When my wife asked me if I would consider relocating to Austin, the first thing I did was get online and search for climbing in the Austin area.
Most people don't think of the D.C. area, my previous home, as a top climbing destination or even a climbing destination at all, and I guess I must grudgingly admit it is not the former, but I had become fond of the sandbagged toprope routes and of the leads on questionable rock at Carderock and Great Falls, and the short trad routes at Sugarloaf Mountain. And not far away from the immediate area, I had good trad at Little Stony Man in Shenandoah N.P., great trad at Old Rag (also in Shenandoah), and toproping, trad, and sport at places such as Elizabeth Furnace, Crescent Rock, Annapolis Rock, and Rocks State Park.
And then there was Seneca, storied and spectacular. Seneca. Oh, how I miss you.
Yeah, I had become fond of the climbing in a region I had otherwise come to hate.
But I am rambling. Back to the point...
So I was pleasantly surprised when my initial search results turned up places such as the Barton Creek Greenbelt
and Reimers Ranch.
Most of Texas was once beneath a sea. Many would argue it still should be, but the reality is that today, it is mostly well above the ocean and there is a lot of exposed limestone. Much of it is absolute garbage or on privately owned land, but there are places where the rock is good and the public is welcome, albeit usually at a price. And so we have Reimers.
A Serpent Along the Way to Serpent Wall
Officially called Milton Reimers Ranch Park, the park is known to most climbers simply as Reimers. According to what I have read, there was a time that Milton and Joy Reimers welcomed visitors, often in person, and charged a nominal fee. You also got a receipt that said "No Guns / No Teenage Parties / No Repelling [sic] / No Nudity." Later, they sold the land to Travis County, which added to the protected area through a purchase from another private landowner. Public land is pretty scarce in Texas, large as the state is, so despite the money-grubbing policies of Travis County (see Red Tape), it's still nice to have a place like Reimers.
Additionally, I have read that although the Reimerses were initially unaware that climbing and route development were going on, they came to be strong supporters of the climbing community, and vice versa. There was even an instance of a climbing accident and the Reimerses being sued, and the local climbers rallied in support of the Reimerses.
For much more on the history at Reimers, please get John Hogge's Austin Climbing: Sport Routes & Deep Water Solos. That book is also the best resource that exists, online or in print, for locating the walls and routes of the Austin area.
When I mention Reimers, I mean the main climbing area there. A couple miles north is the North Shore, still within the park, but climbers consider the two to be entirely separate areas.
Reimers Proper has three principal sections: Sex Canyon (Climbers Canyon according to signs), which one descends to access the climbing areas; upstream (aligned with the Pedernales River), and downstream. (There is also a riverside boulder with a bolted line on it.) Most climbing activity takes place in Sex Canyon, at one wall on the upstream side (Prototype Wall), and at two walls on the downstream side (Dead Cats and Serpent-- see attached).
I have read that some Texas climbers give "world-class" status to the climbing at Reimers, but I'm not so sure about that. Yes, there are some really hard lines, including at least one 5.14 that involves a horizontal roof-- not a steep slab someone can fall on all day long yet keep working-- and the rock is beautiful in places, resembling an outdoor cavern and with some of the coolest holds I have ever seen, but it's single-pitch sport here, and if there is any non-traverse route longer than about 40', I haven't seen it yet. So I question the "world-class" designation, but the climbing here is fun, and physical, nevertheless. In fact, although my sport experience is currently limited to a handful of sites around the country and right now my lead limit is 5.10b, I have to agree with the reputation Reimers has as being stiff for the grade.
Note that at the most popular walls and routes, there is a fair amount of polish. It is not as polished as at much of the Greenbelt, but it is still enough to make some routes feel slightly sketchy or sandbagged.
Reimers is not just for climbing; it has good swimming, mountain biking, and hiking as well. There is a lot of wildlife, and the flora is diverse and spectacular, ranging from colorful wildflowers year-round to massive, ancient cypress trees.
Another awesome thing about Reimers is that it is along the Pedernales River. On warm and hot days, heading down to the water and jumping in for a swim is a great way to end a great day of climbing.
Huge Cypress Tree in Sex Canyon
Active Limestone Formation
Reimers Ranch is located off Hamilton Pool Road about 6 miles west of its intersection with Ranch Road 12. It is about 45 minutes west from downtown Austin.
Once through the entrance station, drive about 1.8 mi and turn left into a large parking area signed for a pavilion and for climbing access. A sign points the way to "Climbers Canyon." Hike the trail and then drop into the top of the "canyon" where a spring creates a stream that soon empties into the Pedernales River. This stream includes a waterfall and some deep pools that are great places to cool off after climbing on a hot day.
Hike by or through the stream until a trail becomes apparent. The trail through Sex Canyon (very slick in some spots) splits a number of times. Which split you take obviously depends upon which wall you are going to. See the attached pages and the links in the next section for more information.
There is also a hike/scramble from the parking lot to Arbor Wall, and there is a trail from the northern end of the parking area to Hand Beyond Wall.
The best resource out there is Austin Climbing: Sport Routes & Deep Water Solos by John Hogge.
South (Upstream) of Sex Canyon, from North to South
- Shortcake Wall (Oblivion Wall)
- Dr. Seuss Wall
- Prototype Wall
- Mai Tai Wall
- Check Your Head Wall
- Insect Wall
- House of Pain
- War on Rugs Wall
- Crankenstein Wall
Sex Canyon South Side, Going Downhll
Sex Canyon North Side, Going Downhill
- Sex Cave
- Sex Canyon
- King Bee
- Zoey's Wall
- Sunshine Roof
North (Downstream) of Sex Canyon, from South to North
- Serpent's Wall
- Dead Cats Annex
- Dead Cats Wall
- Rhetorick Wall
- Millennium Wall
- Arbor Wall
- T-Roofic Wall
- Tit for Tom Wall
- Hand Beyond Wall
The daily entry fee is currently $10. Annual passes are $100 and well worth it if you climb here a lot. I bought an annual pass in August and by October had come out more than 10 times. Plus, the annual pass is good for all Travis County parks. Unfortunately, the pass is a windshield decal, not a card. If you want a duplicate pass for a second vehicle, you get to pay $50 for it. Nice racket they have going there.
Opening and closing times vary by the season. Check the park website
Climbers in Central Texas are well acquainted with the biting ants all over the place. Watch where you stand and where you step.
This part of Texas is also home to all four types of venomous North American snakes-- copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. Again, watch out, especially for the coral snakes. They are shy and bites are very rare, but their venom is highly potent and can be fatal. Also, it is my understanding that antivenin for coral snakes is in very short supply and highly expensive due to the fact that bites are so rare.
None inside the park.
About 7 miles east on Hamilton Pool Road is Rock Dog
, owned and operated by local climbers. I've never been there but have heard the owners are awesome climbers and awesome people. I also hear that the rich neighbors hate the place, so if you don't live locally, stay there and do your part to give the middle finger to the snobs.
When To Go
All year. Most of the walls face west. Those in Sex Canyon get good shade for much of the day.
In the very hot summer, climb here in the early morning.