This last weekend was the Hueco Rock Rodeo, an outdoor climbing competition. To be honest, it’s not really all that competitive. It’s really more of a fun, friendly day of climbing. Daniel and I were in the Advanced division on East and West Mountains, while Vikki competed in the Rec division at North Mountain, and Zack and Courtney volunteered. I think the open division was a little more competitive: Daniel Woods beat out Dave Graham, Sean McColl (who flashed Nagual!!!), and Jorg Verhoeven for a $1000 first place prize, while Katha Saurwein won the women’s field. The rest of us mortals battled it out for free stuff, which, thanks to Adidas (who bought Five Ten last year) and the dozens of other sponsors, was ample.
Dan, Vikki and I had a ton of fun – there’s nothing quite like having a group of psyched climbers around your level going around to a ticklist of classic problems in America’s bouldering Mecca and trying hard. Only the top six problems you climb count, which makes for interesting strategy. You must try and maximize difficulty, while simultaneously conserving energy for those last few climbs to fill out the scorecard.
Dan and I managed to do All the Religious Idiots V7, Bush League V8, Long Haul V8, Glass Ass Crack V9 (my first V9 in a day, except Iron Fly), and Je Suis Wedge V8. Dan also did Troglodyte V8 and Ministry of Truth V9 (second go), and flashed the incredible Meddle Detector V6. He earned quite a reputation among our little Rodeo group for “accidentally” campusing pretty much everything, while still somehow managing to delaminate the Evolv demo shoes he had borrowed for the day.
For Vikki’s part, she had a great time projecting V0-V3 with her group. Unfortunately, all the competitors who were placed on North Mountain had to self-guide. This undoubtedly made things a lot harder, as most of the climbers were just in town for the weekend and weren’t very familiar with the climbs. Vikki’s group ended up chasing a V3 called Hercules in the far-off Icarus Boulders that ended up in futility, frustration and lost time. In contrast, our guide Elliott took us all over the back country and gave us beta. Still, Vikki had a great time and, like Dan and I, had one of the best days of her climbing career (happily sending her first Hueco V3, Orifice Affair, towards the end of the day). Sadly, there are no photos of her crushing, but we’ll get some footage soon enough.
Anyone who frequents Hueco Tanks, such as the guides, will likely have tried or completed the problems on their ticklist in the past. Newcomers, on the other hand, have to work problems out for themselves, which obviously makes things more challenging. This is probably one of the main reasons why the whole event is much more fun rather than serious.
Byron had hoped to gain entrance to the park in order to film some of the sickness going down, and had been promised a media pass. At the last moment, he was told he was going to be filming the Ranch all day instead, a sort of the “behind the scenes” perspective. Of course this wasn’t his first choice, but hey, LT11 was there, and we are still relatively unknown. Byron did his thing with full jib and pocket dolly setup, and filmed at the Ranch for the entire day and long into the night’s festivities.
I don’t want to disparage the event or its organizers, but all in all, it was a little disorganized. In the morning, we were milling around the Ranch waiting for one of the two short buses. Daniel and my group eventually just jumped in Bert (2 in the bed!) after we got sick of waiting. There were way too many guides in the back country for the only 15 or so Advanced competitors, and they had literally nothing to do all day. Also, the party at the end, while super fun thanks to New Belgium supplying 17 kegs of primo brewski, featured presentations and a dyno comp that dragged on for too long. A huge group of climbers stood around waiting for the bonfire to start and the results to be announced, which took 6 hours to tally. The scorecards were just printed problem lists with no grids, boxes, or indication of where to put number of falls, and that probably extended the process.
Nonetheless, the party was awesome. We met various pros, saw some friends like Natasha Barnes and Robin Gee (who drove in after a grad school interview in Tuscon…what grit!), and listened to the indefatigable David Graham talk about all kinds of things vaguely related to climbing. If you’ve ever seen the Dosage movies or anything else with Dave in it, let me tell you: both in physical appearance and in mannerism, that he is exactly how you would picture him to be. Quite frankly, I think the emcee should’ve just given Dave the mic all night and told him, “just do what you do, homie.”
Dan and I placed second and third in our division, and we were psyched about both of our best-ever days of climbing. We got a ton of free stuff – jackets, sleeping bags, chalk bags and new climbing shoes. Speaking of swag, there was such an abundance that people, including Vikki and our good friend Courtney Miyamoto, were getting hit in the face by all the projectile hats, bags and shirts that were being thrown out. I think they found the saturation point for mesh caps. And the fire repeatedly got so big (like 8 pallets big) that people had to back away from it. A few swag items ended up meeting a fiery demise.
Overall, it was an incredibly rewarding day and a really fun night, totally worth the entry fee. We got back country access ($20 normally), tons of good beer (hard to find in El Paso), all kinds of free stuff including dinner, and the opportunity to meet some climbing celebs. I recommend the HRR to anyone and everyone who likes climbing, no matter your ability.
The only major bummer is that Byron kind of got dicked around. After getting great footage of everything from registration to the dyno comp, he was told that they wouldn’t be needing his contribution after all and thanks very much for stopping by. Um, what? He just worked by himself for 12 hours, with the most professional gear that I saw all day, and now it’s “thanks, but no thanks” without much of an explanation. The next day, HRR retracted their statements and asked Byron to do the video…he’s currently mulling on his final decision. Either way, we’ll have some great footage to show on this blog.
If there’s another bummer, it’s that some people got food poisoning from the taco truck that served as the non-free food alternative. This is also not the first time a group of Rancheros got food poisoning from local Mexican food, but let’s not dwell. ::Beware::
Sunday was a slow, tired, recovery day. We went to North Mountain eventually, dropping our pads at the Warm Up Boulders in the early afternoon. Nobody was terribly psyched to climb, as we’d wrecked ourselves the day and night before. Except for Dan. He was flying out that night, and wanted to try Diaphanous Sea. He worked it and nearly stuck the big right hand move to the flake several times, but never quite snagged it. At least he has something incredibly cool to come back to, and will totally do next time. We’re all still not sure how he mustered the energy to try hard. To this day, Dan remains the most psyched climber I’ve ever known.
We went into town with Robin, Courtney, Zack and Dan to have some massive margaritas at Los Banditos (big thanks to Mike Doyle for the recommendation) before dropping the last two at the airport. The margs must’ve worked because Zack forgot his jacket and I ended up running into the airport after him. I caught him just as he had gone up the escalator to security, and yelled his name. A tequila-induced flash of brilliance propelled me to toss the jacket on to the empty escalator, and soon Zack and jacket were reunited.
With that, the first, crazy, hectic phase of the journey drew to a close. We are looking forward to getting some sleep, eating vegetables, and finally cleaning and organizing our trailer. A big shoutout to Neal, Matt, Dan, Zack and Robin for being part of the awesome shenanigans. And Neal, get back here and crush your V13 projects!
Here’s a highlight reel of the Open division from LT11:
PS All the photos in this post came from Nina Rebele. Thank you Nina!