Shannon Millsaps

A portion of this urban bouldering park was opened in late 2017, with just five boulders ready for public access as Access Fund, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) worked to establish access trails and sustainable landing areas throughout the rest of the park. 

The boulders at Old Wauhatchie are the closest climbing to downtown Chattanooga, just a few minutes from the city center and at the southern end of the city’s walkable and bikeable Riverwalk greenway system. Access Fund discovered the area’s potential for climbing in 2015 and partnered with the landowner, Lookout Mountain Conservancy (LMC), to establish official access and build out trails and infrastructure to make the bouldering area sustainable for climbing. 

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team was able to design and execute a comprehensive stewardship plan for the area, including trails, landing areas, and signage. The Conservation Team broke ground in 2016 and returned for nine visits over four years, working alongside dedicated volunteers from LMC’s Howard School Intern program and Southeastern Climbers Coalition to prepare the new bouldering area for climbing. 

Howard School Interns hard at work building reinforced staging areas under the boulders

“We had a unique opportunity to build a comprehensive and sustainable bouldering infrastructure—before climbers started using the area en masse,” said Access Fund Stewardship Director, Ty Tyler. “Professionally hardened landing areas under the boulders will ensure sustainability and a level surface for bouldering pads. And the stonework reflects the aesthetic of a natural urban park.” 

In between Conservation Team visits, LMC’s Howard School Interns were instrumental in moving the stewardship plan forward. After working alongside the Conservation Team, they had a template for how to approach and improve the area’s remaining boulders. They fanned out and expanded their efforts to more boulders in the area, even unearthing new boulders in the process. In fact, their work uncovered two of the area’s largest boulders, The Mountain and Siri, after removing invasive vines.  

“Our Howard School Interns learned from the best, and as a result they have given the community a safe and beautiful climbing venue," says Robyn Carlton of Lookout Mountain Conservancy. “The lessons learned from building this bouldering park have been immeasurable. The interns believe that because we stand together for something greater, GREAT things happen.”

Now fully opened, Old Wauhatchie boasts more than two dozen sandstone boulders, with over 100 problems at all grades. The boulders offer an enormous variety of styles and terrain, including technical slabs with sloping topouts, steep and powerful overhangs, adventurous highballs, and loads of beginner-friendly problems for new climbers to test skills and gear. More advanced climbers won’t be disappointed either, as there are a number of test-pieces and even a few undone double-digit projects. 

Check out the guide to the area and be sure to visit LMC’s website to sign a waiver before visiting. 

Access Fund, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Southeastern Climbers Coalition celebrated the grand opening of the area earlier this month at the inaugural Wauhatchie BoulderFest, presented by High Point Climbing and Fitness. The family-friendly event attracted more than a hundred climbers from around the region and included music, a food truck, and a friendly bouldering competition. Climbers of all ages and backgrounds participated. 

Community members gather for Wauhatchie BoulderFest

The Wauhatchie Boulders were one of three climbing areas targeted for Access Fund’s Chattanooga Climbing Conservation Initiative, which also includes Denny Cove and Foster Falls. This long-term initiative was supported by the Lyndhurst Foundation, and enabled 3-4 years of focused Conservation Team work.