Rock climbing in and around Austin, Texas is growing in popularity, as are the local businesses and groups that support it. Although the sport has traditionally been a specialized activity it has become a more mainstream popular adventure sport in recent years. And along with the popularity growth, so has there been a increasingly wide array of men’s climbing shoes, women’s climbing shoes, kid’s climbing shoes, specialized ropes and related climbing products and equipment.
Climbing is an exceptional social bonding activity, and great for all who wish to augment their regular workout routine with something more organic and adventurous. Apart from Austin’s steady population boom, great outdoor climbing just two miles from downtown in the Barton Creek greenbelt is likely another location-specific factor driving popularity. The ability to climb outdoors within city limits makes it perfect for the busy urbanite.
Limestone boulders and cliffs, such as those at Milton Reimers Ranch Park, dot the countryside around Austin, and Enchanted Rock Natural Area provides granite climbing less than two hours away.
When Lake Travis is not too low, climbers free themselves of ropes and scale the surrounding cliffs, protected from falls by the water below. Equally favorable to climbers, the local climate creates a situation where there is never an offseason. So, many climbers like to combine rock climbing with tent camping, kayaking and canoeing with their sport.
This consistent growth of the sport in Austin seems to have yielded greater demand for indoor climbing also. Several popular commercial gyms have offered both sport climbing (roped, anchored) as well as bouldering (near-the-ground, un-roped above pads).
Rock gyms serve important functions to their climbing communities that go beyond mere training, competitions, or climate control. Gyms are also a great place for beginners to start climbing, reinforce community ties, and receive the preparation necessary before venturing outdoors.
Local businesses and groups support outdoor climbing as well. They go on excursions to Enchanted Rock and teach the fundamentals of rope work and climbing techniques. Rock Dog, which is an inexpensive, dog-friendly campground that caters to climbers at Reimers Ranch, is a great place for rock climbing groups.
There are several online groups (Climbing Buddies, Austin Climbers, and Climbing Meetup) who use Yahoo! and Meetup.com to coordinate outdoor climbing. Each group welcomes newcomers, even those who show up alone without all of the necessary gear.
There is a lot of untapped potential for outdoor climbing in central Texas. It is impossible to drive through the countryside without seeing tantalizing cliff faces or large, fun-looking boulders. Much of it is on private land unavailable to climbers. Social pressure and economic incentives are likely to increase climbers’ access to these lands, especially as more people begin climbing, more businesses rely on it for revenue, and climbers even buy land for themselves.
Additionally, organizations such as the Access Fund and Central Texas Mountaineers work with property owners and the state to ensure that environmentally sustainable climbing activities are welcome at local crags.