Rock Climbing

What Georgia lacks in quantity of rock-climbing opportunities, it more than makes up for in quality, with many areas that are still being explored. Georgia has some excellent sites for traditional rock climbing and offers some particularly challenging overhangs. The state also offers many opportunities for bouldering, which is similar to traditional rock climbing—climbers scale large boulders instead of cliffs, and therefore the climb is much shorter and usually doesn't require the use of safety ropes. Georgia's rock-climbing locations are typically a soft sandstone. As one moves south, more granite is found. The best-known areas are Rock Town, Lost Wall, Mount Yonah, Tallulah Gorge, Curahee, Boat Rock, and Zahnd.
Rock Town and Lost Wall are both on Pigeon Mountain, in the northwestern corner of the state near LaFayette in Walker County. Located on the southernmost edge of the Appalachian Plateau, these areas are two of the most popular for climbing. Rock Town provides the most challenging bouldering in the state. Located on top of the flat mountain, it consists of several acres of large sandstone boulders, averaging thirty to forty feet in height. Because the rock offers many hand- and footholds, it is an excellent spot for beginners.
Lost Wall is a band of exposed cliffs about halfway up the mountain. It is perhaps the most popular site in the state for traditional rock climbing, offering a variety of features. Included in the landscape are pinnacles (lofty, often spirelike peaks) and roofs or overhangs (protruding rock walls or boulders that force the climber to move at an extreme ninety-degree angle). Pockets (indented climbing features that require insertion of appendages), jugs (large, easy-to-hold features), and slopers (downward-sloping holds) are also present at this site. Most of these cliffs are about sixty feet high, with some walls as high as eighty feet. The entire face offers good climbing at low to moderate grades, with Steggo 5.6 being a popular route.
Mount Yonah in White County is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest of northeast Georgia, between Helen and Cleveland. The bald granite cliffs on the southwest side of the mountain offer good climbs for beginners: the slope is gentle to the top, and there is a fair bit of friction climbing. There are also sections of juggy face (rock wall with many jugs) as well as a few cracks. Some two-pitch climbs (which require two rope lengths between relay stations) ascend to the top, 200 feet above the mountain's base. The area was bolted years ago by the U.S. Army Rangers, who occasionally train on the mountain. Cables are placed across portions of the cliffs to make setting top rope anchors convenient.
Tallulah Gorge State Park is in northeast Georgia, just south of Clayton in Rabun County. The climber trail leaves from behind the visitors' center, crosses a footpath, and continues steeply downhill to an exposed and tricky chimney/down climb. The most popular climbing area is Main Wall, on the north rim of the gorge. Walls here are tall and steep, and it is perhaps the most difficult climb in the state.
Curahee Mountain, near Toccoa in Stephens County, offers good opportunities for top roping (in which the rope anchors are preset at the top of the climb) and exposed-lead climbing (starting with the rope on the ground and clipping into protection points on the way up).
Boat Rock is a small field of granite boulders located just south of Atlanta in Fulton County. Boat Rock presents many opportunities for slab and balance climbing, as well as a few good overhangs. It is threatened by urban sprawl, and its fate as a rock-climbing destination is in question. It is located on private land, and access has been restricted; however, the organization Access Fund recently approved a grant to purchase a 7.7-acre tract of Boat Rock.
Zahnd is also a boulder field, located in Walker County in northwest Georgia, near LaFayette. It is a fairly small area but is known for its interesting formations and challenging climbs, particularly the Phantom Boulder area.
Other Georgia rock-climbing destinations include Allenbrook, Little Kennesaw Mountain, Long Island, Morgan Falls, Palisades, and the Zipper, all in the metro Atlanta area; Blood Mountain Boulders in Suches; and Shaking Rock Park in Lexington.
The popularity of indoor rock climbing is on the rise. Atlanta boasts several rock-climbing gyms, and the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology also have indoor climbing walls, as do several YMCA's. All of these sites offer classes in rock climbing, and many also host climbing competitions.
Several organizations in the state and in the Southeast— Access Fund, the Southeastern Climbers' Coalition, and the Atlanta Climbing Club—keep climbers aware of current issues, work to improve access to climbing areas, and maintain climbing areas and the trails that lead to them. GA-Adventures offers rock-climbing outings led by experienced climbers. Climb Georgia is also a good source of information.
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Further Reading
Chris Watford, The Dixie Cragger's Atlas: A Climbing Guide to Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia (Roswell, Ga.: Market Place Press, 1999).
Cite This Article
Dixon, Al. "Rock Climbing." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 29 August 2013. Web. 22 November 2014.
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