So here we are in Chattanooga! What a beautiful city we have here, and what an incredibly diverse and vibrant outdoor community! Lisa Rands and I (Wills Young) first visited Chattanooga in May 2004, invited by soon-to-be good friends living in a small craftsman-style house just around the corner from Aretha Frankensteins. Lisa and I had flown in from California to give a community slideshow to climbers at the original Rock/Creek in that charming old building at the corner of Frasier Avenue and Tremont Street.
There, we showed pictures of scenes very familiar to us, yet so different to this area: The giant boulders of Bishop, California, strewn across the granitic pea-gravel, not a tree in sight, or Hueco Tanks, Texas, where rocks and cacti blend into a dry and spiky wonderland. Lisa also talked about her trip to Europe to compete in World Cup climbing competitions. We had traveled around France, Italy and Switzerland, with all our gear in a small British car, camping out, or living at the homes of generous friends. As professional climbers, we’d done a fair bit of traveling together, but had recently become engaged to be married. As a couple, thinking about future plans, we felt happy about our decision to buy a house back in Bishop, California.
But arriving in Chattanooga, we began to doubt ourselves. We wandered down to the Stone Cup coffee shop (then at the current Brewhaus location), where we met local outdoor business owners and a few climbing gear reps, all engaged in cheerful conversation. There was a lively scene, with a welcoming atmosphere in which we were instantly comfortable. Everyone seemed jacked to be living here, like they’d been drinking too much of the southern cool-aid. But we were beginning to feel it too. An evening stroll across the pedestrian bridge, joggers passing in each direction, and chats with new-found friends about myriad local climbing spots, and we knew we’d be back.
That same year, the “Triple Crown” bouldering series was the perfect excuse to take an extended trip, starting in October. I think a visit here in the fall, when the climbing conditions are prime, and the scenery and weather are at their best, will make any visitor wish they live here! A hike around the hilly streets of the North Shore; a few frosty mornings, and a few sunny days exploring untapped climbing areas, and we were sold. It wasn’t too long before we’d bought a fixer-upper house and were spending months at a time here.
Chattanooga is already special, and it’s getting better every day. From the new mountain-bike trails of Stringers Ridge north of the river, to the historic neighborhoods of the south side, there is a transformation in full swing. So much has changed for the better in the last ten years. It is great to see the city endorsing the priorities of the active community with the river walk, the pedestrian bridge, the rental bike system, and all the fun events that take place on the city streets, plazas and waterfront.
But now we have the cherry on the cake! This new climbing and fitness center right here in downtown Chattanooga is truly iconic, not just to look at from the outside, but at its core. When we first met John and Johnny, the guys with the plans to build this gym we were stunned by the sheer audacity of it. These guys had a dream, and they were determined to make it happen. It turned out that their dream was in many ways like ours (except being bigger)! All of us wanted to create something here in Chattanooga that would not only provide a great working environment, but would also offer something to the community, something that added to the growing momentum for active lifestyles, and that would push things to a new level of excellence. We decided to work together to bring a climbing school to Chattanooga, a school that can capitalize on our experiences climbing, competing, and coaching all over the world, and through which we can pass on our enthusiasm for this amazing sport.
So here we are, and we are loving it! We have rented out the house in California and are living in vibrant, eclectic North Chattanooga, meeting up with old friends, getting some cool crisp days out on the rock, and setting up the High Point Climbing School! We hope anyone interested in learning about climbing, or how to become a better climber, will come to the facility and ask for some coaching from us. If you have any thoughts or ideas to help us make this climbing school the best it can be, let us know! — Wills Young