I just wrapped up a quick trip to Hueco Tanks and had quite a magical time. My purpose of this trip was to compete, test my finger out, no projecting, get mileage on moderates, and just have plain fun. Compared to Joshua Tree bouldering, Hueco is much stiffer for the grade, but offers a variety of climbing from vertical, crimpy, big Huecos, slopers, over hung, high balls, and more.
At the Hueco Rock Ranch, there were a handful of booths set up. New Belgium Brewery supplied unlimited beer, and the following had booths with products: prAna, Marmot, Osprey, La Sportiva, Adidas, Five Ten, Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and Trango. Companies like Organic Climbing, Arc’teryx, Asana, and more, sponsored prizes and more for the event. Overall, great representation! Daniel Woods did not make it to the Rodeo, but Paul Robinson, Paige Claassen, Angie Payne, and more awesome climbers made up for it.
It turns out I connected with one of my readers, Amy and her daughter Victoria. We were in the recreational category so we decided to stick together. The night prior I strategized with a guy named Al, we decided one warm up, knock off high pointers first and then the easier ones rest of day. Not knowing the area, the 3 money high pointers were scattered and all of the problems in the score sheet were not necessarily everything I wanted to do. After frustration of crowds and lines, we decided to put aside the scorecards and just go and climb whatever and wherever we wanted. This was nice because I would have passed up Beefy Reef if I was chasing the scorecard, and that was my favorite problems of the weekend.
Before I get into my experience, for those that have not been to Hueco, here are some simple tips:
- Getting There – Fly into El Paso, Hueco Tanks is a straight forward shot 30-40 minutes from there.
- Where to Stay – No brainer, stay at the Hueco Rock Ranch (http://americanalpineclub.org/p/hueco_rock_ranch).
Food and Goods – There is a Wal-Mart on the way to the Ranch, you can stop there to stock up on goods. There is also a Target close to the airport.
- Guidebooks – I have the guidebook by Matt Wilder and it is well laid out. I heard there was a new book coming out, a rumor or true?
Recommended Problems Under V5 – Here are some problems that are very doable for those coming out of an injury and just easing back in. There are way more, for instance, the Gymnasium, I hear they are high, but juggy and good. I like high, but not all folks do, so just something to keep in mind. We started at the Potato Boulders and worked our way down to the Warm Up Boulders. So basically, we were all over the mountain. You will need a guidebook or map, as these are all scattered.
- The New Meadow – Gumby Direct (V0), Gumby Traverse (V1), Everybody Wins (V3), Lobster Claw (V5)
- The Grenade – Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive (V2)
- Ghetto Simulator – Ghetto Simulator (V2)
- Mushroom Boulder – Twisted (V3), Local Flakes (V2), Left of Les (V2)
- Sign of the Cross – Skimmer (V3), Sign of the Cross (V3)
Warm Up Boulders – do everything on Warm Up Wall and Warm Up Boulders, all fun, some sketchy top outs
- The Big Time – Eye Gouger (V0), Spud Boy (V1), Woman of Leisure (V1)
- Icarus – Hot Wax (V2), Hebro Sausage Variation (V4)
- Small Potatoes – Do everything here, from V-easy to V5, all doable and good. Around the corner make sure to get on Beefy Reef (V3)
Overall my experience was magical. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and my climbing partners were precious, amazing, and fun. I am very happy with my performance even though my finger did hurt some.
I learned a few things on this trip:
Never underestimate the 8-year-old dynamite – Victoria started climbing when she was 7 years old and at 8 years of age, she demonstrates great technique and sheer will to climb. At the end of the trip, I gave her a pink journal with all kinds of cool stuff so that she can journal all of her climbing journeys, comps, trips and so forth. She won kids division in the intermediate category and ended up in a small interview in the local news!
- Company is Money – My trip would have been different if my finger was not hurt. I would likely have been in a different category and not in the same area as Amy and Victoria. Frankly, they made my trip. For me, the memories of this trip will not be my tick list, but all of the fun memories spent with the girls!
- Free Butterfly vs. Restriction – I obviously do not respond well to restriction. The night prior, I had my problems planned out. The next morning, when we got to the boulder fields, I was like a child let loose at Toys-R-Us. There was no way in hell I was going to follow a strict list and pass up anything we passed by that we wanted to try out. The rock in Hueco is just so beautiful! Amy and Victoria felt the same way and were ready to take off and be free. I was so relieved and happy. We roamed North Mountain, got lost, got sends, and got lots of laughs in. So I learned, my character and too much structure do not go well together!
Jugs Aren’t Always Best – I found that some of the huge Huecos hurt my finger when I transitioned out of them from my right hand and some crimpers I could bear so as long as I was transitioning off of them quickly. I made it a point to get on different stuff with different holds to give me a good perspective of what I need to do to train for Spain. I used slopers for top out handholds than some blocky jugs, weird, but that open handgrip was money this weekend.
- My Good Ole Smelly Ketanas Rocked – Because most of what we got on was moderate with decent feet, I did not pull out my pythons. Rather I wore my smelly, falling apart Ketanas. I realized my footwork has improved quite a bit, and with all efforts to protect my finger, I was ultra sensitive and intentional with my toe work. Not relying on shoes that are aggressive made me put a lot of conscious effort on my toe work.
I learned a lot and my #1 goal is to keep healing my finger and start working in getting my grip/finger strength in line with my climbing so that I can get good leads in Spain in late March. Wish me luck!
What is up next? Late March, as mentioned, is all about Southern Spain. Up until that point, I will likely hit local crags, get in indoor gym training, and get my finger in better shape.
When are you and your family going to Hueco??!!??