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Hueco Tanks Rock Climb


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 great!

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!


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