On Saturday, April 14, we unplugged our trailer, disconnected the water hose, wound up the jacks and hitched the Pilgrim up to Bert. We said our goodbyes to Anthony (who had chosen to take the day off of manual labor), Jeremy (who was dutifully tending the store, as usual), and of course, the ubiquitous Kenny (Kinny). The sun was shining as we slowly pulled out of Horse Pens 40 and eased down the curves of Chandler Mountain. After a quick detour to Mi Casita in the dinky town of Henagar, AL, we drove up to Chester Frost campground just north of Chattanooga, TN. Here were more hookups, which allowed us to get some editing done on the Alban video and relax with always-flowing water. Our neighbors were many and festive, par for the course on a Saturday night in a trailer park in the South. Weary were we, and anxious to check out the fabled Stone Fort AKA Little Rock City, so we headed to bed after the requisite Sopranos mini-marathon. We are addicted to the show and may require an intervention. (“Whatsa matta wi’you?”)
This post is much delayed. I’ve sat down four times now to try and capture in words what our time in Horse Pens was like. So far, my words have failed me. I’m taking a stab at it, and please forgive the length of this post. And please enjoy our newest video! It’s of our last day in Hueco Tanks, where we climbed a bunch for ourselves. I got my hardest send, and Vikki cruised Orifice Affair. Also note the kung-fu yeti firing Smooth Move (V8). Then keep reading. Looking back now, a week since our departure, Horse Pens 40 feels like a pleasant dinner with the Soprano family. Laughter, some great people, and good food, but just under the surface is some dark matter that doesn’t reveal itself until you’re more involved. Like anything in life – climbing, love, Mafia dramas, the Force – there’s a light side and a dark side. The best way to detect both is to let the guards down and let go of our San Francisco sensibilities. After all, we’re guests on this land.
What causes a climber to punt? What leads to the sudden and drastic failure of someone for whom success had seemed assured? The RV Project science team has just returned from the laboratory having analyzed, scanned, measured and weighed several punt samples. The following series of photos is a dissection of a recent punt, and should shed some light on this tragic disease that affects us all.
We’re in the city lovingly referred to as Chatty, our final leg of the “True South” bouldering exploration. We had our first day of climbing at Stone Fort yesterday and it, yet again, lived up to all the hype. Met some locals, fell a lot, and even sent a little (highlighted by Byron’s first V6 of the trip, The Wave); we are incredibly psyched to get back on the gritty sandstone tomorrow (as long as the rain subsides). More on Chattanooga soon, but first…Episode 4 is ready for your viewing! Our newest video is based on a conclusion we came to after leaving Hueco Tanks, Texas: every day in Hueco Tanks, someone you’ve never heard of does something impressive. There’s also usually someone hyper famous doing something along the same caliber, but that’s basic Hueco knowledge. This video is about Alban Besnier, mostly because he climbs strong, has a great attitude, and generally impressed us. The first day we climbed with Alban and his travel companion, Caroline, we went on a tour to East Mountain and he sent Liane, Sunshine, and Mojo – all in his signature shorts. He sent almost everything he touched that day, which was awesome to see, but what impacted the three of us the most was his spotting. Even though he climbed more than the rest of the climbers in the tour group combined, he was still an attentive and good spotter to each of us. That commitment blew us away and we each changed our…
Hey ya’ll! That’s right, we’re in the south now. ‘Bama. Steele, Alabama. Got lots to talk about but right now you need to be watching this little piece we put together about a crew of crazy crack climbers from Colorado. Underneath that, there’s a little piece I wrote about the climbing here in Horse Pens. Kinda blows Castle Rock, CA out of the water, but that’s not what this piece is about. It’s about humility. Enjoyment. Triumph and tragedy. And bouldering. Enjoy! I fell into the trap. At Hueco Tanks, the climbing is gymnastic. Straight-forward moves, steep terrain, rubber-smeared flakes and jibs and crimps and damn, if I could just crimp a little harder I would’ve cranked my first V-who-gives-a-shit.
As you have likely already gathered from either our previous blogposts or your own personal experience or research, Hueco Tanks is incredible. We basically had to force ourselves to leave (as many never do), but after almost exactly a month, that day arrived. We were debating about where to go next and and an opportunity that we could not pass by arose – Spenser’s brother, Eliot, would be in New Orleans for the Final Four. After looking at a map, we saw that New Orleans was a great stopping point between Texas and Alabama – it was decided, our next climbing destination was to be Horse Pens 40 and we were incredibly stoked.
