Climbing AlAbAmA by bestt571


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									rObErt FarlEY

                22   OutdOOr alabama february 2008
 Alabama is well known for world class fishing and hunting. What many may not
     know, however, is about the state’s fantastic rock climbing opportunities.
Visitors from around the country – and even the world – visit the state every year
   to climb Alabama. Rock climbing is truly one of Alabama’s best-kept secrets.

                                             by Dr. eric beck
                                                                                                     rObErt FarlEY

                                                                OutdOOr alabama february 2008   23
Starting at Fort Payne in the northeast corner of the state,
climbing venues extend all the way to Birmingham. This
covers a large portion of the state. Fortunately, this line
of climbing opportunities conveniently follows Interstate
59. This means that you can start a climbing road trip at
little River Canyon in Fort Payne and finish at Moss Rock
Preserve in Hoover, just south of Birmingham, with many
great stops along the way. So rack up, get in the car, and
let’s go climb Alabama!

                        Little River               on the north end of the canyon. Check
                                                   out the Southeastern Rock Climbing
                        Canyon                     Coalition’s recommendations on access
                             The first stop        to the climb at
                          on our road trip is      modules.php?name=Content&pa=sho

                                                                                                rObErt FarlEY
                          beautiful Little River   wpage&pid=27.
                          Canyon. To get to
                          the canyon from
                          Birmingham, follow       Sand Rock
                          I-59 north 92.4          (Cherokee Rock Village)                                      has been inhabited by Native Americans,
                          miles. Take exit 218         To get to Sand Rock head back to I-59.
                          for AL-35 toward                                                                      outlaws, and most recently the Schultz
                                                   Go south on I-59 to exit 205 at Collinsville                 family. Mike Schultz, proprietor and histo-
                          Rainsville/Fort Payne    about 15 miles. Exit onto Hwy. 11 south to
                          0.3 miles. Turn right                                                                 rian for the site, was kind enough to give
                                                   Hwy. 68. Go east on Hwy. 68 for 7 miles to                   me an extensive tour of the area. The Horse
           barbara WOOd   at AL-35/Glenn           County Road 36 for Cherokee Rock Village.
                          Blvd SW 1.1 miles.                                                                    Pens boasts unique rock formations, rare
                                                   Go 1.4 miles and turn left at the sign for                   plant species and climbers.
Turn left at AL-35/Gault Ave S/US-11/              Cherokee Rock Village Rock. Follow this up
Veterans Memorial Pkwy. and go 0.6 miles.                                                                           No rack, no rope–no problem here!
                                                   the mountain and stop when the road runs                     Technical climbing is not allowed; only
Turn right at 3rd St SE and travel 0.4 miles.      out. You will see the climbers.
Continue on Adamsburg Ave. for 0.2 miles.                                                                       bouldering is permitted. The bouldering is
                                                       Climbing at Sand Rock is almost all                      so extraordinary that it attracts world class
Take a slight right at CR-78/Mountain Rd.
                                                   bolted sport routes. The rock is sandstone                   climbers and competitions. On my recent
SE. Continue to follow County Road 78
                                                   as is most climbing in Alabama. The sand                     trip to the Horse Pens, Kate Reese, winner
for another 5.4 miles. Turn right at County
                                                   stone is fairly firm, but for the rare trad                  of the Triple Crown Boldering Series,
Road 255.
    Little River is the deepest canyon east        climbers here check it out first. The consis-                strolled by. James Sherman, who pioneered
of the Mississippi River. Even if you don’t        tency varies and can be soft in places. For                  the V (“Sherman the Vermin”) rating
climb, you’ll enjoy Little River Canyon for        the sport, just bring harness, rope, stick                   system for bouldering was also on site.
its scenic beauty. In addition to climbing,        clips and quick draws and you will be                            Camping is available for a minimal
the Little River Canyon features intense           set. There is abundant free, but primitive,                  fee. Mike’s wife dishes up classic southern
white water during the rainy seasons so it is      camping around the site. Get there early to                  cooking (think fried green tomatoes) at
a favorite of kayakers and paddlers.               stake out your place, as this is a popular site.             reasonable prices in their restaurant. If you
    On my recent trip to the canyon, there         This is a busy spot but great for beginner to                do climb, either bring a crash pad or rent
were plenty of leaf peekers and visitors but       intermediate climbers.                                       one at their on site pro-shop. You cannot
no climbers. A stop at the local climbing                                                                       climb without one. Mike is very passionate
shop helped to explain why. I learned that         Horse Pens Forty                                             about the history and preservation of this
                                                                                                                wonderful place. He requests that people
climbing in the canyon often requires access          To get to Horse Pens Forty, head back
through private land, but more impor-              to I-59 at Collinsville and go south. Take                   treat the rock, flora and fauna with respect.
tantly, the climbing routes in the canyon          exit 166 forty-three miles south. Turn north                 In other words, leave things just like you
are extremely difficult (at least for me).         onto U.S. 231. Travel 3 miles to a Horse                     found them.
This means if you are not up to grade 5.11         Pens 40 sign. Turn right onto County Road
climbing or above (and if you don’t know           35. Go about one mile to another Horse                       Palisades Park
what that means—trust me, you’re not up            Pens 40 sign. Turn right onto County Road                       Palisades Park is just around the corner
to it) you may want to pass this up for the        42. Follow this to the top of the mountain.                  form Horse Pens Forty. Go back to Hwy.
next stop on our trip, Sand Rock. Not to           A split rail fence marks the entrance.                       231 and go north to Oneonta about 16
worry; many of the climbers I ran in to               Horse Pens Forty refers to 40 acres of                    miles. Continue through Oneonta on High-
further down the road had great things to          rock formations that were once used as                       way 231 north about one mile. Follow the
say about Jamestown, a newly opened route          horse pens. This is a fascinating area that                  signs to the park.

