This past spring break I got to go back to Hueco Tanks for only four climbing days, which made me a bit nervous. So far this semester has been crazy busy, I became the Texas A&M climbing coach, my leadership organization is really active, and tests pretty much isolate me from everything for about a week and a half every four weeks. Basically this means that my climbing has been the thing to suffer. Since January, I had climbed maybe 6 times before leaving for El Paso, so roughly twice a month…..
#SB2k14: Hueco Tanks Style - Kyle Francis
Saturday morning we packed up the car and left with Shannon Lochridge, Dalan Faulkner, Tanner Merkel, Kyle Hilton and Joe Gifford. I was really excited for the people on this trip at least, I have been climbing with these people ever since I started climbing, and we always have a blast together. Our first day climbing was actually pretty exciting for me, I didn’t send anything, but we went to Slashface in the morning where I made some significant progress, the foot kick move is the only really low percentage move now! Every time I go back to that climb I learn something new. I feel like if I dedicated two or three full days on that climb I would send it. The rest of that day I used as a “getting back in shape day” just getting on everything I could, no matter how far above or below my pay grade it was. Shannon and I got there a day after the others, and they were resting the next day, so we did too, to avoid either going three days on or having to climb without our bros later when we wanted to rest.
After a day of rest we went to east spur, a shockingly awesome day for me. We started the day at the moonshine boulder, where our guide offered a discount for the first one to do all three moonshines (V4, V5, V6) every single person on our tour climbs double digits so the race was one. After a few run ins with “dab-man” I came out victorious and got $15 off my tour price! After that we went to try Power of LandJager (V11). I had tried this climb two Christmases ago, so the only thing I remembered was how impossible it felt. I remember being able to stick the pocket move one in every ten tries or so. I also was not shy with my expression of how impossible I thought the climb was. Our Friend, Jim Pharr from UT Austin, was joining us on the tour that day and bet me “the largest blizzard I could get from dairy queen” if I did the boulder first try. I then very sarcastically started talking trash because literally no one present for the bet thought it was possible. When I grabbed the starting holds though I went into a mode I have been in only a few times. I barely remember climbing the bloc, only topping it out. It was so weird! This boulder had never felt even remotely possible for me, and I did first try since trying it a year and a half ago. Regard the photo of my blizzard, we had to get special permission from the manager to get it made! After that we headed over to phantom Limb, where Joe and I both fell multiple times on the last hard move over the lip multiple times. After trying this like four times I was feeling pretty gassed. This is where the whole not climbing too often came to bite me, but I wasn’t ready to call it a day yet. We went over to the well site dyno (V10) for what we thought would be a consolation boulder. We were all pretty confident in our gymnastic climbing ability, and after looking at it, we all thought a flash was imminent. It was quite the opposite. None of us, except tanner, could even get close to sticking it. Tanner ended up topping the boulder after a few spills into the rock behind the bloc. We then went to hit Scream (V10-12) with about thirty minutes left in the day. I fell off the last move a few times before I had nothing left. Tanner did the middle Scream (V11) after a few minutes of work. Dalan and Joe capped off the day with a send after a send on a scary boulder, Tsunami (V10).
Second day on was sort of a cluster, we thought we were going to have a tour, ends up we didn’t, so at 5:30 AM we were scrambling to get first in on North mountain. It was cold and ridiculously windy, to the point where Shannon was basically paragliding with a pad on her back. We tried Bleeding brothers for a bit, then headed over to Alma Blanca where we all got dangerously close to doing all the moves. I had to stop trying because the spike heel hurt so badly after a few tries. Yes, I am a huge baby. We then went to Martini cave where Kyle sent Tequila sunrise, and Joe and Dalan did Black Mamba.
After a rest day, it was Friday, our last day. We ended up getting a hotel room Thursday night and got to sleep not in the back of my car, and got a shower and TV watching in. we split up on Friday, Shannon and I joined up with Team Texas for the day and went on east spur, while the rest of our crew went on east. This day was like no other day I have ever had rock climbing. We warmed up at uncut yogi, then I ended up trying Dave Graham’s Neon Desert (V14) for thirty minutes (unknowing of what it was) and ended up doing all but two of the moves with about thirty minutes of work. I felt like those two moves were pretty close, I just needed a little bit more time. No offense to Dave, this boulder is amazing, however I think it’s more along the lines of V12. After that I blew up. I did Phantom Limb (V12), Funk Moe’s Extension (V10) (Flash) and Scream (V10) all first try of the day. I think it was because I actually got to sleep the night before and I was well rested, something I definitely hadn’t been all trip. Phantom Limb was awesome, its such a beautiful boulder that suits my style really well. As soon as I grabbed the start hold I knew I was going to send. This feeling had now happened twice in one trip (power of landager and phantom limb) which is something I had never felt before, so that was super exciting for me. I feel like I am finally starting to transfer into a confident rock climber, instead of relying on talent and ability to compensate for choking! It is almost as if now I am the opposite, relying on my mental confidence for when my talent and ability run out. If I were in shape who knows what could have happened for me! Funk Moe’s extension is a V10 on the boulder directly under Phantom Limb. It’s a pretty long boulder that starts on a roof, and has a spicy crimp finish. All the team kids were working on it while I was resting for Phantom Limb, so I got to see all the beta, so about ten minutes after Phantom Limb I decided to go for it while I was still giddy from the send. The giddiness continued as I flashed the boulder! After that I was feeling pretty good still, so we hiked over to Scream, a boulder that had escaped me earlier in the week. I kept up my no fall sending with doing the bloc first go. At this point I’m starting to think I have magic fingers. I have literally never felt this good on the rock before in my life. Every time I stepped on the wall I would go into this crushing trance where it was going to take a lot to get me off the wall. Our guide then told us we had bout fifteen minutes before we needed to hike out, but I still thought I had gas in the tank and wanted to do one last climb. Tsunami, a V10 I had never tried before was in the same cave as Scream, so we decided to try that. The climb has a pretty bad landing, with jagged rocks sort of everywhere. The bloc, as suggested, looks like a wave. Ellis Whitson described it as “the first half is rock climbing, but then it just turns into wrestling.” It is very similar to Dean’s Journey, with a backwards shoulder slap that you have to pull in to. I ended up being able to do the boulder third go to cap off my day.
This trip was incredible for me. Before it, I was really out of shape, and really nervous, coming out of it though, I can’t wait to see how my climbing will progress with the new learning I have done in regards to my mental capability on the wall. More and more I am figuring out that, when you climb when you want to climb, things generally will not only be more fun, but you’ll climb harder. I know for myself at least, I am only getting on climbs that inspire and motivate me. Because the climbing facilities at A&M aren’t spectacular, getting on the world class climbs makes me unbelievably excited. I’m happy just to be on the wall, whether is V0 or V14. We really do participate in an incredible sport where we combine having to e in peak physical shape, with the world’s most beautiful and amazing locations. Where we combine trying our absolute hardest, with laughing with our best friends. Where we combine teaching and learning. Maybe I am just getting nostalgic of the ease of getting to climb and going on trips in high school, but being out there really hit me with just how lucky we are to do the sport we do.
Coming up in a few weeks is another open competition in Carrollton. The last time at this event, I tied for first (second due to count backs) at my original gym. It is on April 11th and I cannot wait to start training to get ready for it! Unfortunately open SCS nationals won’t be possible for me due to exams being right in the middle of them.