Big news! My ass is better, and I can climb again. All it took was a trip to the Hospital…boulders, that is. They’re in northern Alabama, by the town of Gadsden, a short hop down the freeway from HP40. The stone is good, with a handful of very fun problems in every grade and projects galore. The best part is that we own it. Let me explain…
We’ve been in Chattanooga for a little while now, though without our trailer. It needed a new axle, which took nearly three weeks – this is a long story in itself, but we are now reunited. Without our wheeled home, it was necessary to surf the couches of some very generous Chattanoogans: Greg, Mike, Les, John and the Crash Pad, and most recently, Cody and Greg (two distinct Gregs). We actually met Cody and Greg back in Joe’s Valley, though we didn’t climb together. Anyway, they are the ones who showed us the Hospital Boulders.
Cody is the Development Coordinator for the Southeastern Climber’s Coalition. The SCC bi-annual board meeting was recently held at Cody and Greg’s. We sat in on the meeting and got a behind-the-scenes look at the struggle (and it is a struggle) to secure access to climbing areas in the southern states.
Every crag is a unique challenge. There may be one friendly landowner or twelve hostile ones. The cliff may be public, but the land you belay from might not be. Unlike the western states, where so much of the climbing is found on land that is wide open, public, and comparatively lawless, most of the land out here belongs to someone. The SCC uses strategies to make sure climbers can enjoy as much of it as possible, ranging from handshake-style agreements, to easements (where the owners get a tax break for allowing access to part of their lands), and even outright purchase in the case of the Hospital Boulders. Many climbing areas nearby require a day fee. Hospital is free.
The boulders sit on a hill overlooking the valley that contains the I-59. Tucked behind a neighborhood and a water tower, and with a negligible approach, is a maze of narrow sandstone corridors with walls 30 feet high. Surrounding these mini-towers are dozens of boulders hosting awesome problems like Hustle and Flow (V10), Eddie (V7), and a good number of V0-V5 climbs of a very fun and friendly nature.
I wasn’t expecting to climb much, if at all this trip. Four days prior I couldn’t hangboard because doing so somehow pulled against my tailbone in a most painful manner. Greg was convinced the climbing would be too good to pass up, and whether it was that or the three Advil, I was indeed feeling pretty good.
Not many people visit the area, and many of the climbs needed a decent scrub and a little chalk-prep. Some of the outlying boulders will be great once the break-y things break. Speaking of, I did manage to break a hold on a problem that had just been established earlier that day by another group. And yes, that makes two sessions in a row that I’d broken a hold. I promise to slim down. Anyway, the point is that there is plenty left for anyone with a brush to put a name on, from beginner to expert.
With Thanksgiving behind us and all of our body parts relatively uninjured, we’re eager to get back into the groove. Of course, the weather had other plans; now we’re holed up hiding from the rain that is soaking the entire region this week. We might head to the Obed to clip some ‘biners, since the roofs will stay dry, but otherwise we’ll be catching up on some long-overdue blogging, photo posting, and video editing. Look forward to some profiles of other local satellite areas, too!
EDIT: There is currently no camping at the Hospital boulders, though this may change in the near future. Does anyone know of any nearby camping options?
EDIT 2: There is , according to a local on Reddit, camping at Noccalula Falls State Park nearby, but I have not confirmed anything about price or opening hours. Here’s a link for the city of Gadsden’s page on the campground.