Home to some easy and moderate single-pitch routes, including two that can be extended to top out on the dome-- and one of those can be broken up into two pitches to reduce rope drag-- Smorgasbord Wall is a nice place to spend a day at Enchanted Rock.
The wall is one of many on the "backside" (north side) of Enchanted Rock, and it is the farthest west (climber's right) of the walls considered to be part of the Backside.
Routes here are on granite that is either bomber or really sketchy; bring cams for the good rock and hexes for the hollow-sounding stuff that you know you can't trust. And stoppers, of course.
View from Above Strawberry Jam (5.3)
From any parking area, get to the Summit Trail and follow it. After it gets pretty steep, look left for a sign diverting hikers to Echo Canyon. Take that fork, go over a divide, and then descend to a large board with all kinds of regulations and other information posted.
"It is possible to reach the wall by following the main trail around the backside of the Main Dome until you are even with the wall, and then bushwhack up to the base. The easier route to the base of the wall is through Echo Canyon. From the base of Echo Canyon, hike the green climbers' trail to the Triple Cracks area. There is a narrow slot behind Grass Crack on the far left side of the area. Climb through the slot and shimmy to the top of a slab that deposits you at the base of Smorgasbord (5.6). The remaining climbs can be reached by following the base of the wall."
Alas, I opted for the former, and I not only bushwhacked but did some sketchy scrambling as well. This also involved taking my pack off and crawling through a short tunnel to get to Texas Flakes and Smorgasbord.
From left to right as you face the wall:
- Strawberry Jam (5.3)-- This route is about 80' to where most people belay (a rotting tree that I did not trust) and about 120' to better options (long slings needed to wrap boulders, though a gear anchor might work). It's an odd route. If you stay in the crack, where the pro is, you face painful jams in an off-width, but it is so low-angle that I think it's more like Class 4. If you stay up high either left or right of the crack, the climbing is airy, fun, easy Class 5, and very hard to protect. After climbing this, you can top out on the dome and walk off.
Strawberry Jam (5.3)
- Texas Flakes (5.5)-- From the huge tree at the base of an obvious flake, climb, and follow the flake system. People call this a great beginner lead, but I disagree. Although the climbing is easy in dry conditions, the route is a traversing one (many beginners do not understand rope drag), and, more significantly, the flakes on this route are in some places ready to blow. Leaders don't often fall on 5.5, I know, but a fall on this route, especially on a cam, could be a mess. This route has toprope and trad variations from 5.4 to 5.9 (the 5.4 goes up the big crack to the left that joins the flake system higher up, and the 5.9 is a TR route straight to the anchors). The standard route will take cams up to a C4 #5 (if you want to trust them). Bolts for anchors.
|Start of Texas Flakes (5.5)
|Texas Flakes (5.5) from Smorgasbord (5.6)
- Smorgasbord (5.6)-- Best route on the wall. I've done the main line and one variation; both feel about the same in difficulty, though the variation was headier and harder to protect. Climb 20' up an unprotectable Class 4-5.2 slab to a good stance (you can sling a boulder here for a belay anchor or your first piece of pro if you want). Follow a seam and dihedral up to a big ledge; some make this two pitches and belay from here to reduce drag. The traditional line goes up to the obvious undercling above and follows it up and left and then traverses right on easier ground to the anchors. The variation goes right. I found a 120cm sling and a #5 C4 very helpful for the variation; there is also an absolutely spectacular keyhole placement if you can spot it. The variation ends on an easy low-angle crack, and then you step over to the anchors. A 60m rope will not get you back to the ground, as the route is about 120-130 vertical feet; a 60m will only get you to the top of the starting slab, and then you will have to downclimb. A 70 will get you almost all the way down, but you will still have to do 5' or so of easy downclimbing (stretch varies by the rope, though, so some 70's might get you all the way down; make sure to knot the ends). A better and safer option is to save this climb for last. The top of the dome is a short hike from the anchors, and then you can hike down the Summit Trail back to the car.
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."
The state parks now have an online system for reserving day passes up to 30 days in advance.
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.
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.