On the outskirts of El Paso, a long way from any decent cell phone reception or tacoria, lives the birthplace of the V scale and modern day bouldering as we know it.
Every year competitors flock into this tiny state park to put their hands on rocks that stand as a proving ground for the sport. The Hueco Rock Rodeo gives people the unique opportunity to experience the highly regulated and solely guide-chaperoned back country of Hueco Tanks. For the cost of around $100, you’re guided through the park, fed 4 meals, allotted a camping space, and given a goodie bag. This year’s bag was packed with Friction Labs chalk, Rhino Skin Solutions, a Rock Rodeo plastic cup (in the wake of some much more desirable metal ones from years past), a sweet Patagonia Rock Rodeo trucker hat, and beer tickets! Not a bad deal, right?
The competition started on Friday morning. Climbers in the Recreational division were shown out to the east mountain to fill up their scorecards. The rec girls slayed it, Mia Stockton came in first, Christine Cachuela placing 2nd, and Elizabeth Vera, in third.
Burgers, veggie and carne, were grilled up upon rec’s arrival back at the Rock Ranch.
Competitors were treated to a line up of vendors, ranging from teams like the Leave No Trace initiative, to local companies, like Krinshaw Studios, selling thrifted clothes and handmade jewelry. Even the Patagonia Worn Wear booth was out, and a major crowd pleaser; offering factory seconds and slightly worn returns with tutorials on how to fix said garments for only the price of $5 a piece. The proceeds, of which, were to be donated back to the area’s fund. The ‘North Mountain Video’ was played for climbers in groups to grant them access to the park, introducing them to what makes Hueco so unique, fairy shrimp and cave paintings alike, and reminding them to be aware of the fragile ecosystem they were about to enter.
After the very informative, and mostly required screening, climbers were treated to a much more satisfying mini film festival of videos by and of Local Pro and climbing phenom, Jason Kehl. A handful of films were shown–from a premier of a gorgeous Hueco FA by Jason called ‘Wormwood’ to a beautiful movie of his wife, Martina Mali, putting down her project in style and another light and fun picture entitled “Ashima’s Perfect Day” where we followed the young crusher around in a super stylized dreamscape of an ideal day in her world, finishing with putting down ‘Full Service’ effortlessly. Needless to say, everyone was left drooling and ready to get their hands on the rocks.
Coffee, pancakes, and tangerines were dished out by the platefuls bright and early the following morning while the intermediate and advanced divisions packed up, formed groups with guides, and set off for the park.
Open and masters found themselves on the North Mountain, while the masses of intermediate and advanced were guided to the East and East Spur. The temps were not ideal, the sun beat down on every one high into the mid 80’s, while climbers fought to stay hydrated and dry skinned long enough to tick of the hardest six climbs they could muster from their category.
The 8 hours of competition flew by while climbers were run between guides trying to locate and send all of the climbs they’d intended on. Hot wind picked up making the notoriously hard climbs even harder. Incredibly strong climbers, like women’s open winner Kyra Condie, noted that even she was not exempt to the elements, but nonetheless managed to put down some tough problems.
Thirty minute warnings were issued and everyone hurried to put in last efforts to fill the remaining slots on their score cards.
When 5:00 rolled around, a mass exodus of the exhausted and depleted shuffled back in droves to the Ranch to gorge on gourmet food truck fare and local brew provided by the Rodeo, while scores were tallied.
Winners were announced, the ritualistically overfed fire was lit, and the party started.
Those who still had some skin on their hands and gas in their tanks participated in the annual dyno comp, while the rest looked on nabbing swag from the vendors and swapped stories from the day.
The fire burned and the music pumped well into the wee hours of the morning. In the next day’s light, those who weren’t up early attempting to gain access to the park for a bonus day of climbing were greeted with a hearty breakfast and a nice send off until next year.
The ladies truly brought their A-game this year!
Until next year!