If you've lived in Austin all your climbing life, you might hate Seismic Wall, or at least have disdain for it, for one, some, or all of the following reasons:
No other climbing spot in the area has such a short and easy approach, making it appealing to the masses.
There are a lot of moderate routes, making it appealing to the masses.
Access is free, making it appealing to the masses.
Most routes are bolted, making them appealing to the masses (hopefully the locals and the bolters appreciate irony).
The masses have worn the limestone here so smooth that sometimes it can feel like climbing on glass. (More irony-- If you bolt it, they will come.)
If you are new to the area, though, Seismic Wall is a great place to start for the following reasons:
No other climbing spot in the area has such a short and easy approach.
There are a lot of moderate routes.
Access is free.
Most routes are bolted.
Polished Limestone at Seismic Wall
Seismic Wall is 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).
Most activity at Seismic Wall seems to occur on the right side, where from left to right there are nine moderates ranging from 5.6 to 5.9, with most of them being 5.8. In my opinion, due to the polished nature of so much of the rock, those climbs feel pretty solid for the grade. In fact, had I not previously done a lot of climbing in a well-polished, notoriously sandbagged area, I would have thought these routes were sandbagged at least one grade as well. In any event, a first-timer here who is used to climbing on sharp, gritty rock may have a tough time at first, and I recommend starting out by leading one or two grades below his or her regular level.
In fact, the author of the guidebook mentioned farther down this page admits that due to the polish and the fact that most routes here were put up before grade inflation became rampant, the climbs here are indeed stiff for the grades.
Due to how polished the rock is, it is not uncommon to see people climb barefoot here. On many of the routes, the rock is not sharp enough to cut your feet, and the flesh might actually be an improvement over climbing shoes where traction is concerned.
There are several difficult climbs here as well, including the area classic Cuttin' Cards for a Poke, a .12b that involves a completely horizontal traverse under a huge roof before pulling the roof to clip the anchors and then topping out. It's .12a if you "just" clip the anchors. A guy I watched lead it used a heel hook to go for that final clip, wedging his foot in among some big cactuses at the top of the route. Yikes.
Most climbs range from 30 to 50'.
Atop most of the routes are sport anchors. I have noticed that some people TR directly off the anchors after first leading the route and that some TR off their own gear. Keep in mind that if you have the know-how to set your own gear and have the last climber rappel off the anchors instead of lowering off them, you will be reducing wear on the anchors and saving the maintainers time and money. If you do lower or TR directly off the anchors, make sure to inspect them first; I have noticed some here and at Reimers Ranch that are fairly grooved.
Often, it is easy to traverse from one set of anchors to another, facilitating toproping if you have a large party.
Getting to Seismic Wall means crossing Barton Creek. Sometimes Barton Creek is completely dry here. Other times, there is 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. Besides, when the creek is high enough to run, the bases of the climbs might be underwater. At around 100, I have found waist-deep spots where the current is light, but you obviously had better have your phone, wallet, key fob, and gear protected.
Polished Limestone at Seismic Wall
There are several access points for the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and you could hike or bike to Seismic Wall from any of them. This page covers the closest trailhead. From the parking lot, it takes me literally 4 minutes to reach the crag.
From whatever point of origin, get onto 360. If you're headed south, look for a stoplight shortly after the bridge over Barton Creek. If you're headed north, the stoplight is before the bridge.
At this light, turn into a business park. (Northbound travelers who miss this turn can turn in onto another road very shortly thereafter.)
Once in the business park, turn left at the first opportunity and drive to a signed gravel road denoting the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Park, take the main trail down to the creek, and cross over to Seismic Wall. You'd have to be blind to miss it.
These are single-pitch routes, almost all of them sport. Routes in bold are ones I have led so far, with a couple TR-only routes as exceptions.
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:
Man Hands 5.10c/11a
Captain Morgan 5.10c
Mister Blister 5.10d
Short People 5.9
Hoover Head 5.9
Hoovering 5.9 (TR)
Torpedo's Away 5.9
Angel of Poets 5.10b
Matter of Honor 5.10a
Lick the Window 5.10c
Luminaire Noir 5.11b/c
Seismic Step 5.7 (not a bolted route-- TR or trad)
She's No Dog, She's My Wife 5.11b
Nose Print On The Windshield 5.11c
Just for Fun of It 5.9/5.10a
Rock Dog (TR) 5.11c/d
Diving for Rocks 5.10b/d
Lonesome Dove 5.11a
Cuttin' Cards For a Poke 5.12a/b
Ice Cubes, Popcorn, and Popsicles (aka Slimy Crack) 5.9
Maggie Needs New Shoes (TR) 5.9
Bird Dog 5.8 (with TR variations of 5.9 and 5.10a)
Over Easy 5.9
It's a Wiggle Butt 5.8+
Butt Scratch 5.7
Roo Dog 5.8
The Mongrel 5.9 (not 5.9 if you use the tree at the base)
Dogtailing 5.8 (traverse involving select bolts and anchors from the previous four)
Die Easy 5.6
Black Slabbath 5.7 (with 5.8 and 5.9 variations)
Seismic Wall, Left Side-- Torpedo's Away
Seismic Wall, Left Side-- the dihedral is Seismic Step
Diving for Rocks, 5.10d
Bird Dog and Over Easy, 5.8 and 5.9
It's a Wiggle Butt and Butt Scratch, 5.8+ and 5.7
Roo Dog and Hollywood (5.8, 5.7)
The Mongrel, 5.9
Die Easy, 5.6
Black Slabbath, 5.7
No fees. Read the trailhead signs and observe the posted hours.
When to Climb
All year. In summer, climb as early as possible, or climb after 5:00 P.M., when the sun starts to get off the wall. Or just sweat and have tons of chalk.