Onsight Rock Gym

5335 Western Avenue

Knoxville, TN 37921

(865) 888-9123

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Vimeo

5335 Western Avenue
Knoxville, TN, 37921


Onsight Rock Gym is a brand new, world-class indoor rock climbing gym in Knoxville. Featuring over 12,000 sq feet of climbing surface and walls that soar over 50 feet tall, we are Knoxville's largest and tallest rock climbing gym. Onsight offers top rope/lead climbing and bouldering for all ages and abilities as well as a wide array of programming for adults and youth. Onsight even has a separate climbing room for private parties and events. We are proud to be a part of Knoxville's community! 


Onsight Rock Gym's blog. Stay updated on news and events!

What It Takes

Yolanda Chen

 Picture courtesy of Francis Fontaine Photographe -

Picture courtesy of Francis Fontaine Photographe -

Wake up. Eat Breakfast. Climb. Lunch at work. Train. Eat Dinner. Read. Sleep. Repeat.

This is a regular day for me. I literally eat, drink, and breathe rock climbing, and as a result, I see progress in my everyday life. I’ve heard many times over, “man, I wish I was better,” or “how do I get stronger at rock climbing?” The first thing that pops in my mind, but I rarely ask the question, “do you have what it takes?” There are so many aspects to consider when looking to increase one’s climbing ability: nutrition, technique, arm strength, footwork, finger strength, coordination, core tension… and the list goes on. Just looking at the multitude of training areas is intimidating and many people become mentally defeated at this point. Without even trying, people decide it is too hard or have excuses for not pushing themselves. When it comes down to it, it isn’t the people who are already strong that have what it takes, but those with passion, those with determination, and those who can push themselves in spite of setbacks or failures. In reality, everyone has what it takes to become a stronger, better climber, but don’t know where to start.

There are only a couple things you need to do to be on the way to becoming a better rock climber.

Step One: Be positive. Start your day with positivity and you have a higher chance of succeeding in your day to day tasks. Personally, I like to listen to motivational speakers like Les Brown. My mood feeds off of the energy and the motivation that these speeches provide. Find a routine that keeps you positive about your day and practice it every single day.

Step Two: Determine one aspect you want to improve on. In many cases, people will become motivated to change their life and try to take on too many changes at once. This usually leads to becoming overwhelmed and loss of motivation. To avoid this, we pick one single thing to improve, and we can add on later. For example, we will start with nutrition. Maybe on day one, replace one unhealthy meal, with a healthier option. Once all of your meals are healthy, then move onto more advanced nutrition goals. Don’t take on too much at once, or you’ll become overwhelmed.

Step Three: Think about what you want to improve on every single day. Even if you forgot to do it, as long as you think about what you want to accomplish. Want to start brushing your teeth in the morning? Try to commit to brushing your teeth every morning. Until you’re in the routine, you will forget sometimes, but as long as you remember and remind yourself at some point in time, you’ll begin to fall into the routine. It works the same way for anything related to self improvement.

Step Four: Commit to your decision. If you want to succeed in anything, do not let exterior influences sway you from your decision. Sometimes this means sacrificing time for other activities. It’s all about priorities.

Climbing was never my first priority until recently. I always prefered a relaxing life. Sure, I worked at a climbing gym, I’d go outdoors occasionally, and I climbed probably five times a week, but I never had the drive I have now. Instead of waking up early to go work out, I’d prefer sleeping for an extra couple hours. I’d go home and play video games for hours on end until my brain hurt. I’d cut a workout short just to go hang out with friends and in the process, my diet was horrible. I realized that if I wanted to improve my climbing ability, I would need to sacrifice some of the activities I like doing outside of climbing, so I could succeed to my fullest potential in rock climbing. Now I’m not telling you to drop everything to start training for rock climbing, but maybe next time you have a choice between doing something beneficial for your climbing and doing something that might not help you in that direction, consider your priorities. There are many relationships that I have lost, both social and romantic, because of my chosen priorities, and that is probably the most difficult decision to make. It just depends if you are going to prioritize your relationships over your personal development.

