Another of the collection of Echo Canyon crags, the Orange Peel area has a fine assortment of moderate and difficult sport and trad routes that include a few park classics.
Those classics include Orange Peel (5.10a), Clockwerk Orange (5.11a) [sic], Mystery and Imagination (5.8), and Cave Crack (5.6).
E-Rock is really not a very beginner-friendly (for leaders) location, as there is not a whole lot 5.6 and under and a lot of that is runout and/or has very questionable rock quality.
Cave Crack typifies this. Despite the grade, and although the rock quality is very good, it requires jamming and some committing moves that newer trad leaders are not likely to feel comfortable with, and sewing it up requires larger pieces most new leaders are not going to have. For example, the crux section takes two #4s to protect it well, and many new trad climbers may not even have one cam that size.
Cave Crack can pair with Jack Knife (see attached page) for an excellent multi-pitch adventure to the top of the dome, and a few other climbs (the first three mentioned above) feature the opportunity to add an easy second pitch that ends where Cave Crack does.
The Orange Peel area gets morning shade, which makes it a good location for summer climbing. Do some single-pitch routes and then do one of the multi-pitches to the top and walk off as the place starts becoming an oven.
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. Motorboat Rock will be to the left, and Practice Slab will be to the right; keep going and then trend left to do some route-finding and scrambling to the base, which is easy to see.
Approach time should be 20-30 minutes.
From left to right, and these are all on the same wall except for Cave Crack:
Crevice Cruise, 5.7 R-- the chimney behind Thor's Flake, the massive flake leaning against the wall.
Journey to Evermore, 5.9+ R-- climb Thor's Flake and then the face above (protected by one bolt) and work right into Orange Peel and finish on it.
Orange Juice, 5.10 X-- the face between Thor's Flake and Orangasm.
Orangasm, 5.13 (TR)-- the overhanging arete to the left of Orange Peel.
Orange Peel, 5.10a-- the obvious crack in a corner. Starts hard and then gets a lot easier. Bolted anchors.
Agent Orange, 5.11c (TR)-- the arete left of Clockwerk Orange. Use that route's anchors.
Orange Bowl, 5.10 R-- Clip the first bolt of Clockwerk Orange and then move right to Mystery and Imagination and finish on that.
Clockwerk Orange, 5.11a-- three bolts.
Mystery and Imagination, 5.8-- starts to the right of the large tree. The first bolt (of three) is really high, even if you start after an awkward scramble to the ledge above and right from the base. Shares anchors with Clockwerk Orange.
Cave Crack, 5.6-- If you don't want to do Jack Knife and then rap or scramble to the base of Cave Crack, which is the easiest way to get there, you can do the awkward scramble up to the right of Mystery and Imagination and then find your way through cave-like features until you reach the base. Some of the scrambling here is pretty exposed.
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.
Slinging trees for anchors or pro is prohibited.
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."
The state parks now have an online system for reserving day passes up to 30 days in advance.
When to Climb
All year. Summer mornings are shaded here; later, it turns into an oven.
The park has a campground and also allows primitive camping (backpacking) in designated zones. Reservations are strongly recommended. See the park website.
There is also camping 7 miles away at Frontier Outpost and 13 miles away at Oxford Ranch. Both sites are privately owned. Fees are $10 and starting at $8 per night per person, respectively.
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