Chattanooga climbers, newlyweds reflect on how the sport has helped their relationship

Photo contributed by Ross Young / Ross and Emilie Young at Ooh Aah Point in Grand Canyon National Park.

Ross and Emilie Young didn't climb as much as they would have liked in 2021. After a decade together, they were planning their wedding. So what is it like to be partners in both love and climbing? After recently returning from their honeymoon, the couple shared their story.

As people, Ross and Emilie are quite similar: driven, quirky, thoughtful and warm. As climbers, though, they are strikingly different. Ross is physically built for the sport, strong and 6-feet-1-inches tall. Emilie, however, excels not because of her stature, but because of her mental toughness and resiliency.

The two met in Ohio when they both began working for a local climbing shop. The day she walked in, Ross remembers perking up and asking, "Who's the new climber chick?"

Their first date was to a local bouldering area near Athens, Ohio. Their second date was a road trip to Kentucky's Red River Gorge. Next, they traveled to Virginia's Grayson Highlands, then to West Virginia's New River Gorge.

Before they knew it, a climber's love story had started writing itself.

photo Photo contributed by Ross Young / Newlyweds Ross and Emilie Young at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada.

A few years later, the two relocated from Ohio to Chattanooga for rock climbing. And a decade after they met, they say the sport is still helping to strengthen their bond.

"It's all about building each other up. Like any community, climbers share a love that brings people together who otherwise may have never crossed paths," Ross says. "There is often a void in adult relationships, and climbing is a way to bring us together - not just me and Emilie, but friendships that empower us to go outside and have conversations that aren't [mundane small talk]. You don't have to be strong or good, you just have to show up. And if you show up, then the community will show up for you."

It also helps them relate to each other.

"Climbers are a little weird," Emilie says. "So we don't have to explain ourselves, we just get it. Climbing is a bit masochistic, shredding our fingertips, so most people won't understand. If I wasn't a climber and Ross went to the same boulder every weekend, falling over and over again, I wouldn't get it."

photo Photo contributed by Ross Young / Emilie Young climbs Left Wing in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee.

Inherently, though, there are risks in being a climber or dating one. Before 2014, Emilie was mostly rope climbing until, on a beautiful day at Tennessee's T-Wall, one of her best friends took a fall, breaking her back. Her friend made a full recovery, but Emilie needed a break after that.

A few months later, Ross encouraged her to get back outside as she shifted away from rope climbing into bouldering.

"While I've done a handful of sport climbs since, it's always an ordeal," Emilie admits. "But Ross has been beside me and pushes me to get to the other side of that fear."

Outside of the sport, the couple's biggest challenge has been the same since they met: Ross wants to get to the boulder field first thing Saturday morning while Emilie prefers to have a few cups of coffee first.

Like any relationship, compromise and communication are the only way through.

photo Photo contributed by Emilie Young / Ross Young climbs Razor's Edge in Georgia's Zahnd Wildlife Management Area.