As long as you don't need real mountains, snow, ice, and the ocean, Austin (and vicinity) pretty much has it all: lots of beautiful, smart people; lots of cool, friendly people; plenty of jobs, and many of them paying well; great food and music; top-notch climbing gyms if that's your thing; and, most importantly, year-round outdoor sport and trad climbing.
And deep water soloing.
Yes, DWS in Central Texas. Dam-created Lake Travis is over 100' deep in places, often becoming that deep just past water's edge, and it rises to meet limestone cliffs up to 40' high. To many locals, this is a place to drink beer and dive off cliffs, to drink beer and have cookouts, and to drink beer and zoom around in watercraft; to local climbers, it is a place to climb May-September when chasing the shade gets old, and then you drink beer afterwards.
Finished the route? Move too hard? Pumped out?
Just let go and enjoy about the softest catch there can be.
The rock can be slick from algae near water's edge, but past that, it is sharp and pockety with plenty of flakes, cracks, and overhangs. Difficulties range from easy to really hard, but even if you spend a few hours here doing easy stuff, you'll probably feel wiped out later.
For a great day of summer climbing, start at Monster Rock
early (MR is just a few miles south of Pace Bend and off the same access road) and then go to Pace Bend to finish.
There are some bolted routes here, though I don't know the condition of the hardware or how often the routes are exposed, and there are plenty of toproping opportunities as well, though you need the gear for anchors.
Caroline Climbing at Giles Cove
From Route 71 between Llano and Bee Cave, turn north onto Pace Bend Road; a sign and a Chevron station make this easy to locate. Drive to the park entrance.
There are dozens of identified routes here, and then there is just the simplicity of getting into the water and climbing something, documented or not.
Most of the climbing is in the various coves along the shoreline.
I am not going to list all the coves or comment on them; in fact, I have only climbed at two of them so far. What I will do is mention the following:
- If you want details on routes, get John Hogge's Austin Climbing; it has a section on Pace Bend that goes into the coves, the routes, and the recommended water levels.
- Water levels matter. To check water levels at various coves, visit bloodyflapper.com.
- Giles Cove is just about always climbable. I believe the nearby Hueco Wall is as well.
The daily entrance fee is $10 per vehicle.
Pace Bend is a Travis County Park, and come January 1, 2018, the parks pass, now $100 for anyone, is going up to $125 for Travis County residents and $200 (yes, that's right) for non-county residents. My best guess is that these extortionist tactics are meant to decrease usage and punish those who get their money's worth from their passes. As a non-Travis resident who bought a new pass in October 2017 and has already more than gotten his money's worth from climbing days at Reimers Ranch
, I will not be buying a new pass and will probably not be climbing at Reimers or Pace Bend much at all except when riding in with friends. Nice job, Travis County; you will make less money from me than you would have had you not decided to rip people off.
Other things to note: People drown in Lake Travis each year. Usually, it's boaters. However, DWS does carry risks. Many people climb with a PFD on; it's uncomfortable when you're floating, but it might save your ass; I have a friend who slipped here, split his scalp, and probably would have drowned had he not been wearing a PFD.
Many people use noodles, kayaks, rafts, and other flotation devices to access the climbing areas.
Never just jump down unless you are positive about conditions; the lower the lake is, the more likely there will be boulders or shelves just beneath the surface close to water's edge.
If you're not a good swimmer, just stay the hell away, no matter what flotation devices you have.
There is a developed campground, and there is also "primitive" camping (you park your car in a certain area and pitch a tent). Please see the park's website (link in last section) for details.
When To Climb
The park is open all year, but the prime time for DWS is late May through September. At other times, the water is usually too cold.