By Johnny Molloy
High adventure. You know, doing the kind of thing you want to do, but can’t – like rock climbing. Clinging to the stone face of a mountainside, hanging by the tips of your fingers, muscles tightened, beads of sweat popping from your forehead as you plot your route skyward. Fear and a dry throat. The possibility of injury or worse if you make the wrong move. A moment in life vividly etched in your mind. Then you drift back to your office desk, remembering you have a job, a family and responsibilities too great to endeavor in such a pursuit.
“Rock climbing is a great way to stay physically fit, to push your own limits,” states Tennessee climbing guru John Nowell. The Maryville native has rock climbed in over 30 states and several foreign foreign countries. After scouring the globe while honing his expertise, he realized his home turf of East Tennessee has some of the best climbing around. The Tennessee Wall, down Chattanooga way, is world renown, as are the Obed Wild and Scenic River bluffs near Wartburg. Other climbing destinations are Look Rock near Maryville, Foster Falls, the Chimneys in the Smoky Mountains and the Devils Race Track, near I-75 by Caryville.
“Rock climbing is an activity that no matter how good you are, or how bad you are, there is going to be something right at your level. A main attraction is ‘the rush.’ ” Nowell continues, “It’s when your hands are starting to ache — you can barely hang on. Your friends are encouraging you on with yells of ‘Go! Go! Go!’ and you manage to make that next handhold, then finish your route.”
“Rock climbing engages you both mentally and physically. You must incorporate your brain and your body to climb fluidly. Climbing requires a great deal of problem solving, yet is similar to a dance, where the wall is your partner and the different holds and features dictate the moves you have to make.”
The Yosemite Decimal System is used for rating climbs. Degrees of difficulty in climbing are rated Class Four and Class Five. Class Four is essentially climbing without a rope, with the potential of injury if you fall. Class Five is climbing with a rope, with potentially fatal consequences if you fall. Each class has incremental degrees of difficulty. If you’ve been yearning for high adventure, it’s up there on Tennessee’s rock walls.
Great Smoky Mountains
With its secluded mountain waterways, awe-inspiring views from grassy balds, diverse plant and animal life, and impressive stands of old-growth forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an overwhelming number of outdoor adventures. Top Trails Great Smoky Mountains National Park describes both the park’s classic destinations and lesser-known jewels in 50 must-do hikes.
The trails range from an easy family stroll by a soothing stream to a 7-mile trek through spruce forest atop a peaceful ridge to a 22-mile overnighter to a mile-high camp. This guide will help you leave the roads to explore the heart of the park. Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll to stretch your legs, a full-day adventure, or a rewarding backpacking trip, you’ll find it here.
Each hike includes:
• Clear and concise directions to the
• A detailed route map and elevation
• “Don’t get lost” milestones
• Expert trail commentary
Author Johnny Molloy has spent over 800 nights backpacking in the Smokies, and used his vast experience to choose the best hikes to maximize your national park experience.