24   OutdOOr alabama february 2008
    In contrast to Sand Rock there are no            Turn right after ½ mile on Al Seier Rd. Go          climbing lingo
bolted routes here nor are any allowed.              another 1.5 miles and park on the left at the        rock climbing: Ascending rock forma-
There are many fantastic single pitch trad           baseball field. Head to the trail across the         tions, often using climbing shoes and
routes available. On my visit to Palisades all       road and follow it.
                                                        This is another great bouldering site, so         a chalk bag. Equipment such as ropes,
the climbers were top roping, a technique in
which the rope runs from the belayer at the          leave your rack in the car. There are plenty         bolts, nuts, hexes and camming devices
foot of the route through one or more cara-          of routes here.                                      are normally employed, either as a safe-
biners connected to an anchor at the top                                                                  guard or for artificial aid.
of the route and back down to the climber.           Summary                                              bouldering: Ascending boulders or
The crowds were sparse compared to Sand                 If you’re not experienced, climbing
Rock and things were more laid back. Beau-           instruction is available in Alabama. To find         small outcrops, often with climbing
tiful views are available from the park with         locations, search for climbing instruction           shoes and a chalk bag or bucket. Usually,
minimal approach time to the crags.                  at You can also                 instead of using a safety rope from
    The rock face is south so in sunny               contact the Southeastern Climbers Coali-             above, injury is avoided using a crash
Alabama you can climb here year round.               tion at for informa-              pad (a combination of high and low
This is a beautiful spot. You must get a day         tion regarding climbing and instruction in
permit from the park manager to climb                                                                     density foam, within a heavy duty fabric
                                                     your area.
at Palisades. No bolting or camping are                                                                   structure, often transported on the back)
                                                        Even if you may have climbing experi-
allowed. There have been issues with acci-           ence, we all get rusty. A lack of recent expe-       and a human spotter (to direct a falling
dents in the past and climbing at the site is        rience can lead to possible injury or even           climber on to the pad).
tenuous. Please be respectful of the site and        death. Therefore, if you have any doubt get
climb safe. This is a fantastic place, which         checked out!                                          n Sport (climbing) – Climbing on rock
may not available in the future if people do            Our road trip is over but if climbing is             that has permanent bolts pre-placed
not take care of it.                                 your game, you can play in Alabama. The                 in the rock for safety.
                                                     state’s temperate climate allows climb-
Moss Rocks Preserve                                  ing throughout the year. Whether you like             n Trad (traditional) climbing – Rock
   Want to climb some more? Let’s cruise             bouldering, sport climbing or traditional               that has no bolts and so requires the
down to Moss Rock Preserve, climbing                 climbing, you can find it all in Alabama.
                                                                                                             placement of temporary protection
refuge for the Birmingham urbanite. Go                                                                       (pro) to keep the climber safe.
back south on Hwy. 231 through Oneonta               For More Information
to I-59. Take I-59 south and then take exit             Dr. Eric Beck is a physician who special-          n pro (protection) – Temporary
459 south to Hoover, AL. This is about               izes in physical medicine and rehabilita-               devices such as cams, nuts and
50 miles from the Ashville exit. Continue            tion. If you have questions about climbing,
                                                                                                             slings to secure the climber.
through Hoover and take exit 13 for road             please e-mail him at drbeck@becks-world.
31. Go north and after three traffic lights          net. You can also post a message about
                                                                                                           n rack – The collection of your climb-
turn left on Patton Chapel Rd. South. Go             climbing in Alabama on his blog at www.
1.5 miles and turn left on Chapel Lane.                                            ing gear (pro) needed for the climb.

                                                                                                           n bolts – Permanent fixtures in the

Location Map for                                                                                             rock to clip your protection into.

Climbing areas
                                                                                                         climbing safety
                                                                                  1                       n    Never re-use a carabiner that has
                                                                                                               been dropped. Even though it looks
                                                                                                               good, micro fractures in the carabi-
                                                                                                               ner can lead to disaster in a fall.

                                                                                                          n    Always wear a helmet–you only
                                                                                                               have one brain so take care of it!
                                                                                                          n    If you are new to climbing, get
                                                                                                               with an experienced guide or
                                                                                                               friend before heading out. Inex-
                                                                    1 little River Canyon                      perience can lead to death or
                                                                    2 Sand Rock                                significant injury.
                                                                    3 Horse Pens Forty                    n    Change out your ropes accord-
                                                                    4 Palisades Park                           ing to the manufacturer’s
                                                                    5 moss Rock Preserve                       recommendations.

                                                                                                      OutdOOr alabama february 2008                 25

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