There was a period in my life when I spent a good deal of time in Hueco, but recently my visits have been few and far between. For the past two years, the only days I have spent there have been for the Rock Rodeo. Last year I attended the event, had a great climbing day and a wonderful time with friends, so I decided to head back down this year. In addition to competing, I was also invited to give a slideshow about my trip to Greenland. I had a wonderful time looking back through photos as I prepared my show, and I was very excited to share all the beauty of Greenland with the Rodeo attendees.

Aside from a few days in Boulder Canyon over the past two weeks, I have not been spending much time climbing outside lately. I have, however, been climbing in the gym a lot to get prepared for ABS Nationals. In my past experience, the transition from indoor climbing to outdoor climbing typically goes more smoothly in Hueco than many other places. However, I headed down to El Paso with my expectations in check, knowing that I had a full day of hard climbing ahead of me.

I was pleased with the cool temperatures when I arrived on Friday evening. I got to the Rock Ranch early enough to catch the evening’s festivities. The American Alpine Club has recently taken ownership of the Rock Ranch and some great renovations have been done. The barn has been remodeled and improved, and it looked great. Abbey Smith and Paige Claassen presented their movie about bouldering in Peru (gorgeous boulders!) and Paul Robinson showed his movie about South Africa (need to go there!).

Saturday morning was crisp and sunny. The open category was assigned to climb on East Mountain, an area that I haven’t spent very much time at. I was excited to get to try some problems that were new to me but was also intimidated by the list of boulders we had to choose from. Of the 29 problems listed, I had only ever climbed one of them, and had only tried two others. If nothing else, I knew it would be a great work out! So, I set off with Paige Claassen and Nina Williams to see what we could do.

We began the day at MoMojo. This is one of the problems I had tried in the past, and I was familiar with the second half of it (Mojo) since I have done that problem. However, MoMojo adds 5 or 6 thuggy moves into Mojo, making it quite a long boulder. The question quickly arose as to whether or not we were going to follow a “ground up” approach, so to speak, or allow ourselves to try moves so long as an attempt was counted in exchange. This wasn’t specifically spelled out in the rules, so we opted to only try things from the beginning. In the end, it was probably not the wisest decision, but it was the precedent we set at the beginning of the day, so we stuck with it. This made for a LOT of climbing. None of us finished MoMojo, so we moved on.

Next was the crimpy line Crimping Christ on the Cross. This is the only boulder problem on the list I had done before. It is horribly crimpy and not all that pleasant. Luckily, I was able to do it without splitting any tips, and Paige was able to follow suit. I think it is safe to say that everyone was happy to leave this boulder.

After that nasty crimpfest, we were happy to find the Butter Pumper, a neat little problem that revolves around a knee bar and much more friendly holds. Armed with great beta from Ana Burgos and a knee pad from Nina, I was able to desperately top the boulder out after some failed attempts from the bottom. Nina also completed this one in good style, and Jill Church-Waters also finished the boulder. I think this was my favorite problem of the day and I found the climbing to be really fun and pleasant.

The next major objective was Sunshine, a nice looking traverse on relatively slopey holds to a crimptastic ending. I was really impressed by the climbing on this boulder. Nina cruised it and made it look much easier than it ended up feeling. She provided me with great beta, but I was thwarted by the ending. This may have been one of the moments when I cursed our decision to not work boulders. I threw myself at this one for a while, but I couldn’t muster the strength to get through the long beginning to give the end another shot. So, on we went to new boulders.

Brittany in a Blender was next in line, but it didn’t prove to be the “easier” boulder we were hoping for. No one was able to unlock the opening knee bar sequence, so we gave up relatively quickly on this one. Needless to say, at this point I was exhausted, and had only finished 2 of the 6 boulders I was supposed to complete.

The final boulder we decided to go to was called Hobbit with a Boner. Despite the name, this boulder was actually pretty nice. It begins with easy roof climbing over a scary, deep pit then continues out the roof with a few harder moves that lead to a lip encounter and a hard, crimpy ending.

I fell once on the last move of the boulder, which ended up being good, since I hadn’t started in the correct place anyway. At this point it was nearly 4:30, and I was DONE. However, somehow I managed to get back up to the end and finish the boulder by the skin of my teeth. It was my best try hard moment of the day, and I was psyched I could pull out some extra energy at the very end of the day, especially since doing this boulder ending up putting me in first.

So, in the end, I only finished 3 boulders of the 6 we were supposed to do. Nina Williams was close behind, having finished two hard boulders (Sunshine and Butter Pumper), Jill Church-Waters ended up in third with Butter Pumper and Sam’s Problem and Paige Claassen was in fourth with her ascent of the painfully difficult Crimping Christ. It was an incredibly hard 8+ hours of climbing, but I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with a great group of strong women and many other entertaining people. I laughed even more than I flailed on boulders, so it must have been a good day!

On the men’s side, some ridiculously impressive climbing was done by Paul Robinson (1st), Sam Davis (2nd) and Jimmy Webb (3rd). I still can’t wrap my mind around the amount of difficult climbing those guys are able to do in a day. It is incredibly inspiring.

So, another successful Rock Rodeo has come to an end. A huge thanks is in order for Melissa Strong, who put tons of work into making the Rodeo a success. Thanks also to the Amercian Alpine Club, the sponsors and all the volunteers who worked to make the 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo an awesome event!

-Angie Payne

Head over to Angie Payne’s blog for more photos.

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