One of several climbing locations within the Barton Creek Greenbelt, a strip of nature just minutes from downtown Austin that is a popular area for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, swimming, and kayaking/tubing (when water levels are high enough, which is not often), Guide's Wall has a collection of easy and moderate routes. Unlike most of the Greenbelt's walls, the majority of this one is not bolted. Up top, there are three sets of bolted anchors, though, enabling people to toprope the routes. There are even some routes that will go on gear.
Apparently, the wall gets its name from the fact that it is a popular spot for group leaders to take new climbers, this being due to the bolted anchors above and some beginner-friendly routes, and because many guides-in-training were tested here.
This wall is part of the Gus Fruh area of the Greenbelt, and it is the farthest right of the walls there. Pictures on this page should make it very easy to locate the wall and its routes. Some sources put some of the routes at 18' or 20', but I think they do not include the slab at the beginning and maybe not the top-out as well. All told, I think the routes are more like 25-30', still not anything big but at least a little more worthwhile. Touch of Class and the routes adjacent to it are 40-45' from where the actual climbing begins to the top-out.
Getting to this crag means crossing Barton Creek. Sometimes Barton Creek is very low here. Other times, there is more water, but fording the creek is easy. Occasionally, though, the water gets high enough to turn Barton Creek into a Class III/IV whitewater run. Before going, check water levels here
. Since the watercourse is considered runnable from 250 to 3500 cfs, I recommend crossing only when it is below 250.
Swimming Hole at Gus Fruh-- great spot to cool off after climbing
Drive to Barton Hills Drive in Austin and go until you see a sign for the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Park and then follow the main trail (left at the first major fork) down to Gus Fruh Beach, where there is a deep swimming hole that even has a cool rope swing (great way to finish after climbing on a summer day).
Cross the water at its shallowest point and intersect a trail. Go right. Soon you will see signs indicating a climbing area.
Guide's Wall is the last wall from left to right. Getting there should take less than 10 minutes.
To access the toprope anchors, walk to the right past the end of the wall and find a use trail climbing up and then traversing back to the anchors. There is a Class 5 shortcut by a "cave" if the fall risk is worth saving a couple minutes. The use trail can get pretty brushy, so having a solid trad leader first lead an easy route and then set anchors for this and other routes on the wall might be the way to go.
There also is a 5.6 access to the left of the wall; I will not describe it lest I be seen as encouraging people to scramble up it.
10/26/16 Update-- Within the last month, the three easiest routes on the wall got bolts and sport anchors. Apparently, this was a decision based on rope wear on the rock from toproping.
4/7/17 Update-- Another route, the one on the far left end of the wall, was recently bolted.
7/4/17 Update-- Touch of Class is bolted now and is currently the last bolted route on the right.
I have updated names and grades to match the new edition of Austin Climbing: Sport Routes & Deep Water Solos by John Hogge, who has been heavily involved in route development in the Austin area. Thus, some of this information will differ from what is on other websites.
From left to right as you face the crag:
- Bulge, 5.10b-- Face climb on the left side of the wall, left of the face with the crack systems. The 10b is pulling through the left side of the cave. Variations range from 5.7 to 5.10a; they use the arete on the left to some degree. Update-- this route now has 4 bolts and sport anchors. The bolts facilitate the 5.7 and 10a variations.
- Bulge Right, 5.10d-- Using the thin crack left of the Thin Crack route, get to a small arete above a roof. Climb the arete and then top out above the right edge of the "cave."
- Thin Crack, 5.6-- The left-most crack system on the left side of the wall. Pro is okay. My first piece, a stopper, ripped right out when I tested it, but I got a different piece in better after that. The top-out didn't seem to have any good protection but was pretty easy. This is a 5.5 on other sites. I agree with the guidebook that it's a little harder than that. Update-- this route now has 3 bolts and sport anchors.
- Stand Off, 5.8-- This is a 5.5 on at least one other site. My best guess is the submitter had it confused with Thin Crack. I've led and toproped this and think it is harder than 5.5 and the hardest of the three adjacent crack systems on this face, though I don't really agree with 5.8. Also, the pro for trad is pretty crappy. There is a huge flake on the route that will take all kinds of gear, but it has that scary hollow sound; you don't want to fall on this. Update-- this route now has 3 bolts and sport anchors.
- Flash Crack, 5.7-- 5.6 on some other sites. It's a solid 5.6, maybe a 5.7, but easier than the other 5.7 here. Fun moves and the best lead on the wall, in my opinion. Once the slab ends, there is really good pro the rest of the way. I was able to place a Tricam in a pocket on the slab, but I wasn't terribly confident that it would stay in a fall. Update-- this route now has 4 bolts and sport anchors.
- April Fool, 5.10a-- Climb the thin crack left of Touch of Class to a larger crack that angles up to the cave above. Climb over, not around, the left edge of the cave; this is the crux, though the start is tough as well.
- Worm, 5.9+-- Climb the dihedral to the left of Touch of Class (fun, slightly pumpy moves) and then up a diagonal flake. Stand up in front of the cave. Exit right of the cave.
- Touch of Class, 5.7-- Beautiful crack that runs out for an easy but pretty unprotectable finish. This line seems made for gear, and I did lead it, but it's not so great. For about half the length, it is, but then the crack goes off-width to the point that even a #6 C4 would be no good, and it seems a little too irregular to get good placements with Big Bros. If you do have a #6, placing it as high as possible might keep you off the ground if you try to run it out the rest of the way and fall just before topping out. Might. There are, though, a couple stopper placements near the top-out if you go right instead of left (most topropers probably finish left because that is more in line with the anchors). Update-- As of June 2017, this, too, got bolted. 5 bolts and sport anchors. The first two bolts are well right of the big crack, making me wonder if the bolter had the 10a variation in mind.
- Steep Bulge, 5.10a-- Face to the right of Touch of Class. I think the only 5.10 move is pulling over the bulge.
Note: the toprope anchors are just bolts and/or chains, and they are set back from the top, not at the top, so you will need some gear of your own. Suggestion: 30' of cord and 4 carabiners, with at least two being lockers. If you toprope off the chains, which, from groove marks up top, it is apparent that some people do, you are putting a lot more wear on your rope (and the chains), degrading the rock, and risking cutting your rope. One set of anchors is just three bolts; if you toprope directly off those, you really have no business climbing outdoors unless your goal is to get yourself or somebody else killed. So if you don't want to lead the routes and then TR off the sport anchors, make sure you have the right gear for making a solid and responsible anchor.
As of the submission date of this page, I have not been in the area very long, but I understand that there is disagreement about trad in the Greenbelt, with some saying the rock is too brittle and others saying there are trad-friendly routes if you take care. If in doubt, do an all-passive lead, as a cam is more likely to skate out of or blow up the rock out here than a stopper or hex is. And consider backing yourself up on a toprope. That might take the spice out of leading, but is risking your life on 30' of climbing that easily could be toproped worth it? Consider it as safe practice for the real thing.
Another thing to consider about trad leading at Guide's Wall: the starts of the center routes are run out. It is a good 10-15' up a slab to the first cracks. The slab is easy climbing but is quite polished in places. If in doubt, follow all the chalk splotches, the presence of which bewilder even my kids. Come on, gym climbers.
No fees. Read the trailhead signs and observe the posted hours.
When to Climb
All year. Even in the very hot summer, this wall gets pretty good shade.