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finding high ground: Rock climbing is a growing sport, even in the Magnolia State.

One essential element in every type of sport or recreation is access to the resource.

So, when something becomes "one of the fastest-growing recreational activities in the world," one reason is that there are enough places to enjoy it. Although it is geared toward college age-plus, climbing has become quite popular nationwide. And the Magnolia State has its share of both indoor and outdoor climbing experiences to enjoy.

The differences between indoor and outdoor climbing are significant. Indoor climbing uses a climbing wall with built-in footholds and handholds. Traditional outdoor climbing is a sport that involves finding a suitable rock wall and practicing safety to the utmost level. Outdoor climbing is the real world after graduation from indoor climbing.

Indoor climbing walls are found at two Mississippi universities, a Biloxi mall, and a gym in Ridgeland. While indoor walls are indeed easier to climb than natural sites, they have other definite advantages: weather is not a factor, outdoor resources may not be available, and gear is available without making a significant purchase.

In addition to climbing practice on indoor walls, bouldering--the minimalist form of rock climbing--is a climbing technique that uses the lowest amount of time and gear. It involves moving horizontally along the wall, either indoor or outdoor, but not going any higher than where a fall would not be painful. No ropes are required--only climbing shoes, a chalk bag, a cushion in case of a fall, and somebody to spot you.

One of the most popular locations in the state for an indoor climbing wall is at the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. Rock Climb Wall is located in the center court with a tower about 20 feet tall and several routes with different degrees of difficulty.

The Hangout in Ridgeland provides a fun time of bouldering. The two climbing walls have a connecting overhang and provide a safer wall-climbing experience.

Mississippi State and Southern Miss both have climbing walls in their health and recreation departments. However, they have tighter restrictions based on sponsorship by a student or alumnus; check with each university for details.

At MSU, the Joe Frank Sanderson Center has provisions for both top roping and bouldering with tons of features and great routes. Bouldering is allowed any time Sanderson Center is open, while roped climbing is only permitted during Outdoor Activities Center hours.

The Payne Center at the University of Southern Mississippi has a climbing wall that is about 30 feet tall and 40 feet wide. The climbing wall is open only to students and alumni. On the USM climbing wall, the routes get harder from right to left, and both top roping and bouldering are available.

Be aware that indoor climbing on an artificial climbing wall is no substitute for a real experience outside on real rock. Rock climbing can be dangerous, with ropes that can fray, equipment that can age, and rocks that can fall or crumble. So, safety is the key to rock climbing.

The premier Mississippi outdoor climbing area is in Tishomingo State Park in the northeastern corner of the state. The two main areas of the park for climbing are Jean's Overhang with 22 routes and the Corn Flakes area with nine courses.

Jean's Overhang can be located by crossing the swinging bridge from the pool area, turning right, and following the trail. The Corn Flakes area is upstream from Jean's Overhang area just past the small waterfall.

The base surface of the rock walls in Tishomingo State Park are sandstone. Jean's Overhang allows traditional climbing, while the Corn Flakes area is suitable for top roping.

Climbing opportunities are available to all Mississippians who want to stretch their muscles and work their minds and their bodies.


Call Rock Climb Wall in Biloxi at Edgewater Mall, 228.388.3424; Joe Frank Sanderson Center at Mississippi State, 662.325.7529; and Payne Center at University of Southern Mississippi, 601.2665405; or visit for The Hangout in Ridgeland.
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Title Annotation:ADVENTURE & TOAVEL: MS Adventures
Author:Wolfe, Buster
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2018
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