Climbing in the Highland Lakes

Nick Tran (left), Chancy Kennedy (center) and Adam Mitchell (right) each work different routes on the same limestone wall. Although they are so close to each other, the routes can vary in difficulty. Photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Rock climbing experts offer lessons and outdoor adventures for all skill levels

Climbing once drew only savage adventurers to even wilder places where they could measure themselves against the mountains, rocks and cliffs of the world. Today the sport has become very accessible to almost anyone who feels like climbing, especially around the lakes of the Highlands.

The meandering rivers and granite formations of the Hill Country provide a beautiful natural playground for the thriving central Texas climbing community. Favorite places include Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Pace Bend Park, and Milton Reimers Ranch Park.

You can also schedule an indoor climb when the weather is bad, but you feel the need to climb something tall.

I met a group of climbers at Milton Reimers Ranch Park on the outskirts of the Highland Lakes near Spicewood. The high limestone walls along the Pedernales River provide exceptional climbing opportunities that appeal to a wide range of climbers, even the beginner.

Adam Mitchell and Chris Morris of Rock-About Climbing Adventures presented our group with a series of routes in the public park that ranged from beginner to advanced technical level. Rock-About, headquartered in Marble Falls, offers classes for all skill levels, including those without any skill.

Morris works as a guide for Rock-About and is an army veteran and semi-nomadic climber who travels the country making climbs that push him to the limit.

Mitchell is a native of Texas, the executive director of the Texas Climber Coalition, a certified assistant rock guide with the American Association of Mountain Guides, and the owner of Rock-About Climbing Adventures. Since 2011, he has been guiding climbers around the world and in the Texas Hill Country.

Adam Mitchell’s dog, Macy, is famous among local climbers. She walks through the equipment as they prepare for their climb. Photo by Dakota Morrissiey

While rock climbing may seem daunting or unapproachable, this group of climbers represented a diversity of skill levels ready to take on the rocks.

“It’s accessible to everyone. You can be as risky or as low risk as you want,” Mitchell said.

Twelve-year-old Tzuri Patrick and his mother, Roni Beer of Austin are seasoned climbers.

“Both of my parents climbed, and when I was 2 they put me on the rock and I just started climbing,” Tzuri said.

Jim Emmons, 65, of Austin didn’t start climbing until he was 59.

“When you’re older, you appreciate the joy of being on the move and the joy of beautiful places more,” said Emmons.

As for me, my first ascent was an exhilarating experience. I had this in common with all the climbers who joined us in Reimers. We enjoyed both the climb and the camaraderie.

Everyone present shared the feeling that the best way to start is to find a guide service or take lessons in a climbing gym such as Pure fun at Marble Falls. Open by appointment only, the indoor climbing hall has 400 square feet of fixed climbing space. It also has a 12 foot adjustable kilter wall that can go from standing to a 45 degree angle.

“There are over 1,000 rides on it,” said Lorinda Peters, owner of Sheer Fun with her husband Jay. “It lights up different routes to climb, showing you where you need to aim your feet and hands. ”

Climbing shoes are available for hire for newcomers about to engage in the sport.

Getting the equipment is pretty straightforward. All you need, besides the proper footwear, is a harness, rope, helmet, and sturdy carabiners.

The next step is to find a crew to climb with, which shouldn’t be difficult. Find a climbing wall and you will find a climber who will lead you to a community of people eager to share their knowledge, experience and the next adventure. Sheer Fun led me to Mitchell.

Peters urges anyone interested in rock climbing to give him a call. An interior wall is a great place to start.

“Come and try us out,” she said. “Once you do, you’ll get hooked. It’s a great exercise for everyone, middle school, high school, young adults. My husband and I are in our 60s and we are climbing.

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  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredricksburg, 830-685-3636
  • Milton Reimers Ranch Park, 23610 Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs near Spicewood, 512-264-1923 or
  • Pace Bend Park, 2805 Pace Bend Road North in Spicewood, 512-264-1482 or
  • Rock-about climbing adventures, 1102 Elm Lane in Marble Falls, 512-415-0804
  • Pure pleasure, 2413, rue Commerce in Marble Falls, 830-613-7878

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