With enough passion and determination, anyone can be a great rock climber, but without commitment, you’ll find yourself hitting plateaus. If you want to push yourself to become a better climber, there is not an easy fix and you may have to sacrifice time spent doing other things. As difficult of a decision as it is, pushing yourself to do something you truly love yields satisfaction like no other.

I only have one question for you. Do you have what it takes?

John Bates Amateur Professional Rock Climber

This Gumby Climber

Yolanda Chen


"What am I doing up here?" I ask myself. I peek over the edge timidly, not wanting to take in the full exposure. In a brief moment, I spot the front desk, a couple of people climbing and notice that no one is looking this way. My hands are sweating. Everything is sweating. Devin and I had just climbed up the back side of our steepest, tallest wall. We're in the gym and he had agreed to show me some basics of route setting. I shakily attach myself to the anchor on the other side, worried my feet will slip. I was safe, but it didn't feel that way. "Don't over think it. Just get moving," I tell myself. All I had to do was climb over the top, relax in my harness and hang from the anchor. I peek over the edge one more time. "Why do I even climb? This is too scary."

Rewind ten years and I'm on a four story roof in Milwaukee, Wisconsin removing shingles. It's steep. I never did well on anything over a couple stories. I'm glued to the roof on my "jack", a two by four platform to keep me from sliding off and I'm mildly panicking. My boss is casually standing on the edge next to a ladder, eating an apple. All I want is to get back on the ground. "I'm freaking out," I tell my boss. He shrugs and gestures downwards.. Getting on the ladder to go down is hard for me. Doubting it will stay still. Worrying i might kick the thing over and dangle from a gutter before plummeting down. I get myself on and the joy I feel at the bottom is awesome. That wasn't the first or last time I would freak out on a roof. For years after I would dream about being on unstable structures high off the ground. Overwhelmed with fear. Only able to lay flat.

I've been climbing for a year and am very much a novice. My first gym had twenty foot walls and that scared me. The next forty and then sixty. The higher I got the more comfortable I became. Growth comes quickly early on and my ego grew with it. I regularly gauged myself against other climbers; how old they were, how long they had been climbing, what kind of shape they appeared to be in. I started leading early and let that go to my head too. If you didn't lead or take whippers you weren't on my level. I mean, I didn't really think like that, but humility hadn't found it's way in yet. I wrote off harder climbs as something I would eventually crush. Over confident climbing 5.10 in a gym, but super psyched to climb. Big deal right?


Back to the present. Devin is smiling at me. "Let me know if you start freaking out," he says brightly. I'm an up and coming gumby scared stiff. There's an interesting thing that happens when I'm this scared. Once committed something inside starts to bubble up. A mix of excitement and adrenaline. I feel giddy. I check my knots for the eighth time and clamber over the wall. Shaking and stubborn, hoping no one is watching. I have the impression that I'll be able to relax now. I look down. Bad idea. My nerves are shot. I can see a hint of concern in Devin's eye. I realize I'm covered in sweat. He passes me a drill. My hands are shaking as I strip a hold off the wall. Any delusions of having a future as a setter vanish. I soldier up and stick with it for another ten feet downwards eventually putting myself in a position where my only option is to keep lowering. I appreciate the opportunity. Route setting is extremely hard work. Something I could get used to but am not cut out for. I feel super small.


I continue to ponder why I even climb. Especially being so afraid of heights. Is it the adrenaline rush? Conquering fears? Maybe a bit of both? I really think it has more to do with the humbling nature of climbing. It's a polite sort of humbling. The wall doesn't say you suck when we fail, although we may think it. The wall just sits there. It welcomes our excitement, fear, anxiety and excuses. The wall doesn't retreat but we do. I keep asking myself why I climb. Is that enough? To be humbled? Not quite. I think of the camaraderie. The relationships. The encouraging nature of climbing with friends and strangers.


