Onsight Rock Gym

5335 Western Avenue

Knoxville, TN 37921

(865) 888-9123

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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! 


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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.

Learning From Our Failures

Yolanda Chen


Here's a simple narrative I bet everyone of you can relate to. You head into the gym, or out to the crag, with a project in mind. You warm up and make your way over to that project. You pull on the start holds and begin your way through the climb. Somewhere along the way, you fall. You try again, you fall. You try once more, you fall. You continue trying. You continue falling. Before you know it, your climbing session is over and it's time to head home. In this scenario we haven't accepted our failures, preventing us from engaging in a crucial step to bettering ourselves as climbers.

If we simply fail and try again, we're bound to fail again. Instead, when we fail, we've got to learn from our failure, use that to improve, then try again. Even if we're not successful on our next attempt, we can simply repeat the process, continuing to learn and grow, until we're equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful.

To learn from our failures, requires us to first accept them. This can be a difficult thing to do as it means putting our ego aside. With an inflated sense of self, our internal narrative becomes something along the lines of “How could I fail?”, rather than “Why did I fail?”. Identifying the cause of any failure starts with this asking of why, making it the most important step in beginning the learning process. Our ego may not be the only thing distracting us from this question of why, and preventing us from learning from our mistakes. Our emotions can play an equally detrimental role. When we fail, it's natural, and ok, for us to feel disappointed or frustrated, but if we don't find a way to move past these emotions and onto the question of “Why did I fail?”, we'll be unable to learn from our mistakes.

Once we've focused ourselves on asking why we failed, the learning process has begun. Unfortunately, simply asking why we failed, answering that question, and changing our approach based on that answer isn't always enough. Sometimes we'll face failure, after failure, after failure, without an obvious path to success.

Thankfully, this can be avoided. Instead of just asking “Why did I fail?”, we need to ask why four times. This allows us to find and understand the root cause of any problem we encounter. Here's a perfect example. You fall off of your project and ask yourself “Why did I fall?” (This is the first ‘why’). You answer this with “My foot came off.”. Now if we stopped here, you'd attempt the move you fell from again, but this time you'd try to keep your foot on. If your foot stays on, you'd be successful, but if your foot comes off again and you fall, you'd ask why, and be left with the very same answer, “My foot came off.”. Instead, you should continue with three more ‘why's’. Next, you'd ask, “Why did my foot come off?” (This is ‘why’ number two). You answer “I didn't have enough weight on it.”. Then you'd ask yourself “Why didn't I have enough weight on my foot?” (‘Why’ number three). You answer with “My hips weren't close enough.” Now, you'd ask the final ‘why’. “Why weren't my hips close enough to my foot?”. Asking this fourth ‘why’ identifies the root cause of the problem for you. You'd now know you simply need to keep your hips closer to your foot to successfully do the move you fell from.

The learning process doesn't stop here. In fact, at this point, it's really more of a problem solving process. To truly learn from our mistakes and develop ourselves as climbers, we need to be able to repeat difficult moves more than once. If you can do one hard move once, but can't repeat it, have you really learned anything? This is why it's equally important to ask ourselves the four ‘why's’ when we've successfully done a move for the first time. Asking yourself “Why was I successful?”, is the best place to start. Follow your answer up with three more ‘why's’, and learn from your answers. If you understand why a move worked, you'll be able to do it again and again. That's true learning.

So, the next time you find yourself at the gym, or out at the crag, all warmed up and ready to try your project, set aside your ego and emotions. Accept the failures you encounter, and ask yourself ‘why’ four times, both when you fail, and also when you succeed. Before you know it, you'll have learned so much, that those projects will become your warm ups.

Devin Cooley Head Routesetter and Youth Coach at Onsight Rock Gym Founder and Head Coach of Climbing Made Easy