Located in Echo Canyon and having one of the shortest approaches of Enchanted Rock's climbing sites, Motorboat Rock is a popular spot.
Although the routes are fairly short (a 40m rope is plenty to lead and then lower or rappel off anything here, and a 30 would suffice on most), they feature cracks of various sizes and some face climbing. Route difficulty ranges from 5.6 to 5.12b.
An easy scramble gets one to the top of Motorboat Rock, where there are bolted anchors for some routes and ample opportunities to set anchors for other routes by using boulders and gear (it is against park regulations to use trees as pro or anchors). Because of this, Motorboat is a choice destination for beginners and guided groups, so get there early, especially on nice weekends.
Set out on the Summit Trail and then take the Echo Canyon Trail. When that trail reaches a board with lots of information posted, head right and uphill on the "purple trail"; it leads directly to Motorboat Rock, which takes a whopping minute to reach from the main trail.
Normally, I like to list routes from left to right. However, Motorboat Rock is a free-standing formation with routes on all sides of it. Most routes are concentrated left of where the approach trail meets the crag, so I am going to list the routes from right to left as one circumnavigates the crag from the start of the easy scramble up to the top.
- Scramble to top-- Class 3
- Beginner's Bitch-- 5.7-. Start up a short blank face (probably the crux) until you reach the crack system and the first pro. There is a lot of questionable rock on this route. I placed pieces in the range of BD C4 .5-3; although the placements were good, I didn't want to fall on this rock and am glad I didn't. The rock does get better higher up, though. This route has bolted anchors up top.
- Bastard's Moan-- 5.7-. Another route with a blank, challenging start before getting to any pro. The crux is definitely the start on this one. There are some cheater stacks at the base; use them unless you are really tall or dominate polished 5.7 slab that really feels more like 5.8. Once you're up past the start, the climbing is much easier. Bolted anchors up top.
- Army Route-- 5.6. Left of Bastard's Moan is a large detached boulder. Start up behind it on the right, up and left; the finish is the same as Navy Route.
- Navy Route-- 5.8. Good pro the whole way. The bottom is the crux, and the diagonal crack there would be great for practicing extended placements if it weren't so close to the ground. The climb is easy after the crux, but be careful with the topout, as it is covered with loose pebbles and dirt. A local guidebook says there are bolted anchors up top, but that is incorrect.
- Shocker-- 5.12a/b X-- Starts on an undercling and finishes up a thin crack. Not sure about the X rating, as I've heard the route will take small cams, but I have not climbed it either on lead or TR.
- Can Opener-- 5.7+. Beautiful, obvious crack. Some awkward moves make this feel a lot tougher than the other 5.7 routes here and even the 5.8. Rock quality is great on this one. It's a good idea to have doubles in the .75-3 cam range.
- Cork Screw-- 5.11a. TR route. Start on Can Opener and finish up the face to the left.
- Motorboat-- 5.9. Arching crack on the NW side.
- Ben's Dilemma-- 5.9-. On the SE side. Goes up to a traverse beneath a roof. Bolted anchors.
Scramble to Top
Beginner's Bitch, 5.7-
Bastard's Moan, 5.7-
Navy Route, 5.8
Can Opener, 5.7+
Can Opener, 5.7+
Ben's Dilemma, 5.9-
There is a $7 daily entrance fee.
Climbers and rappelers are required to sign in. You are not required to pay a fee, get a permit, or list where you will be climbing; but you have to name the members of your party, note your climbing dates, and sign a waiver.
Periodically, the park closes for permitted hunts. Check the park website (final section below) for these and other possible closure periods.
On weekends and holidays and during school breaks, the parking lots often fill by as early as 10 or even 9 A.M. When that happens, the park closes for up to three hours at a time. Signs on major access roads will announce these closures, but that doesn't help if you're not local, so you might want to call before leaving. From the park's website: "Flashing signs on approaching roads will also alert you if the park is closed. One sign is north of Fredericksburg on R.R. 965; the other is on Hwy. 16 near the R.R. 965 intersection."
I saw this situation myself on Thanksgiving Day 2016 (fortunately, I had come in two days before and was camping), so it is no joke.
When to Climb
Early spring and late fall are best, but winter has a lot of good climbing days. Unless you're out here really early or really late, you pretty much don't want to touch this place May through September, though there are climbs in the park that are good in the summer.
The park has a campground and also allows primitive camping (backpacking) in designated zones. Reservations are strongly recommended. See the park website.