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BoulderingTrip Journal

Worth the Hype

By March 4, 20126 Comments

First of all, to anyone out there who has never been to Hueco Tanks, let me be yet another person to tell you that it’s absolutely incredible. But before we get into the climbing, allow me to finish the story of how we got to Hueco Tanks, as it was still completely up in the air at the time of the last post.

While Vikki plugged away at a 12-hour shift in a room at the Red Roof Inn, Byron and I picked up Byron’s good friends Neal Sipahimalani and Matt Morse at the airport, and then our Bay Area homie Zack MacFarlane two hours later. We drank beer in the hotel room while Vikki somehow pulled off another all nighter, once again displaying her uncanny ability to function with ludicrously little sleep. I swear the secret to perpetual motion is locked away somewhere in her genome.

The next morning contained yet more misadventures, as we failed at what should be the relatively simple task of renting a truck. Every company was closed, which indicates to me that nobody in El Paso works on the weekends, and that they spend their Saturdays and Sundays wandering the thousands of linear miles of mall that compose the majority of the suburbs. We also stopped by the tranny shop (which of course necessitated a visit to the New Clock Restaurant, again) and learned that Bert needs a transmission overhaul and won’t be ready until Monday.

So cracked

This is, I’ve been told, a planet. See the crack? This part got replaced.

Remember that at this point in time our trailer has been left unattended by a playground for over 24 hours, and we have no way of moving it. We’ve since picked up three new people for a total of six, we have one car with five seats, Daniel Kovner has been waiting at the airport since 11:30am, and at 1pm, we have no more hotel room. Literally, we’re standing in the parking lot of the motel with our bags on the ground and no idea what to do next

Enter the Byronian. He somehow finds Carroll, the owner of the huge Chevy in the hotel parking lot, and would he like to help us out? After meeting all of us, he apparently decided we were alright. I got a gentle ribbing about how unsurprising it was for a Ford to break down, but he agreed to follow our car to pick up the trailer and drive it, plus some people, to the Hueco Rock Ranch. I was going to retort with something about how the first rental car was a Chevy and that didn’t work out so well, but it seemed wiser not to.

Retired CHP

The boys on their way to Hueco Tanks in Carroll’s Silverado

While Byron, Neal, Matt and Zack got schooled on the economics of cattle ranching and the merits of Angus hybrids in a stranger’s truck on the way to a climber’s hostel, Vikki and I went to the airport to pick up our other good friend from the Bay, Dan Kovner. We arrived at the HRR just in time to thank Carroll before he pulled away.

Stupid Chevy. I hope it broke down on his drive home.

Seriously, this guy saved our trip. Or so it felt at the time.

Seven boulderers stood outside of a travel trailer in a desert campground, less than a mile away from America’s bouldering mecca. Three hours ago not a single one of them knew if they would be in Hueco Tanks at all, especially Dan, who’s plan had been to walk from the airport. If this introduction to Hueco Tanks is any indication, this is going to be one unpredictable sumbitch of a trip.

Oh yeah, and we climbed! It may be said that the climbing portion of the great RV tour of 2012 truly began on Sunday, February 26, when we got a tour of the East Spur. For anyone who doesn’t climb, it may be hard to evoke the feeling one gets from wandering into a new area, especially one as good at this. It reminds me of stepping into Bishop after having climbed exclusively in Santa Barbara. It’s probably like a surfer visiting a famous break on a day with perfect conditions, or a wine connoisseur driving around the French countryside for the first time. The mind reels from the excitement, extremities begin to tingle, and palms sweat as the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive from the combined psyche of 7 Hueco Tanks virgins finally reaching the promise land. We are here to see and try the climbs we’ve seen a dozen times in magazines and videos. We are here to try hard.

We stopped by Better Eat Your Wheaties, a really sharp and tough V8. Neal came incredibly close to doing Crown of Aragorn, a V13 that traverses very awesomely into Wheaties. We also tried Jingus Bells, an incredible, well-flowing moderate that finishes in a committing dyno that every single one of us punted on. We consequently instated a rule that anyone who punts must place a dollar in a jar.

Janikowski could have learned a thing or two from us.

Matt Morse getting incredibly close to finishing Jingus Bells. Problems don’t get much better than this.

This kid can crimp. Seriously.

Neal Sipahimalani on the opening moves of Crown of Aragorn (V13)

We also tried New Religion, Full Monty, Alf in a Blender, and Bush League, all with varied success depending on who was trying. Except for Neal, who crushed everything except for getting extremely close on Crown and Jingus Bells. We finished up the day on a mega-fun easy highball, and raced out of the park in order to beat the gate closure.

The logistics here are challenging, but not as bad as we’d expected. They only allow 70 people into the self-guided area at any given time, and slightly more in the “back country,” for which you need a guide. Getting a guide can be a little tricky. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but if you’re thinking about Hueco Tanks, just make sure that someone in your crew has a Texas State Parks pass. The rest you can figure out when you get here. Just make friends with the guides!

We’ve settled into a little bit of a rhythm with the crew. We wake up, make a big pot of coffee, scrounge for breakfast, and eventually wander into the park around 10am. Getting in has been easy, and we climb all day. The gate closes at 6pm, so we’re out before then. We generally spend the rest of the night in the trailer drinking beer and eating, and foraying into the barn to play foosball and wreak havoc. Monday night was Zack’s birthday, and we filled a piñata with mini liquor bottles, lighters, and Zig-Zags.

The climbing has been incredible. The Martini Roof on North Mountain is even more amazing in person. Little flakes and footchips, which are somehow solid, are juxtaposed with some huge huecos. The whole thing is barely less than horizontal. I’m getting close on Martini Left, and Neal is piecing Esperanza together. Vikki is getting psyched to work on Baby Martini. All I know is that hanging out in that cave is a sure way to get very strong.

We’ve also toured some of the classic moderates, and they climb very well. Daily Dick Dose, Babyface, See Spot Run, and the unbelievable Nobody Here Gets Out Alive all were dispatched by some or all of us.

Right now we are awaiting the Hueco Rock Rodeo. The party promises to be epic, and we did our part by bringing in some of the firewood for the weekend. We also helped erect a giant plywood dyno comp wall so that it could be painted. (The only reason I mention this is because Zack and I were able to use the skills we acquired from building a climbing wall for Burning Man last year.)

Anyway, life is good, and we’re working on getting a couple of videos out, including an introduction to the entire RV project, as well as some dope climbing footage.


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