Exciting times, as we have just completed Episode 2. This one chronicles our first “chapter” in Hueco: the week after finally arriving, with tons of friends and culminating in the Rock Rodeo. It has much more climbing in it than our first episode. We have tons more Hueco footage to put together, and hopefully we’ll have a couple more doses up soon. So enjoy, and please feel free to leave a comment. We’re going to spend Monday driving to Horse Pens 40, where we’ll stay about a week or so. Psyched! On Tuesday March 27, we loaded up all our bits and pieces in the trailer and hitched up for the first time in a month. The sepia-brown rock of West Mountain and East Spur faded into the distance as Bert lugged the Pilgrim onward, eastward into the hot Texas sun. Bound for Horse Pens 40 by way of New Orleans by way of Austin, we all reflected on our month spent at the Ranch. Encapsulating all the memories in a single article is impossible (and for you, dear reader, probably boring), so here are the highlights, memories, and lessons learned from your friends at the RV Project.
Before we get into this post, let us first apologize to the friends whose music we used in the first video update. We inexplicably forgot to credit them at the end, so we’re doing it here. The incredibly dope instrumental versions of electronic songs were produced by ATLAS. The incredibly dope mix was produced by Scott Kasting AKA DJ Onezie. Please click on the links to go to their Soundcloud profiles. Or else you hate music. We’ve officially been on the road for a month now. Time flies, and it feels like the days blend together, loosely grouped into nebulously defined chapters. For example, there was the Neal, Matt, Zack and Dan chapter, which closed after the Rock Rodeo. Then there was a relatively relaxed chapter, during which we slowly met and befriended various “Ranch Rats.” With the close of our first month on the road, we closed another chapter, which, if we named these things, we might call “The Rocky Mountain Bender.”
We’ve been hanging out in Hueco Tanks for the last few weeks now. Besides the video, we’ve been focused on climbing and having a good time, the former of which being slightly difficult for being so hot. The past week we spent hanging out with a crew from Fort Collins, CO, and we have a lot of stories from that, but I’ll write a full post about them. There is also a ton of unsorted and unedited footage of them, and we’ll be putting a video out in the not-too-distant future. One of the coolest aspects of being in Hueco Tanks is that everyday, someone, somewhere inside the park is doing something really impressive. For example, we have been climbing with a pair of French climbers named Alban and Caroline. Caroline is Vikki-sized and very strong, nearly doing Sunshine (V11) in a session. As for Alban, he’s not much bigger, but he is very good at this sport. On a tour the other day on East Mountain, I watched him do Liane (V11), Sunshine, and Mojo (V10 flash). He then nearly did the extension to Mojo, which goes at V12.
Fantasizing about going on a road trip across the country was easy. Planning for the road trip and getting ourselves to Hueco Tanks, Texas (our first stop) proved to be much more difficult. We knew it would be a lot of work, and we knew that we had to plan for the unexpected. We thought we knew a lot. Reality check: Byron, Spenser and I knew nothing…but we sure are learning!
First Bert, then Bert again, then Bert again, then the Enterprise Rent-a-Car, then Courtney’s truck, and now the Hueco Rock Ranch trailer. Seriously, if you know us and you own anything with wheels, stay the hell away. With the wind howling, we decided to take a rest day and earn our keep by doing a dump run with Nikias, the manager of the Rock Ranch. We hitched up the trailer full of trash and drove an hour to the dump in Clint. Along the way we all silently wondered why they bothered to have a dump. The desert landscape seems to serve the same purpose for the people of El Paso County.
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.
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.
Before we get into this inaugural entry, I want to make sure that you, dear reader, know that this is a blog about a climbing trip, and will primarily revolve around climbing. We’re getting to that, we promise. But this is also a blog about a road trip, and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Read on. Today is Friday, February 24th. Earlier this afternoon we were sitting at the New Clock Restaurant in some suburb of El Paso, TX. There is a sign out front advertising “$1.99 Breakfast”. We’re awaiting our food, and digesting the important lesson that this trip will not be easy.