Author: Larry Earley
Trip Participants: Larry Earley, Ralph
Menikov and Norbert Ensslin
I have now made eight trips to Hueco Tanks since the new
rules (restrictions) went into effect. This time things seem much better than in
the past. There are more climbers both doing roped climbing and bouldering.
There were more people in the campground too but still many empty sites. The
check in at the park office was friendlier and more efficient.
We climbed as a three man team for three days. The weather
was great Friday and Saturday with highs near 70. Sunday had some wind but
mostly this effected the upper pitches only. We started out at the End Loop area
where we lead the 5.8 Fast Foods. We met two local El Paso climbers who gave us
some beta. Just to the left (6 feet)of Fast Foods is a nice face not listed in
the guide books. It was super and we felt it came in about 5.10b/c. No bolts or
pro so we toproped it. We finished on a 5.9 10 feet to the right. Great lieback
moves on real buckets. I haven't done such a fun thing in a while!
On Saturday we gave a repeat of Indecent Exposure 5.9+
from three years ago with the same three man rope team. I got to lead the first
pitch this time. The route is two full rope pitches and is a must do route at
Hueco. The first pitch starts with a 20 foot traverse to a bolt. You start on
the ground and by the time you reach the bolt you are 20 feet above the ground.
Nice and scary. The moves feel like 5.7. I was having a little trouble since the
day before the two El Paso guys told me a friend of theirs fell just before the
bolt clip and broke his ankle. So I had this idea in the back of my mind. After
the clip is the technical crux of several 5.9 moves. Very cool. The next 100
feet is mixed 5.8-5.9 moves with runout sketchy pro. At one point I slung three
flakes in a row with one 20 foot runout at the weakest flake. You clip the
second bolt near the end of the pitch and begin the second crux. As you get
about 15 feet above the bolt (there is no pro unless you traverse 15 feet left
off route) you come to the mental crux. A small metal plaque attached to the
rock which is a memorial to a man named Davidson who fell and died here in 1981.
I thought about this as I moved to the anchors. Well now I belayed up my
partners. Ralph has asked to lead the very exciting second pitch. This is a mega
classic. The pitch starts with a traverse, downclimb and traverse which is 5.9+.
The exposure cannot be believed until you do the downclimb. Its 150 feet down as
the rock moves away from the belay ledge. You make the step across the void and
thrash your way across the rest of the traverse. Finally climb a large flake and
clip a bolt. Its 30 feet from the belay ledge to the bolt. The second also has a
fun time with this section. The pitch continues up and more to the right till
you reach the last bolt. Nice face climbing at 5.9+. From here its only about 80
feet to the top. Ralph solos the next section and finds a nut placement 50 feet
out just as the climbing eases off to 5.7/8. There isn't much pro but most
people can get something every 20 feet maybe. One of the best pitches anywhere!
We watch two very strong teams from Austin climb Sea of
Holes 5.10. They are young, tough and fast. They continue in a frenzy to climb
every (really every in three days)5.10 and 5.11 route in the park. More later.
We climb the afternoon on one pitch routes. We do Hueco
Syndrome (5.8+), All the Nasties 5.9 (5.10a/b) and Cakewalk Direct 5.9
(5.10a/b). These are excellent face climbs. Hueco Syndrome has slopers but less
steep and the other two are very thin face climbing in balance with less than
vertical moves. The guide calls these thin faces 5.9 but don't lead these unless
you are competent at 10b. We have done these many times but they are still
Sunday we start at the Fox Tower. Excellent rock. We start
on Fox Trot 5.9+. It is bolted (7 bolts)to the crux and then you get to put two
pieces in a nice crack. Pro is solid. This is just a great route. Its 150 foot
single pitch climb. Why do people climb the boulders when Hueco Tanks has the
best in balance face climbing anywhere. Almost any route is a minimum of very
good. We move to the Mushroom Boulder since the wind is gusting. The Austin guys
are now climbing Lunatic Friends 5.10+. Norbert and I always wanted to try this
route but none of our partners want to lead it. Some people would give it an R
rating. I would. Its bolted but there are runouts including 23 feet to the first
bolt. This is not really sport climbing. Next we set up a toprope on New
Chataqua 5.10+. Nice route but only 40 feet. It has four bolts. We all think it
is an 11. Don't lead it unless you lead 11b. We continue on another 30 foot
route which is a thin 5.9 face. I finish on two boulder problems a nice young
kid shows me. I never boulder. It too hard. I try Right and Left Wanabe. Great
problems. They are V0+. This feels right. Good walk off too. I think V1 is my
limit. This is a switch. Slightly overhanging buckets. I do better on thin faces
in balance. I watch some others try some V3 problems. These really look hard!
The Austin boys are now doing the scary impossible.
Amplified Apples and Amplified Heat. These are runout 5.11 with only a few
bolts. The second pitch goes right through the bird shit slime area too. They
also do Window Pain 5.10b/c in 10 minutes. Not bad. Norbert asks them what they
do to train. Well here is the secret. They do continuous laps up and down gym
climbs at 5.12. I guess that is what it takes to lead Amplified Apples. I won't
be trying that one!
Now for the secret eating place we always go to. Its 20
miles but mostly fast driving. The Puerto Rico is a nice place on Lee Trevino.
Go west on Montana and then south on Lee Trevino. This is our sixth time back.
Great food and beer for prices $7-12 a plate. Most times there is live music
too. Its also the closest decent eating place to Hueco. The Hueco Tanks rock is
still great. Don't stay away. You need a reservation and you better plan ahead
at least a month. You can't let the rules and restrictions stop you. You must
watch a 20 minute movie and get an ID card. Sometimes it feels like a prison
camp but its still worth it. One side effect is with fewer climbers allowed
there is no wait on any climb. Its a shame when 300 climbers a day would fit and
only 70 are allowed in. But is was worse the last few times. Some rangers are
good and some are still a little anticlimber but they are also antihiker too.
Good luck and try it!