Scaling a boulder is a bit like putting together a puzzle. If I grab that groove up there with my right hand, where will my left hand go? I can place my left foot on that crag, but then I’ll have to find a spot for my right foot. Once I’ve gotten resituated, I’ll take a look at the puzzle again, figuring out my next move as I jigsaw my way up.
Climbers call these bouldering routes “problems.” With the right skills, nearly every problem can be solved. But perhaps not the one I’m attempting, at least not with my skills. I’m about halfway up a twenty-foot boulder striped with natural creases that make it easier to climb, at least in theory. Here in Little Rock City, a legendary boulder field outside Chattanooga, climbers routinely tackle rocks that are much smoother, taller, and steeper. But even if my boulder of choice is a totally navigable runt, I’m hanging on to the side of it with shaking legs and no clue how I’m going to get up or down.
I’ve never climbed a boulder before. Shoot, it’s been three decades since I’ve climbed a tree. But I’m in the company of experts who have offered to teach me, a spirited group eager to show off some of the outdoor activities Chattanooga offers. Mountain biking at Stringers Ridge is next, and I’ll also kayak and hike before I return home to Atlanta. If the winds remain calm, I’ll hang glide as well—which, at this moment, sounds relaxing compared with scaling a boulder without a rope.
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Published by Atlanta Magazine on March 28, 2017: Written by Allison Entrekin