Tennessee Wall is one of the premier trad climbing destinations in the southeast. Located just outside of Chattanooga, it features hundreds of great routes on beautiful hard sandstone. There’s something for leaders at all levels here, from trad novices to the hardest of the hardcore. (There’s even a few sport routes, but they’re not for the faint-hearted.) T-Wall truly has enough variety to keep you climbing for years.
Route development at T-Wall began in 1984, when climbers Rob Robinson, Arno Ilgner and Roger Fleming discovered the cliffline while exploring another crag across the river. Some of the earliest lines (the first was In Sight of Power, 5.8+) were put up in what is now referred to as T-Wall West. Classics like Art, Passages and Prerequisite for Excellence soon followed, and development continued through the early 90s. New routes are still being established today, especially in the west section.
T-Wall is predominantly a single-pitch crag, though there are some multi-pitch routes, mainly in the west section. Except where noted in the route descriptions, protection tends to be plentiful, and a rack of nuts, tricams and cams up to 4” is standard. Over the years, rapping from trees at the top of the crag was the norm, but pine beetle infestations have been killing many of the trees, so use of bolted anchors is steadily increasing. If you do rap from a slung tree, don’t blindly trust it! A look at some of the fallen trees along the trail slung with old tat will drive this point home.
As a south-facing crag, T-Wall is in full sun all day. This makes it a terrific winter destination (think t-shirts in January), and a miserable place in the summer. Prime time at T-Wall is September through June.
Camping is available at the parking turn-off; this area now sports a pit toilet. There is also pay camping further down the road. One note of caution (whether or not you’re camping): there have been numerous car break-ins at the parking lot over the years. The best way to avoid being a victim is to not leave anything of value in your vehicle.
After climbing, there’s lots of good options for eating near T-Wall. As you come back down the road from the crag, don’t pass up Shuford’s Barbecue, where you can enjoy pulled pork, ribs and banana pudding as Bear Bryant looks down on you from framed photos on the wall. Back in Chattanooga, Lupi’s Pizza is another climber favorite.
A new guidebook published in 2010 is the first such guide dedicated solely to T-Wall. The Tennessee Wall: A Rockclimber's Guide by Rob Robinson will probably be considered the authoritative guide to this area, given that its author is the godfather of T-Wall climbing. The Dixie Cragger’s Atlas by Chris Watford is an alternative guidebook to have on hand. The DCA has a “pocket” edition for T-Wall alone that will lighten the weight in your backpack. If you need climbing gear, hit Rock Creek Outfitters in Chattanooga.
Tennessee Wall is located in Prentice-Cooper Wildlife Management Area. From downtown Chattanooga, take US 27 north. About a mile after crossing the Tennessee River, exit on 127 north (Signal Mountain Road). Continuing toward Signal Mountain about 1.5 miles, turn left on Suck Creek Road (27 west). Continue about four miles (past a cement plant) to a bridge over Suck Creek and make an immediate left onto Mullens Cove Road (aka River Canyon Road). Follow this road through a residential area along the river for about six miles to the campsite parking lot for T-Wall. The trail to the crag starts a short distance from the parking lot.
There are seasonal hunting closures in the spring and fall. Sneak in and you risk a hefty fine, so don't do it!
One of the true T-Wall classics, Golden Locks may be the most popular route at the crag. Its beautiful splitter crack is instantly recognizable, and the exposure above the Tennessee River far below makes for great photo opportunities. Golden Locks may also be the most sandbagged T-Wall moderate: many leaders have been humbled by this stiff 5.8 (now given a 5.9 by the FA in his new guidebook).It's wise to have a spotter ready for the overhanging, bouldery start; possibly the toughest...[more]Browse More Classics in TN
T-wall is such a dream. Highly recommend the South Side for all of you corner crack heads. It will definately get you pushing your limits. I ventured out there for the first time this weekend. Im sore.
Joel - You might wait for some of the classics, but there are enough routes in your range to stay busy. I haven't heard much about breakins of late, but it is still wise to take EVERY precaution available...I usually stash a friend's car somewhere, put all out gear and everything out of my truck into it, then drive my TOTALLY EMPTY vehicle back for the climbing day. If you are in one vehicle, put everything in the trunk, out of view...you know the drill. Have fun. January is a great time of year for The TWall if it's sunny.
My car was broken into while climbing at the T-Wall yesterday. We are from Colorado and stopped at the wall as part of a road trip. We lost over 3 grand in backpacking, climbing, and personnel items.
