I'll be the first to admit it: I am a born-and-bred gym rat. For 5 or 6 years I climbed almost exclusively on plastic, and even afterwards only in New England. But once I moved to Colorado a whole new world opened up to me, including the opportunity for a trip to Hueco Tanks in El Paso, Texas!
The first time I felt the tug of the Texas desert was after I saw a beautiful picture of New Religion, a classic V7 in the East Spur. I was 13 or 14 at the time and blissfully unaware of what I was missing out on outside my plastic paradise. My ignorance was shattered the minute I saw the contrast of the red rock against bluebird skies; it was enough to make my jaw drop. So THIS was the legendary W-A-C-O Tanks (yes I thought it was spelled that way) that everyone was raving about! WHAT THE EFF! GET ME THERE!! Unfortunately as a high school student my travel time and money was limited but that picture stuck in my mind for years afterward. Hueco Tanks remained my #1 realistic climbing destination above any other place in the world.
When the opportunity for my dream to come true arose, I thought about it for a couple of days before my brain kicked in and said, "are you CRAZY?? Are you really considering NOT going to Hueco?? GET DOWN THERE!!" And it was set. I could only take off 10 days including travel from my three jobs, which was still not nearly enough time, but it would do! I caught a ride down with a couple of friends and never looked back.
When I woke up the next morning my first thought was simply, "holy crap I am in Hueco." My first time in true desert landscape. My first time laying eyes on iconic problems such as Babyface, Slashface, Esperanza, and Diaphanous Sea. My first time taking forced rest days on a climbing trip. My first time shooting a gun on those rest days! My first time on the best V2 I've ever encountered, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive. My first El Pasito burrito. My first time being in Hueco.
I kinda thought I would feel some crazy emotional bubble when I got to Hueco. Maybe some tears, or wild uncontrollable laughter, or powerful thought-provoking feelings. I was mildly surprised to feel none of these. It was not out of disappointment or unmet expectations; quite the opposite in fact. I had dreamed about Hueco for so long that when I finally arrived it seemed completely natural that I should be there. I felt no disbelief. No moving emotions. Just happiness in its purest form; confidence that I had known Hueco was the place for me for so many years, and satisfaction at having finally gotten there.
Overall I wish I had been able to spend more time in Hueco; it definitely takes some time getting used to the gymnastic style of climbing. Luckily I'll be going back in March for the Hueco Rock Rodeo and I am PSYCHED!! I'll be fresh out of Nationals and ready to take care of unfinished business and get on some new boulders. THIS time around I plan to get on New Religion, the climb that ultimately drove me to Hueco in the first place (I unfortunately got snowed out my last day, which was when I was going to go to East Spur) as well as Purple Flowers, Focus, Better Eat Your Wheaties, and Flower Power. Looking forward to the spring! Glad there will be a second time for everything down in the desert ;)