The greatest allure of DWS is the thrill of climbing without any gear, but there are a couple of things you’ll want to have with you. Climbers with High Point and Outdoor Chattanooga suggest you bring:
» A first aid kit. Pruney fingers may improve your grip on wet objects, but when up against sharp rock, the softened skin is more likely to get cut. Plan accordingly to avoid infections.
» A life jacket. It may seem restrictive, but a personal flotation device could save you from disaster, especially because you never know what hazards wait beneath the water’s surface.
» Towels. You’ll likely bring chalk, but it won’t do you any good if it gets wet. Bring a towel or an absorbent cloth like a ShamWow to dry up before you chalk up.
» Friends. Specifically, ones who can swim. The most dangerous thing you can do is attempt a climb without a “lifeguard.” Make sure you have at least two people below to pull you out of the water if things go awry.
When temperatures rise and Chattanooga's sandstone becomes too hot to handle, nothing is more tempting to climbers than deep-water soloing.
The practice of scaling rock walls that hang over water sans a rope can be a refreshing change of pace, and no spot is more iconic for the activity than the bluff beneath the Hunter Museum of American Art.
With numerous routes etched into the beautiful white limestone and the cool waters of the Tennessee River below to break your fall, an afternoon on the bluff is perfect for fiery summer days.
It's also legally questionable, at best.
But don't worry; there are still a couple of other places nearby to use the water as your crash pad. If you're looking to avoid an uncomfortable run-in with Johnny Law, here are a couple of areas to consider for your next DWS trip.
Just because it’s water doesn’t mean you’ll have a soft landing. Landing on your back from high up can knock you unconscious or cause serious internal injuries. If you fall unexpectedly, don’t freeze up; swing your arms to balance your body so that you’re falling feet-first. Then, right as you’re about to hit the water, straighten your body (arms to the side, toes pointed) so you can slide into the water.
Nickajack Lake | 25 minutes from Chattanooga
You'll need a canoe to get to this 50-foot cliff, but the challenging rock face overhanging water 30-40 feet deep is worth it. Access the water through nearby Hales Bar Marina and head southwest under I-24 until you see the cliff on your right.
Foster Falls | 45 minutes from Chattanooga
The cavernous rock wall behind this 60-foot waterfall is practically begging to be climbed — just be careful of landing under the waterfall itself, which could wash down debris from above or trap you underwater.
Tellico Lake | 90 minutes from Chattanooga
It may be a bit of a drive, but there are two reasons this lake's overlook, Mizell Bluff, is one of our favorite soloing spots. One: The west-facing bluff catches the evening sun for a great view and quick drying. Two: The lower side of the 50-foot wall is only 25 feet tall, so you can access the climbing routes by hiking to the bluff and cliff jumping into the water below.