Kid’s View: Urban Adventure


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High Point Climbing and Fitness offers beginners and skilled climbers opportunities to reach new heights.

by ANSLEY GRIDER, AGE 14, AND CADEN GRIDER, AGE 12 | photos by OLIVIA GRIDER and High Point Climbing and Fitness

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ANSLEY: Have you ever wanted to go rock climbing, but you didn’t know how or where to go? Or maybe you have been rock climbing your whole life. Either way, High Point Climbing and Fitness in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a great place to go to start learning or to improve your skills.

There are many different types of climbing to try or work on, from autobelay climbing to bouldering, lead climbing and top-roping. There is even a section of the gym dedicated just for little kids, where even 3-year-olds can try their hands at rock climbing.

My favorite part of the gym is actually the outside, because they have rock-climbing walls on the outer part of the building, which I think is pretty neat. I climb on the side of the building like Spiderman, and see the city of Chattanooga roll into view as I get higher and higher.

We take a class called the Explore Climbing class led by instructor Wills Young. He and his wife, Lisa Rands, who is a professional rock climber, run High Point Climbing School inside the gym. Young has been rock climbing for 35 years, is a former editor of Climbing magazine and has written articles about rock climbing for lots of other publications, including Outside magazine. He tells us about different types of climbing and even shows us some of the equipment used with each type.

The climbing school offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes, one-on-one coaching and even guided outdoor climbing in the Lookout Mountain area, which Young says is full of great rock-climbing locations. Young and Rands even moved from California to Chattanooga because of the area’s outdoor recreation opportunities and because they were impressed with the city. “It just seemed like a vibrant, exciting place to live if you were interested in the outdoors,” Young says.

We are in a group with two other people, Zackrey Garner and Michelle Leidy, students at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. Leidy is from New Jersey, and Garner is from Tennessee. There is a small bouldering gym at their university, and that led them to check out High Point Climbing and Fitness. “I thought it was awesome,” Garner says of High Point. “Having the full experience and farther climbs than a few feet was a lot of fun.”

The gym is one of the top 10 in the United States in terms of climbing surface area, with 28,000 square feet – twice as much as a typical climbing gym, Young tells us. It’s also in the middle of downtown Chattanooga, very close to  the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Lookouts baseball stadium. “The location is in a tourist area that’s great to hang out in, where you can stroll to restaurants and walk along the river,” Young says. “People can enjoy not only climbing, but also all of the attractions around the gym. I think this is the most unique thing about it.”

The first time we saw High Point Climbing and Fitness was when we ate at Big River Grille – one of the many restaurants across Broad Street from the gym. People sit at tables on the wide sidewalk outside the  restaurants and watch climbers scaling the outside of the building.

We knew then we wanted to come back and try rock climbing ourselves. You should check out High Point Climbing and Fitness and all downtown Chattanooga has to offer, too. You’ll be glad you did.

CADEN: If there’s one thing I learned at High Point Climbing and Fitness, it’s to be ambitious – and don’t look down. You at least have to try for the next handhold; jump if you have to. When we first get there, climbing school instructor Wills Young gives us a tour of the gym and explains the basics of rock climbing.

He teaches us about belaying and about different types of climbing, including bouldering (climbing without ropes or harnesses to the top of a boulder), top-roping (where climbing equipment is suspended from the top of the wall or rock facing) and lead climbing (where a climber clips a rope connected to his/her harness to pieces of equipment installed in the rock or wall as he/she goes up; the climber might have to install this equipment in the rock if it’s not already there). All these types of rock climbing can be done outdoors or in the gym, and they’re all called “free climbing” because you’re not pulling on equipment in order to climb.

An auto-belay or a person belaying you will lower you to the ground if you fall. After the instruction, it’s time to climb. Handholds, footholds and bolts for lead climbing are color-coded to show climb difficulty, and tags give numbers that show difficulty ratings. You only put your hands and feet on a certain color to achieve a certain difficulty climb. You can also climb on every color. (Don’t worry, it’s not frowned upon.) I do color code most of the time, trying the easiest climbs first and then working on harder ones. I see a kindergartner climb higher than most adults (I’m not gonna lie, she climbed higher than me).

I climb on the walls using auto-belays for awhile, but I really want to get to the bouldering area.

Like I thought, bouldering turns out to be my favorite type of climbing at the gym. In bouldering you use no equipment whatsoever. The walls are about 15 feet tall, but don’t worry moms – there’s plenty of padding at the bottom. You can climb over the top of many “boulders” in the gym, giving you an experience similar to outdoor bouldering. All and all, I truly enjoyed High Point Climbing and Fitness and I look forward to coming back.

If You Go

GETTING THERE: High Point Climbing and Fitness is at 219 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402
HOURS: Monday, Wednesday, Friday – 6 a.m.- 10 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday – 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
MORE INFO:;423-602-7625