Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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By Russell Roe

Bouldering reduces rock climbing to its simplest form — just you and the rock and a good pair of climbing shoes.

Bouldering, which involves climbing boulders and short cliffs without a rope, started as a way to practice climbing moves and to train for climbing bigger walls but evolved into its own climbing discipline, with its own rating system, terminology, adherents and hot spots.

Texas has a big claim to fame in the bouldering world. Bouldering’s system of rating the difficulty of climbs was developed in Texas, and one of our state parks (Hueco Tanks) is often cited as the best bouldering spot in the world.

In bouldering, climbers typically climb no higher than 15 to 20 feet up because a fall means dropping all the way down to the ground. Risking such a fall requires a certain amount of courage and typically spurs a few safety precautions. Boulderers often use pads to cushion a fall and ask fellow climbers to spot them (as in gymnastics) to break their fall. Bouldering inspires climbers with purity of movement, creative problem solving and close interaction with the rock as boulderers search for solutions to climbing difficult sections of rock. The sport has often pushed the limits of determining what’s physically possible to climb, but it’s not just about that. Bouldering can be as simple as a kid climbing a big rock along a trail.

Without the distraction of ropes and most other gear, climbers find the freedom to explore rocks and test their limits. Bouldering can be accomplished alone, but it is best done with other climbers, who can offer support and encouragement and collaborate on figuring out the best ways to the top.

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Gear Up:

John Sherman, the guru of Hueco Tanks bouldering, says, “The only gear really needed to go bouldering is boulders.” True, but a little gear really helps.

  • Climbing shoes: The only essential gear for bouldering. These shoes work miracles.
  • Bouldering pad: These are used to cushion falls from high places. Another Hueco original!
  • Chalk bag with gymnastic chalk: Keep those hands dry for smooth attempts to the top.
  • Guidebook: Most Texas rock climbing guidebooks have sections on bouldering.

Where to Go:

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site near El Paso is the birthplace of modern bouldering and remains the go-to place for dedicated boulderers around the world. It has some of the world’s best rock and an incredible array of classic bouldering routes.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Hill Country contains numerous bouldering routes on granite formations.

Reimers Ranch, a county park west of Austin, is the state’s premier sport-climbing area and also has lots of bouldering opportunities on limestone rock.

McKinney Falls State Park in Austin features a limestone bouldering area along Onion Creek.

Pace Bend, a county park west of Austin, features climbing on lakeside cliffs. Instead of falling to the ground, climbers fall into the water, making it a popular summer destination.

Climbing gyms: Most climbing gyms offer bouldering areas, and some, such as the Austin Bouldering Project, are dedicated solely to bouldering.

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Hueco Tanks Is Home to World-Class Bouldering

Beyond the Dome at Enchanted Rock


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