The Hueco Rock Rodeo was last weekend and I had decided to go on a last-minute whim (well, last-minute in my world). When the time came to head down to El Paso just 5 days after returning from Nationals, I still felt tired and beat up and I wasn’t quite ready to try hard again. I’m glad I mustered enough motivation to get on the plane, because the Rodeo was a blast.
Hueco Rock Rodeo - Angela Payne
It had been about 3 years since I had been to Hueco, and closer to 6 years since I spent a substantial amount of time there. I went into the event knowing that it would be a challenge due to fatigue and a serious lack of real rock climbing in the past 6 months. I also knew that the Rodeo could be just the type of fun I needed after months of training. The event did not disappoint.
I have never done a Rock Rodeo before, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect in terms of the actual comp. Because of the way Hueco works, it took a while to shuttle all the competitors into the park on the morning of the event. The waiting, however, was well worth it because, thanks to the volunteered time of many guides, the Rodeo provided an opportunity to move around more freely than is normally possible. With the help of ‘runners,’ competitors were able to move from one boulder to the next without having to rally an entire group to do so. I definitely felt lucky to have this freedom, given the delicate nature of access in Hueco.
The open category was assigned to the East Spur, an area I am relatively familiar with, and the comp problem list looked fun. I knew I would have to use my time and skin wisely, so I planned on mostly repeating boulder problems I had done many years ago. I stuck with this plan for climbs like Glas Roof, Swiss Crisp Mix, and Mr. Serious, but the hight point of the day was doing boulders I had never tried before. First on the list was Focus, a nice V10 that I have walked by many times. I tried the problem for a while with Nina Williams, a strong Northeasterner who has transplanted to Colorado. I eventually managed to flail my way through the crux and into the slightly dicey top-out, which climbs a lie-back jug flake with not-so-amazing feet. I was incredibly pumped, but the will to preserve what is left of my ankles got me to the top. It was definitely one of the scariest top-out experiences I have ever had.
Loaded with adrenaline, I went and repeated Frogger and Sex After Death, then headed to another new boulder called Sub Zero. This boulder is stuck in a tight little corner and is not the prettiest to look at, so I didn’t expect much from it. As it turns out, Sub Zero was one of the most enjoyable climbs I did all day. The technical compression style of this problem was a welcome change from the crimp lines I spent the majority of the day climbing.
The last climb on the agenda was The Hand, and I knew that I had to climb it to have a chance of winning the comp. I wasn’t feeling particularly competitive for most of the day, but I definitely snapped into comp mode when I realized time was running out. The problem with The Hand is that the landing basically sucks. I wrangled as many pads and spotters as possible and threw myself at the boulder, which climbs crimps in a seam and should be right up my alley. But fatigue had gotten the best of me. I took some falls that would have been incredibly unpleasant had Mike Doyle and Yuri Kimball not been there to literally pluck me out of the air (thanks for saving me guys!). After 30 minutes of failed attempts, time was up and the day was done.
Despite my failure to finish this last boulder, I was incredibly happy with my day of climbing. I felt that I did pretty alright on the real rocks, and as a bonus, I got to climb two boulders that were new to me! But the real highlight of the day was the crew I had the pleasure of climbing with. I don’t get to climb with large groups of women very often, but the Rodeo was an exception. Natasha Barnes, Flannery Shay-Nemirow, Nina Williams, and Courtney Sanders all tried hard with me and kept the mood fun and light all day long. Although I didn’t get to climb with her much, Katha Saurwein also provided a great deal of inspiration by continuing her month-long crushing streak in Hueco with an impressive day of climbing at the Rodeo that secured her the win. Extra laughs and support were also provided by the wonderful guides Ana Burgos and Melissa Strong (extra props to Melissa for working so hard to make the event a success!). I felt very lucky to be enjoying an awesome day of climbing with such strong and fun women! I wish that happened more often.
Overall, the Rodeo was a great last-minute decision. The organizers worked very hard to provide a fun day of climbing in one of the greatest climbing areas I know of, and their efforts were much appreciated. I will most certainly be attending the Rodeo again next year.
Now, I am now psyched to get back outside and climb on some real rocks, which will be in direct conflict with my training for some upcoming World Cups J But, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not such a bad problem to have…