This was my first Hueco Rock Rodeo and as it suggests, it’s hosted in Hueco Tanks near El Paso, Texas. The rodeo is an outdoor festival/competition where competitors of all abilities can climb on a specific day and compete in a sort of competition. They select specific problems on one of the mountains that you can try and they’re given a point value. They try to put emphasis on some climbs if they’re new, or really cool. You have the whole day to climb and they take your top 6 climbs.
For me, the rodeo is a great chance to climb in the back country with some of my good friends and have a competition atmosphere at the same time. It’s actually a pretty cool environment. The whole day, I was climbing alongside my “competitors” but at the same time, I’m equally as psyched when they do a problem, as when I do. I love that atmosphere and I thought my first rodeo was awesome.
I had a really good day and it all started at 6:30 when my alarm went off and I jumped in the shower. I’m down here in Hueco with Mike Doyle and Jamie Chong and we had planned to climb together for as much as the day as we could. We had a quick breakfast and we were at the Rock Ranch by 7:30 as we were told the buses would be heading into the park for 8am. We started in a tour alongside my good friends from Europe Katha Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven from the Netherlands. It took an hour for everything to get finally organized, but a long story short is we were warming up in the East Spur Maze at 9. It was freezing cold, and it took a while to warm up, but the first problem on my list was “Focus”, a V10 that went up a really cool arête feature. The crux is pulling the lip near the top, but I find that the individual moves aren’t that bad, and the hardest part is it being impossible to work individual moves. I wasn’t fully warmed up, but I had done Focus two days before, so I sent it first go of the day at 10:19am. Jamie and Mike both followed up with repeats of this classic highball.
The second problem on my list was “El Chupacabra Right” which was given V11. We went over to the climb just after Focus and it took me a while to remember which method I was going to use. I knew that attempts were going to be important in a day where I’m supposed to do six V10’s and up. Jorg made quick work of the boulder (being tall which makes it easier ^^) so I got my shoes on and tried it second. It was pumpy, and my fingers numbed up 2/3 of the way through the boulder, but I held it together and got away with another 1st try send. 11:02am and I was well on my way into the rodeo. Jamie, Mike and Katha were trying the left variation which goes at V10 for a while, so I put on my shoes and rested a bit.
I had seen that “Full Monty” V12 was on the list and I thought that I could repeat it pretty fast. I find the problem very hard for me, but I feel way fitter than I did the year that I did it. As most of us wanted to head to “Rumble in the Jungle” (V11), I convinced them to stop at Full Monty because it was on the way. My first try was pretty awful, but my second try was good. I got to the last move, and left for the last hold a bit too far left. As my body came away, I knew I was falling. I rested for a bit and on my third try I fell in the middle of the boulder. I could tell that the rest of them wanted to go down to Rumble, so I told them to go while I rested and waited to try it another couple of times. I rested for maybe 5 minutes, and then felt good again. My 4th try was like my second and I got up to the last move. This time, I didn’t misfire the last move, and I was topping out the boulder a few seconds later. It was 12:02pm and this boulder had given me a bit of trouble, but I was halfway done my rodeo!
I decided to take a bit of a rest, as I needed to eat some food and get some energy back. The next two problems on my list were “Flamignon” V13 and “Rumble in the Jungle” V11, in that order. I had just done Flamignon two days ago, and I pretty confident I’d do it very quickly if not 1st try. I rested for the better part of an hour and at just after 1pm, I had setup the pads and was getting ready to try it. On my first try, I stuck the first few moves, including the “crux” moves, but when I went to swing my feet out, one of them brushed the pad, and I subsequently dropped off as “dabbing” is no good. I laughed it off and a few minutes later, I was getting ready to go again. At 1:08pm, I was doing Flamignon and it wasn’t the prettiest ascent as my feet cut off a few times, but it got the job done and I was squeezing my way through the very small topout hole making sure not to touch the adjacent rocks.
Rumble was next, and I was pretty sure I’d be able to do it first try. I spent a healthy amount of time looking at the problem, and touching the holds to get myself re acquainted with the boulder. In 2008 or 2009, I had flashed this problem with running beta from none other than Jorg. He had done this problem 1st try before I had done Flamignon and Katha also managed to repeat the problem in a few tries! I made sure I knew what I was doing and put my shoes on. With a bit of beta from Jamie and Mike as I forgot minor things, I made my way through the roof and was topping out just after. It was 1:38pm and I had done 5 problems. I knew now that I’d be able to do 6 boulders so I planned on taking an hour rest and trying “Crook by the Book” V14 which I had tried a couple days ago and come pretty close.
After waiting at Rumble for three quarters of an hour and painfully watching Jamie fall off the topout of the boulder, I was standing around the edge of the boulder when Jorg (from across the canyon) was yelling my name. He had gone off to do “The Machinist” in which he had done in which I can only assume 1st or 2nd try and was now wanting to get on “Nagual” V13. He was yelling at me because he knew I had a big crashpad and he needed it to try the boulder I was heading over there to try Crook so I yelled back over that I’d be right over. 5 minutes later, I was standing under Nagual and Jorg was getting ready to try it.
I still hadn’t tried Nagual after seeing it years and years ago. I knew the boulder was very crimpy, very hard, yet very flashable. A few years back Paul Robinson had flashed the line and called it hard V13 as a hold had recently broken. Jorg had done the line a few days back, and was psyched to give it a go. He did it first go which is what made me try the line. At 2:39pm on March 3rd, 2012, I made the second flash of Nagual V13 (8B) in Hueco Tanks. This is hardest flash I’ve ever completed. I’m going to be releasing another post exclusively about this climb in a couple of days, so check back for the full story of this climb. Not everyone wants to hear the full details of the climb, but I’ll just be talking about what was going through my head before, during and after the climb.
My day was more or less over and now I was just trying to bump off my lowest number problems. A dozen or so minutes after I had done Nagual, Jorg flashed “Subzero” which is just in the corridor above Nagual. He gave me the beta and I flashed that one as well. It was only 3pm so I wanted to rest a good hour and try Crook. I ate the rest of my food, looks at the Machinist and rested an hour before trying Crook.
To make a longish story short, I couldn’t do the crux move. I did every other move, but without the crux move, it was just a dream. My attempts became worse and worse, and after a half hour of flailing, I concluded that my day was done. I didn’t really care though, I had flashed Nagual, and I had done 7 problems V10 and up.
I finished my day at the Rock Rodeo with the following problems on my scorecard:
- Focus (V10) 1st try today
- El Chupacabra Right (V11) 1st try today
- Rumble in the Jungle (V11) 1st try today
- Subzero (V11) flash
- Full Monty (V12) 4th try today
- Flamignon (V13) 2nd try today
- Nagual (V13) flash
Because they only take top 6 climbs, Focus would be bumped out, but I was still psyched I had done it! I ended up finishing 3rd at the Rodeo as Daniel Woods absolutely crushed it. He started his day with repeats of Nagual, Crook and Machinist and finished his day with Full Monty, Two Days With Gene V11 and another V12 to finish it off. Jorg came second, although very close to me, by doing most of the same problems as me, but taking out Full Monty and Flamignon, and exchanging them for Two Days With Gene and Machinist.
I was excited to be on the podium, and had an awesome time at my first Rock Rodeo. I’ll hopefully be back next year and who knows, maybe I can have another day like this one!