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.