Cub Cave Beta, July 11, 2012


Cub Cave is one of the lesser-known climbing destinations in south-central Texas. It has less than ten routes, but those routes feature amazing climbing experiences. In the new Austin Climbing book by John Hogge, there is a one-page description of Cub Cave on page 245. Unfortunately, even in this guide book, some of the information (and the bolt counts in particular) is inaccurate. Because I know of no good resource for climbers wanting to learn about this small crag, I'm writing my own beta.

However, as we all know, climbing is an inherently dangerous activity; you can be injured or killed. I take no responsibility for how you use or rely upon this information.

Cub Cave is a limestone sinkhole. There is another sinkhole nearby called Bear Cave (which has no climbing). The park has a nice, short, walk/bike trail for you to enjoy. There is a also a small cavern below Cub Cave.

Finding Cub Cave

Cub Cave is located at Stone Oak Park on city property. I don't know that climbing access is officially allowed, but I've yet to hear of anyone being threatened for access to the cave. Stone Oak park is located in the north-central suburbs of San Antonio, Texas. The address is 20395 Stone Oak Parkway, San Antonio, Texas, 78258.

From the intersection of 281 and Stone Oak Parkway, travel a little ways west on Stone Oak Parkway. You'll see a huge elementary school called "Canyon Ridge Elementary" on the left; the park is directly across the street on the right. If you get to the Mormon temple, you've passed it. From the parking lot, follow the trail north a few steps, turn right at the first opportunity (right next to the parking lot), and then turn left at the sign that says "Cub Cave".

Important Facts about Cub Cave

Routes at Cub Cave do not have anchor bolts. All the routes are overhanging and difficult. You will need to be handy with a "Squid" or other device in order to get your quickdraws down. Top-roping is generally not possible.

Cub Cave gets a regular trashing from the riff-raff due to its convenient location. When setting up your rope, watch out for pieces of broken bottles and don't walk around barefoot. As a climber, you are an ambassador for our sport to everyone at the park, so please take care of the area and smile at the little children who stare at you as you work your project. Read and bear in mind...

Bolts at Cub Cave

You'll see many bolts in a variety of conditions at Cub Cave. Some of them are obviously mank; some are solid, and some are in between. To my limited knowledge, there were several bolting efforts done before I moved to San Antonio in September 2010. One was sponsored by the American Safe Climbing Association. At this time, I think that all bolts at Cub Cave were expansion bolts, similar to the ones used on most routes at Reimer's Ranch. However, these bolts are not holding up well. I briefly met the climber who was to install new bolts in Cub Cave in 2011. That climber installed many glue-in bolts that should hold up better than the original expansion bolts. Unfortunately, as far as I know, that climber did not complete the rebolting in part because his set of draws left on a route were stolen!

My recommendation is to choose routes with glue-in bolts. As for bolt counts, some routes have as many as nine or ten bolts, but new bolts seem to appear out of nowhere. The routes are all PG due to ground-fall potential, but nothing is seriously run-out.

When to Climb

Climbing at Cub Cave is very weather dependent. Since all the routes are inside of the cave, the area gets all-day shade, which makes it ideal for those hot summer days when everywhere else is too hot. Unfortunately, the area experiences a lot of limestone seepage. Once a big storm comes thru, it may be weeks before the rock is dry enough to climb on.

The Routes

As before, all the routes are steeply overhanging and difficult. No routes have anchor bolts. The ethics do not require you to top out to complete a route; just grab the top and then lower down. Notice that because of the way the routes exit the cave, you will never be high above the ground.

Route names and grades seem to depend upon who you ask, but here is the best summary I know of the routes at Cub Cave, from left to right:

White Trash (5.12) [FA: Alex Catlin]
This is the left-most bolted route at Cub Cave with seven expansion bolts. There is a vertical cave directly to the left of the first three bolts. Past the third bolt, the route traverses directly to the left and then up. The route was originally graded 5.11, but it is said that a key hold near the top broke, making it a bit harder.

Fisher King (5.13) [FA: Mike Klein]
This is the route directly to the right of White Trash. At the bottom are two glue-in bolts which have expansion bolts to the right. The expansion bolts follow the holds at the bottom and the new glue-in bolts are a little bit off the line. The moves on the ceiling are very classic and fun. Footwork is key!

Genetic Drift (5.12) [FA: Jeb Vetters & Paul Erbe]
Genetic Drift starts to the right of Fisher King. It can be identified by a right-facing flake between bolts 1 and 2. This is the route in the photograph in the John Hogge guidebook. Words cannot express how bad-ass this route is. The features are so varied and fun to climb on, it's unreal! Be sure to find the bat-hang in the ceiling. It's the huge opening in the ceiling. Jam in one foot, and then the other; now, carefully, let go with one hand, then the other, and shake out while completely relaxing the rest of your body. Now, do an inverted sit-up. Go get 'em! Most climbers who get on this route will finish at the huge right-facing cave at the top; this feature is actually part of Bioplasm, but is now necessarily a part of Genetif Drift because the original finishing holds broke off.

Triple X Baby (5.12) [FA: Jeb Vetters]
This route is distinguished by having a single one of the old bolts at the beginning. This is the easiest bolt on the route to get past; stick-clip the second bolt to be extra safe, but watch out for the rope while passing the second bolt. Above the first bolt, it is possible to follow a line to the right or the left. The line to the left is the original route; the one to the right is a variation (which is also a lot of fun!). At the ceiling, traverse right and then follow a wild crack in the ceiling. There is a hold missing from the very end of this route.

Bio Plasm (5.12) [FA: Jeb Vetters]
This route starts to the right of Triple X and traverses across Triple X and Genetic Drift as it goes up. At this time, the second bolt is one of the very old expansion bolts (not recommended).

There is a cave within the cave down and to the right. The next two routes start at this cave.

Thieving Texas Scum (5.13) [FA: Alex Catlin]
This route starts inside the small cave. After climbing up a succession of shelves, follow a series of three holes out to the lip of the cave and make a powerful move - absolutely wild! The line on the left with the mini-roof above the small cave is an open project.

Dominion of Evil (5.13+) [project]
This is a project that begins on Thieving Texas Scum, but finishes further to the right.

Brown Spider (no bolts)
This used to be a bolted line to the right of the other routes, but the bolts were removed and never replaced. I am told that the bolts were never replaced due to relatively poor rock quality.

All that being said, my advise to climbers new to Cub Cave is this: don't be too concerned about following established routes. Find something that looks cool; make up variations - it's easy to cross over from bolt-line to bolt-line. Just have fun! This small cave features an astonishing variety of holds, so climb it however you like. Bouldering can be fun, too.

Cub Cave Topo, by Jeb Vetters

External Resources

Cub Cave has been described on some of the climbing web sites.

There are videos of several Cub Cave routes being climbed on the internet.

My personal project is to start on Triple X Baby and cross over to Genetic Drift at the ceiling. I worked it for about a year before finally sending it!

Here are some photos of my struggle. (and my wife safely watching from the ground)