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Local Zones 101: Hospital Boulders

By December 5, 2013January 30th, 20144 Comments
Cody Roney grapples with a southern topout while Spenser provides the southern spot.

Cody Roney grapples with a southern topout while Spenser provides the southern spot.

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.

Your Southeastern Climbers Coalition (plus a very excited Vikki)

Your Southeastern Climbers Coalition (plus a very excited Vikki)

The meeting, as it happened.

The meeting, as it happened.

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.

Zachary Lesch-Huie of the Access Fund bestows the Sharp End award to Josh Reyes, and a check to Michael Wurzel. Watch the video below to learn a bit more about the AF-SCC relationship

Zachary Lesch-Huie of the Access Fund bestows the Sharp End award to Josh Reyes, and receives a check from Michael Wurzel to pay for part of the Hospital Boulders loan. Watch the video below to learn more about the AF-SCC relationship

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.

Greg Ward puts down a totally fun arete just to the left of Hustle and Flow. V6?

Greg Ward puts down a totally fun arete just to the left of Hustle and Flow. V6?

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.

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  • Katie Boué says:

    I love all of this so much- except the caption in that top photo.. that ain’t a southern spot, that’s a Colorado spot! In the south, we like to spot quite diligently. 😉

    Can’t wait to reunite with you two in a few days, it’s been way too long!

    • Spenser says:

      Ha! Diligently drinking a beer and hecklin’…

      Seriously, isn’t it weird that each region seems to have pride in their non-spotting, like California spot, the Southern spot (wasn’t it discussed in the Horse Pens guidebook?), the Colorado spot…

      Anyway, can’t wait to meet Amble!

  • Colin McGannon says:

    I was able to visit the hospital boulders for the first time recently, what a great place. Got on a few classics like unlocked, green smile, and scorpion in addition to some unknown easier warmups. All of the climbing was superb, and I can’t wait to go back.

    Leaving the boulders I remember seeing a sign for a campground as we headed back down the mountain. It was probably only a mile or so from the boulders. Not sure of the cost or exact location, but there is something for campers.

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