I work behind the desk and I see the same faces come in; happy, sad, excited, maybe frustrated. Beat up after a long day. I watch as people crush it. I watch people struggle. I love seeing people succeed and even more-so love to see a climber's response to failure. It's so satisfying to see a person repeatedly fail and keep at it. To see them stay psyched and focused, smiling or maybe angry. Determined. When they finally stick a troublesome move everyone watching feels that satisfaction. It's rare to see anyone leave in a bad mood. I think that's it. It's not really about being a better climber, and definitely not about being better than anybody else. It's being part of an encouraging community. I realize that all my ego in climbing is a total waste. Just climb and have fun. Don't worry about the grades. You're in a spot to try hard and have a good time. Let the community lift you up the wall.


Yolanda Chen

 Pictured is Molly holding Pixie. Picture courtesy of  Kevin Flint .

Pictured is Molly holding Pixie. Picture courtesy of Kevin Flint.

By Mackenzie Wilder

A Tip from the Hound:

How to have the best climbing/outdoor experience with your dog(s)

As climbers and outdoor enthusiasts we often have one dog, if not multiple dogs, and we want nothing more than to share our outdoor time with them. I, personally, have two dogs. Beatrice, the politest of the two is a pretty great example of what a good crag dog should do. She’s quiet, takes crag naps, listens and doesn’t run away. Gobey, the hound, is the complete opposite and loves to turn his crag time into adventure day, often not coming back for hours. Through trial and error we have figured out some key tricks to keeping everyone happy, healthy, and safe.

Before you leave the house Communication with your partner: it is very important to communicate with your climbing partner. Make sure your partner feels comfortable having a dog at the crag that day. There is nothing worse than showing up not expecting a dog and getting greeted by two. Respect your belaytionship and communicate before you even tie in.

Dog Gear: Yes, dog gear is a thing. Our dogs have all their own accessories for any adventure and it’s awesome! Make sure to pack enough water, bowls, poop bags, maybe a snack if you’ll be out all day, a leash , a rope to tie up, or, as we used to do in the desert, a cam to secure them into the rock. Having dog backpacks could also be a great investment. They not only get to carry their own supplies and poop but know its serious time with those on.

Research: Make sure to do plenty of research on the crag, the weather, and the approach. There is nothing worse than hiking out and realizing your dog can’t make it. Beatrice is also a black dog so any sunny crags over a certain temperature and she starts to roast.

At the Crag:

Communicate at the crag: Upon arrival at the crag I always find it polite to introduce myself and the dogs. I make sure people feel comfortable with them being around. I also make sure people know they are super friendly, can be petted , and will be tied up while I am climbing. I also try to avoid super busy crags if I want to take both dogs.

Safety First: Safety is always important when at the crag both for climber, belayer, and dog. The dogs always get tied up while one person is on the wall and the other is belaying. We figured out this works for us to ensure no dogs are secretly running away, no dog is trying to take a nap on the rope or someone else’s rope, and personally I feel more comfortable knowing my belay partner doesn’t have to worry about them.

A few extra tips/tricks:

Our dogs and multi-pitches don’t mix well. Knowing your dog and their personality is crucial to having a great experience. They are big babies and would get super lonely if we left them for that long.

A quiet dog at the crag is the best dog at the crag … maybe… but quiet dogs are often better accepted at the crag. Gobey has evolved into a quiet dog, which is fantastic, but every now and then the hound in him does come out.

Make sure you pick up all poop regardless of where you are and where they poop! Remember your dog is a dog and sometimes they just want to do dog things and not follow the rules. There will be good outdoor days and bad outdoor days.

In the end it’s okay to leave your dog at home. They love day-time naps just as much as outdoor adventures. Happy adventuring!

 Pictured is Moagley. Picture courtesy of  Kevin Flint .

Pictured is Moagley. Picture courtesy of Kevin Flint.