Jack Knife (5.5) and Cave Crack (5.6)

Page Type
Route
Location:
Texas, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Season:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.6 (YDS)

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Jack Knife (5.5) and Cave Crack (5.6)
Created On: Feb 2, 2017
Last Edited On: Feb 3, 2017

Overview

Upper Cave Crack from the top of Jack Knife
Upper Cave Crack from the top of Jack Knife

Although this is not officially a multi-pitch route, as the individual lines are considered parts of different crags (Throne Rock and Orange Peel, respectively), the two link perfectly, and many climb them both as a way to reach the top of Enchanted Rock and then walk off.

Additionally, many consider each route the best at its grade in the park. Jack Knife is one of the best choices in the park for someone's first lead, as the climbing is pretty easy and the protection is great.

Cave Crack, in spite of the moderate grade, is among many park climbers' favorites because of the fun climbing and the awesome location. That location, starting inside a "cave," makes it one of the few summer-friendly routes in the park.

In fact, this whole sequence is a summer-friendly climb as long as you start early. Both routes face west, and the sun rises in the northeast at that time of year, so you can climb Jack Knife in shade, and the first half of Cave Crack is always shaded and cool. Be aware, though, that the finish, however short, as the second part is easy and fast, will probably be in full sun. In summer, camping here and then starting the climb, not the approach, about an hour before dawn would make a lot of sense.
 
Cave Crack finishes near the top of the dome and close to some scenic boulders called the Lunar Rocks. There are some established bouldering problems there.

Top of the Dome
Top of the Dome

Lunar Rocks
Lunar Rocks

Getting There

Set out on the Summit Trail and then take the Echo Canyon Trail. When that trail reaches a board with lots of information posted, take the purple trail. Go uphill and right until you find Jack Knife. Approach time is 15-20 minutes.

Echo Canyon and Enchanted Rock
Echo Canyon and Enchanted Rock-- Cave Crack is visible; click for details and then enlarge.

Route Description

Jack Knife (5.5)-- About 80'. Bolted anchors. Climb the gear-friendly crack and dihedral. There are a couple airy moves, but the climbing is never hard. Don't be afraid to look for and use holds on the face and arete. Caution: if you rappel this route from the anchors, throw your rope well left or right of the line, as it it easy to get a rope stuck here; I have seen the remains of terribly jammed ropes other climbers had to cut, and when solo-leading this route, I had to spend much more time than planned freeing the rope while cleaning the route.

Jack Knife, 5.5
Jack Knife, 5.5

Jack Knife, 5.5-- Upper Portion
Jack Knife, 5.5-- Upper Portion

To get to Cave Crack, rappel down the back side of Jack Knife's anchors or scramble down (Class 4). Work your way left into a small opening and then enter the "cave." You'll see a beautiful crack splitting the wall from the very bottom. That's the route.

Cave Crack (5.6)-- The crack starts as fingers and quickly goes to hands and then fists. There are always good holds and jams; again, don't be afraid to find things on the wall. Because the roof/back of the cave is so close, you can use chimney technique to move, rest, or place gear. The first time I climbed this, I did not touch the roof/back, but the second time I was feeling lazy and I did, and I think the chimney version makes the route a little easier. Exiting the cave is the crux, as you are forced out onto a slab. This feels scary the first time, but the feet are good, and there are good hands if you reach up (helps if you're tall). After the crux, you reach a ledge. Some build an anchor here because it makes communication easier. From the ledge, there is a short section of about 5.4 or so, and then the grade relents to the point that it is really a walk up the rest of the crack to a large tree and boulders that make an obvious belay station. Note: the tree is huge, but sections appear to be dying and rotting, so consider slinging a boulder as well.

Cave Crack from Inside the Cave
Cave Crack from Inside the Cave

Cave Crack, 5.6
Cave Crack, 5.6

Cave Crack, 5.6-- Finish
Cave Crack, 5.6-- Finish

Descent

I understand there is a single-rope rap (not sure of the rope length) from the nearby Orange Peel anchors, but I do not know where they are and thus cannot comment. Several yards to skier's right, there are anchor bolts for Smorgasbord. A 60 will get you to the top of the slab below the start of Smorgasbord, but then you will have about 20' of 5.2 downclimbing. When I did this rap with a 70, I still was short by about 6'. Other 70 ropes may stretch more and get you to the ground; just please don't forget to knot the ends.

Essential Gear

A standard rack of cams and nuts will do for Jack Knife, though you can find places for a 3.5 and a 4 if you want (near the top, the crack widens, but the climbing is really easy, though you might place a piece just for responsibility's sake).

For Cave Crack, cams in the 2-3 sizes work at first, but most people will want 2 or 3 #4s after that, especially to protect the crux. After the cave exit, the crack gets big enough to take a #5 and even a #6 or a Big Bro or Valley Giant, but at that point, it's really a walk. The only part above the exit where anyone might fall can be protected by a #4.

So...a standard rack plus 3 or 4 #4's unless you completely dominate the grade.

Rope: from the start to the big tree, Cave Crack is about 140'. A 50m rope will probably do, but a 60 or 70 will guarantee it. If you plan to rap down, see the previous section.








Jack Knife (5.5) and Cave Crack (5.6)

Route
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Geography

Routes in Texas

Parents

Enchanted RockRoutes