Perched up on a 40 foot climb, I look below me at Carrot and my belayer, reminded that there are only two bolts between us. I internally chastise myself for not checking out the bolt locations before climbing the route, but then tell myself it’s totally cool because it’s only a 5.5, and I’m the High-Clip. Easy peasy.
Except, routes at King’s Bluff are STOUT. Climbing outside is always a different ball game, but here the grades are totally wild…I’m really curious about how the 5.13s feel given that 5.9 there is around 5.11. As if the routes aren’t already kind of difficult, they’re SKETCHY. The run-outs are pretty bad, especially given that the wall height ranges from 30-60 feet (most are around 45-55). And rusty bolts/chains never make anyone feel any better, but at least most of these have newer protection placed adjacent to them. But other than that, this place is the bomb!
King’s Bluff is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, about 45 minutes from Nashville. Most people in the area would sooner climb in the infamous Chattanooga, but this little crag has all the climbing you need if you can’t make the few hours’ drive to Chattanooga. Managed by the Southern Climbers Coalition (SCC), King’s Bluff is very well labelled and approachable. The SCC keeps it gated (you can ask for the code as a climber) and the approach is pretty short and very doable. There’s a short path and some stairs, and then on either side of the stairs stretch the sick walls. Even more, the routes are labelled with their names and their grades. If you’re like me, and never remember (or are too cheap) to find/purchase guidebooks, you’ll get by just fine here. With Mountain Project, it’s almost too easy. You can find the star routes like “Touchy-Feely,” “Chimney Sweep,” and “Wired for Sound” without trying to figure out where the tree next to the small bush in front of the orange stripe by the beginning of the wall is.
While it is moderately scary climbing at King’s Bluff, it is rewarding. Other than the path at the foot of the walls, there’s nothing else flat around. At the top of each route, as you set up a rappel (there are no permanent anchors; just either rings or chains), if you turn around, you’ll see a beautiful river running along the feet of the cliffs. The walls extend far into the green abyss of trees on either side, and if you listen you’ll hear that sweet sound of nothing (except maybe the light jangle of quickdraws against rock). Despite any fear you may feel while climbing, the peace at the tops of these climbs is unbeatable.