Climb Like a Local: Pace Bend, TX

Categories: Climb Like a Local

In Texas, when it gets hotter than a snub-nosed .38 without serial numbers, local climbers head to Pace Bend. Only forty-five minutes west of Austin, Pace Bend is home to miles of limestone cliffs perched high above Lake Travis, making it an irresistible spot for deep-water soloing. Expect a fair amount of hooliganism.

Photo courtesy of © Merrick Ales

LOCAL VIBE: Pace Bend climbing is all about having fun. Even the most cantankerous Texas climber understands and abides by this one rule. It is not unusual to find fantasy animal pool floats or folks firing up battery-powered blenders for shore-side margaritas. The climbing ethic is fluid, and the feel of the place is transient. Locals understand that it’s a privilege to climb at Pace Bend, which has been closed for years at a time due to drought conditions. But when it’s open, it’s a helluva good time.

CLIMBING BETA: Virtually all the climbs at Pace Bend are nameless and gradeless. All you need are a pair of old shoes, a flotation device, and some chalk (a dry bag for your personal items is highly recommended). Just put on your shoes, jump into the lake, and float around for a bit to survey the climbs until you find something that looks like fun. When you’re ready to climb, swim over to the cliff and get after it. Sometimes the crux is just getting out of the water.

AVOID THE CROWDS: Try to climb on a weekday during the summer months, or find a friend with a boat to take you to some of the more remote areas. That said, you’ll still find places to climb at Pace Bend even on busy weekends. And if you own a wetsuit, you can have the entire park to yourself from November through March.

LOCAL PET PEEVE: Unrestrained dogs! There’s nothing worse than a dog swimming up behind you and clawing at your back, or swimming underneath you just as you set up for that dyno crux. Also, don’t sink empty containers in the lake. Someone once tried to sink a cache of stolen cars in the lake, and it didn’t end well.

WATCH OUT: Always check the landings for submerged obstacles. Water levels can fluctuate with rainfall and drought. Some areas may not be safe for climbing or cliff jumping. Check Bloodyflapper.com for water level reports before you visit. Also, dehydration can be a killer in the Texas heat, and many folks don’t think to stay hydrated when they’re floating around on the cool, jade-colored lake. Bring lots of water (swallowing lake water after a big fall doesn’t count). Also, bring cash because Pace Bend Park doesn’t accept credit cards. Entrance fees are $10 per vehicle.

CAMPING BETA: Pace Bend Park has over 400 primitive campsites, including beach camping. There are also 20 campsites that have electricity, water, showers, and restrooms. It’s one of the few parks that allow campfires, provided there isn’t a burn ban in effect.

REST DAY/GOOD EATS: Austin is the place to go for a rest day and good eats, and it’s only a forty-five-minute drive from Pace Bend Park. For a fixture of Austin Tex-Mex, check out Rosie’s Tamale House on Highway 71 just west of RR 620. Or just stock up at the local H-E-B on meat, chips and salsa, and margarita-in-a-bag mix. Many folks barbecue right on top of the cliffs at Pace Bend.

WHO’S GOT YOUR BACK: Texas Climbers Coalition represents climbing interests at Pace Bend Park.

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