Coming in late, we caught the tail end of a cold front that passed through the Ozarks, chilling us to the bone as soon as we dismounted the big box.. It felt colder than Colorado, partly because of the humidity, partly because it was! A couple beers later, and we fell into some much needed sleep after the 16 hour drive from Las Cruces. Cole Fennel, our host and guide for this leg of the journey, woke us at %^&n’ DAWN so we could drink coffee for an hour and enjoy the cold and wet, but we were really excited about the promise of great conditions in the chill valley.. We packed for bear, and stomped up the hill.
Our can saw - chris schulte
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch sits in, well, a horseshoe-shaped canyon made up of excellent and highly featured sandstone, weathered by lotsa rain and shaded by lotsa trees. Where I come from, we’d call it a dude ranch: horseback rides, hikes, little cabins.. Folks can come and play cowboy for a weekend. However, the crew at the Ranch have taken the extra steps to cater to climbers with a great deal of route development, the installation of a climbing wall, via ferrata, ziplines, and a gear shop. The staff are nothing short of good folks, and we felt at ease for the duration of our stay.
The boulders remind me of some of the areas around Durango, CO., but the stone is more solid than most of what we have up there, though the shapes are very similar: pockets and edges, odd protrusions and pinches, highly textured slopers. As the morning (and our skin) wore on, the difference became painfully clear: the weather! It heated up quick, the rock began to sweat in some spots, and the humidity reached ridiculous levels (for where I live, anyhow). Despite the rough conditions, we had a blast, slab climbing, wasp dodging on highballs, and poison ivy thrashin’. I did a beautiful overhang on a medley of edges, slopers, and even a mono called Glass Bowl, and Ronnie flased his way out a black roof on little slots and pinches. At the end of the day, cooked, hot, and out of skin, we got bouted on a compression roof we both had expected to flash, and bailed downhill to fajitas and beer, and woke the following morning to the Pack Rat Rendezvous, where we bounced the big box up the hill and set up shop at the cliffline, now festooned with topropes. Though the temps soared and the humidity washed over us like a foggy wave, hundreds of folks showed and climbed through the day, and we wrapped up with dinner, a slideshow, and some of the best scotch I’ve ever tasted, though somehow I can’t remember the label.....
Another dawn start, and we trekked deep into the woods after about an hour’s drive from HCR, to a scattered tangle of roads and blocks, with more impressive cliffline up high. Some fun sport climbing, a little trad, a mini-solo or two, and we finished the day at Trackman, one of the coolest lines I saw in Arkansas. As the sun sank like a twice-torpedoed sampan, Ronnie and I gave good flash goes, only to slide off the last hard move again and again until we could no longer see what the hell we were doing.. A shame to miss out on doing such a nice problem, a little frustrating with the swampy conditions, but a great day hanging out with great people, new friends all around. Surely more than worth a winter return.
Now, we’re on the way to Austin, TX. The Hill Country, from whence I was bairned. The old homestead, and limestone tufas dripping down from horizontal caves, deep in the heart of the hippest city in the Republic of Texas.