Our car was locked with the alarm activated when we left but, to the best of our knowledge, the alarm did not go off. The alarm was not going off when we returned to our vehicle. Whoever broke into our car has clearly done this before.
We were aware of the issues with break-ins and put all of our items in the trunk so as not to attract thieves. We tried to stop and empty our items out at a local pay-for campground but could not find an open site anywhere due to a festival that had everyone booked up.
We also stopped at the local climbing shop in town to ask about break ins and were advised that it's not really an issue anymore, there have been very few break-ins over the last year, and that the road is now patrolled by authorities. Finally, the parking spot we used was the closest one to the road. We parked here in hopes that our proximity to the road and its traffic would deter theft.
The deputy who took our report let us know that "this happens all the time here." He had several examples of past break-ins in the very near future, including another climber who lost several thousand dollars of gear less than two weeks ago.
The most disturbing thing is that the deputy told us the break-ins seem to be done by different parties. A previous perpetrator they caught was from Ohio and traveled to the trail head for each break in. This does not look like an issue that is limited to just locals or one perpetrator.
We had a fantastic time climbing at the wall prior to the break-in and I hate to take anything away from the area or all the hard work done by its developers. The issue is a real shame since the climbing here is so fun and unique.
I feel obligated to post what happened in order to be fair to future climbers and give them a chance to avoid such a devastating experience. I hope this problem is resolved soon so that I can feel more comfortable about possibly returning to the T-wall in the future.
If anyone has info about an alternate parking area to use or other tips and tricks to avoid theft I'm all ears. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like further information.
Stephen - First, I'm very sorry to hear of your incident and sorry you were misinformed at the outdoor store. Facts are that this is an ongoing problem. Read my post above from December. It's not worth the risk and never will be.
Cragger beware...this is tweaker country...unfortunately.
There is no North or South section at The T-Wall. The cliff is south-facing and runs almost perfectly West to East (left to right) as you are facing the Wall. It would reduce confusion if this site were organized according to the names of the different areas at the crag--Cibola, Paradise Lost, Paradise, The Wastland, Orange Blossom, Lost Blossom, ect. Not only is North/South geographically incorrect, it also ignores names of the different walls at the cliff. "West" and "East" would be an improvement, but even then the cliff-line is way too long to simply be divided into two enormous sections. Please at least break the cliff up into major sections--Cibola, Paradise to Valhalla, The Wasteland, The Orange Blossom Wall, and East and Lost Blommom Walls.
Seriously? North/South works fine. If you want to drag your Spot up there and rename the place, hell, you could divide every climb up ("well,this one faces slightly south by east at blah de blah degrees"). Or you could just climb and not worry about it.
Out-of-towners can always ask if they're having trouble finding a route. It's not like the place is going to be lacking in experienced tradsters this fall.
Not to be a dick but the hunting closures at T-Wall are ridicous!! How many recreational areas close to just one group of people, obsured! I still give thanks to keeping this wonderful crag open. Although having a Road Warrior type bomb is the only way to feel safe here.
"One note of caution (whether or not you’re camping): there have been numerous car break-ins at the parking lot over the years. The best way to avoid being a victim is to not leave anything of value in your vehicle."
FWIW, Crashpad hostel is open and a great place to stay and maybe even meet people to hit the T-Wall...
Has anyone had any trouble with the reported "tweakers" actually bothering them while camping/climbing, or are all these safety concerns just related to break ins? What's the camping scene actually like?
The guidebook indicates that there's another trail that accesses the western portion of the wall, between Cibola and Vahalla. We were not able to find any trail after several passes in the car and ended up approaching from the usual Paradise Falls trail. We also attempted to find the alternate route on the way out and ended up bushwacking back to the road (although there were some cairns and ribbons on trees, there was no trail).
Regarding the trail to the Cibola and Valhalla end of the wall: there's definitely not a well defined start from the road. Last spring I was barely able to match a photo in the guide with a few of the big boulders by the road. After a short walk in the woods, however, a few orange ties on the trees begin to indicate a trail. Occasionally you'll run across some logs or rocks that help indicate the path as well.
It's definitely not as clean as the well packed main t wall trail, but it will save you some time compared to hiking the full length of the wall.
I have had trouble after dark trying to wander back down the trail, however. I highly recommend saving a GPS coordinate for where you park and using that to help guide your return. It's easy getting to the road, it's just turning left or right that can be the question...