So there I was – all 50-plus years of me, 55 feet up from the platform floor of the outdoor climbing wall at High Point Climbing & Fitness, my right leg trembling in exhaustion, holding on for dear life, several fingers of one hand secure but fatigued in a pocket-style hand hold above me, the other hand barely managing to get a grip on a ridiculously small "crimp," contemplating the final move, the most important one, the one that lifts me up high enough to ring the bell at the very top of the wall to signal a successful, complete climb while hopefully not making me lose my grip in the process. I breathed out, in again deeply, pushed off with my aching, shaky leg, while pulling up on the pocket hand hold, letting go of the crimp, and grabbing the short bell cord – all in one beautifully orchestrated smooth move I wasn't at all sure my exhausted body could pull off. And I didn't lose my footing or my grip! Tired as I was, I rang the CLANG out of that bell with a huge grin on my face.
Then I remembered I still had to make my way back down. Whoo, boy!
But make my way down, I did. It was while doing so that it occurred to me that I had to have been something like 100 feet up from the actual street, which is well below the raised High Point platform. Wow! I had been safe the whole time of course, securely strapped up to an auto-belay system that would have controlled my descent should I have lost my grip. That fact, thankfully, lessened neither the challenge nor the thrill.
Chattanooga is a dream for rock climbers, whether of walls inside or outside, or of natural rock boulders and mountainsides. Blessed with a stretch of the Appalachian Mountain Range and the Cumberland Plateau for the real thing; a truly impressive indoor climbing facility with an outside wall; another prominent indoor bouldering and rock climbing venue; and a very cool lodging designed with rock climbers and other outdoor adventurists in mind, Chatt is the place in the South to get set up for rocking a rock-climbing getaway. It was named "Best Town Ever" by Outside magazine, if that tells you anything. Best. Town. Ever.
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Published by Atlanta Journal-Constitution on August 2, 2016: Written by T. Wayne Waters