Southeastern Rock

Publication Year: 2004.

Southeastern Rock, Harrison Shull. Asheville, NC: Harrison Shull, 2003. 144 pages, 250 photographs. Hardcover. $39.95.

Having accidentally tucked this book in the seat pocket of my van, I carried it around with me on a road trip for several months. Everywhere I went, anyone who had a chance to flip through its pages was instantly intrigued by the obvious climbing potential of the Southeastern states. As my friends looked at the photos they made comments like “Oh my god, where is that? Have you been there? Wow, this makes me want to go there.”

I knew from personal experience that the South is host to world-class climbing, and to every genre of climbing one could want—from granite splitter cracks, to sandstone roofs, to Fontainbleau-esque bouldering. I had been, of course, to well-known areas such as the Red River Gorge, the Obed, the New River Gorge, and Tennessee Wall. I had even been to some of the lesser-known walls. But though I had spent six years of my life living there, Harrison Shull’s Southeastern Rock made me realize that I hadn’t even touched the climbing potential that was to be had. I was astounded by the quality of some of the obscure areas featured in its pages-places that I had never heard of, but which had been literally “out my back door.”

The book covers 43 climbing areas spread across the 10 states that comprise the Southeast. Divided into chapters detailing every featured state, each includes an intro written by a seasoned local. The intros vary in style and form, but each includes a brief synopsis of the place, the climbing, and the people. After the intro, the reader gets snapshots, with page after page of brilliant photographs. There are moderate trad climbs, hard sport climbs, boulder problems, famous climbers, and unknown climbers. There are also blue skies, foliage thick with rhododendrons, fields covered with fall leaves, and local climbers’ hangouts.

There is great diversity in the South, not only of style of rock, but of culture. One thing remains constant: southerners are very proud of their home states, and of the rock therein. There are a few areas Harrison included in his book that seem to be a stretch to call world class, or even high quality. But I’m sure there are proud locals who are right now taking offense to an outsider who has the audacity, without even having climbed at these areas, to claim that the climbing could be less than the best!

In his preface, Shull says that this book is not comprehensive, but merely a sampling of Southeast climbing, a drop in the bucket. He ought to know: he spent nearly 10 years traveling, living, photographing, and climbing throughout the region in order to make his dream of a climber’s guide to the Southeast a reality.

Shull’s ability not only to get southern climbers to acquiesce to the creation of this book, but also to contribute to and participate in it, has resulted in a valuable addition to America’s rock climbing guidebooks. It’s a boon for southerners and anybody else who would like to explore the routes and rocks of this vast but little-recognized climbing region.

Katie Brown