For the Love of Denny Cove: Film & Crag Update

By Elaine Elliott

Kim Shelton climbing  Little Tokyo  (5.13d) at Buffet Wall. Photo courtesy of  Nathalie DuPre .

Kim Shelton climbing Little Tokyo (5.13d) at Buffet Wall. Photo courtesy of Nathalie DuPre.

Rotting meat was on everybody’s mind: Magic Meat, Trichinosis, Carcass, Meat and Three

After an ill prepared 2011 New Year’s party pig roast, a group of friends rapped off Buffet Wall and bolted the very first routes at Denny Cove. Two of the crew had been once before, but for the rest, it was the first time laying eyes on the crag – even though its neighbor Foster Falls received first ascents in the 1980s.

Mimicking the tainted meat disrupting some of their stomachs, Buffet's surface rock was rotting away. Piles and piles of sandstone choss lay broken beneath bulletproof ledges, exposed to the light after eons in the dark.

Cody Averbeck in his element. Photo courtesy of John Dorough.

Cody Averbeck in his element. Photo courtesy of John Dorough.

Dave Wilson bolting at Denny Cove. Photo courtesy of John Dorough.

Dave Wilson bolting at Denny Cove. Photo courtesy of John Dorough.

The Buffet Wall alone, one of many walls at Denny, boasts a route every five feet – all of which took years to clean, bolt, and protect.

Then came the hard part. The boring part. The part that no one glorifies.

The true “hero's work,” as route developer Cody Averbeck puts it, is establishing legal access for crags formerly located on private land.

“That’s what the heroes are doing,” he says. “Those are the people working long hours and not getting thanked for it.”

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As developers continued bolting over 100 routes at Denny, former Southeastern Climbers Coalition executive director Cody Roney and Access Fund regional director Zach Lesch-Huie worked with nonprofits, interest groups, and the South Cumberland park system to procure an affordable land loan to preserve the crag.

Most Chattanooga climbing is developed, but access is a different story. Swaths of sandstone cliffs and boulders fill countless ridgelines and coves, yet only about 20 percent of these crags are open to the public. Denny Cove is now one of the fortunate few.

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Denny Cove officially became one of North America's most significant climbing access successes.

We want the story of Denny to live on for future generations, but more importantly, we want to finish paying off the Access Fund loan so we can start preserving more crags in Chattanooga. Monetary support can be made on the SCC donation page.

Justin Jakimiak climbing Mutatious (5.12c) on a rainy day. Photo by  Rich Moore .

Justin Jakimiak climbing Mutatious (5.12c) on a rainy day. Photo by Rich Moore.

I started climbing at Denny in the spring of 2018 and have been allured by the Buffet Wall routes ever since. They’re long and pumpy with bouldery cruxes on crimps and sidepulls. It's like the South's sandstone answer to Rifle.

Even better, Buffet Wall doesn’t get wet. I’ve listened to rain patter on leaves from a few feet away as I belayed a friend on his send-go of Meat and Three, while his feet were shrouded in mist.

The Shaman Cave may have the crag's best quality stone. Long moves between huge blocks on steep terrain favor those with lengthy limbs.

Bright orange lichen covers the Salad Bar, which is a great source of moderate face routes akin to those at Castle Rock and Foster's.

Laurel Graefe sticking the big move on  Rockstar  (5.13b) at Shaman Cave. Photo courtesy of  Nathalie DuPre .

Laurel Graefe sticking the big move on Rockstar (5.13b) at Shaman Cave. Photo courtesy of Nathalie DuPre.

This single crag has so much to offer local and visiting sport climbers. Now that it’s open to the public, I can’t imagine the Chattanooga climbing scene without Denny.

$150,000 is the largest land loan the SCC has ever had to pay off for an acquisition. After four years, over $60,000 still remains. “We’re gonna have to think outside the box,” Angie Langevin, former SCC stewardship director, said during a brainstorming session on ideas to complete the loan repayment.

This is why Steep South has embarked on its first film project. A group of creatives are psyched to produce fresh climbing footage to highlight the new crag and promote community stewardship.  

Denny Cove will be chapter one of a new series, Filling the Void. In the film, local climbing legends and land access heroes will discuss the trials and triumphs of developing Denny, acquiring the crag, and opening it to the public. The film will also feature never-before-seen footage of notable ascents along the cliffline.

Watching yourself progress at Denny is one thing. Knowing more climbers will be able to do the same for years to come means a whole lot more.

The author resting on one of many knee bars at the crag. Photo courtesy of  Sarah Anne Perry .

The author resting on one of many knee bars at the crag. Photo courtesy of Sarah Anne Perry.