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Rock climbing in the Highland Lakes

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

Rock-climbing experts offer lessons and outdoor adventure for all skill levels

Rock climbing once only drew wild adventurers to even wilder places where they could pit themselves against the mountains, boulders, and cliff faces of the world. Today, the sport has become wildly accessible to just about anyone craving a climb, especially around the Highland Lakes.

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

You can also schedule an indoor climb when the weather’s not right but you feel the need to scale something big.

I met up with 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 offer exceptional rock-climbing opportunities that appeal to a broad range of climbers, even this beginner.

Adam Mitchell and Chris Morris with Rock-About Climbing Adventures introduced our group to a series of routes at the public park that varied from beginner to advanced technical. Rock-About, which is headquartered in Marble Falls, offers courses for all skill levels, including those without any skills at all.

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

Mitchell is a native Texan, the executive director of the Texas Climbers Coalition, a certified assistant rock guide with the American Mountain Guides Association, 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 roams the gear as they prepare for their climb. Photo by Dakota Morrissiey

While rock climbing can seem intimidating or inaccessible, this group of climbers represented a diversity of skill levels ready to take on the rocks.

"It's available to anyone. You can be as risky or unrisky as you want," Mitchell said.

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

"Both of my parents climbed, and when I was 2 years old, 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 have a greater appreciation for the joy of movement and the joy of beautiful places," Emmons said.

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

Everyone present shared the sentiment that the best way to get started is to find a guide service or take lessons at a climbing gym such as Sheer Fun in Marble Falls. Open by appointment only, the indoor rock-climbing gym features 400 square feet of fixed climbing space. It also has a 12-foot adjustable kilter wall that can go from standing upright to a 45-degree angle.

“It has over 1,000 climbs on it,” said Lorinda Peters, who owns Sheer Fun with husband Jay. “It lights up different routes for you to climb, showing you where you should be aiming your feet and your hands.”

Climbing shoes are available for rent for newcomers on the cusp of making a commitment to the sport.

Getting the gear is simple enough. All you need besides the proper shoes are a harness, a rope, a helmet, and some heavy-duty carabiners.

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

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

“Come out and give us a try,” she said. “Once you do it, you’ll be hooked. It’s great exercise for all people, middle school, high school, young adults on up. My husband and I are in our 60s and we climb.”


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