Last weekend I ventured out to Hueco Tanks, for yet another summer session in El Paso, Tx. The temps weren’t great, but when you’re in school full time, you have to take the trips that you can get. I went out with my boyfriend, Danny–a seasoned veteran of Hueco climbing, and two friends, Joey and Carlo who made the very wise decision to take their first trip out to Hueco in the month of August–aka the month of sendage!
The weather was definitively NOT optimal. For a place that gets over 300 days of sun per year, we somehow showed up on our first day to relentless rain storms. We stuck to cave climbing for most of the day, sampling various classics like Martini Roof, Nobody Here Gets Out Alive, Mexican Chicken and McBane.
On day two we were worn pretty thin from 10 straight hours of roof climbing, but we trekked out to West Mountain to show Joey and Carlo some more of Hueco’s amazing lines, including Star Power, Crash Test Dummy, Honeycomb Hideout, and even a quick pop over* to East Mountain to jump on New Religion. (*by quick pop-over, I mean 45 minute hike each way across the El Paso desert with sun high overhead) Our last day was a much shorter venture to repeat Martini and explore the New Meadow.
Showing Joey and Carlo around for their first Hueco trip made me continually reflect on how I felt my first time at Hueco and how far I’ve come since then.
I remember making the 10 hour drive up with my good friend Cayce and being completely blown away by the mountains that rose up from the otherwise monotonously flat West Texas landscape. It was our first big climbing trip, and we were eager to get on the rock and see how we measured up at Hueco. I remember someone at the Rock Ranch asking us how hard we were expecting to climb. We were really just beginners then, maybe projecting V3 at the gym. Cayce and I both said we were hoping for a V3 or even V4, if things were going well. Oh, how naïve we were.
That week we both projected Nobody Here Gets Out Alive, a V2 for several hours on each of the 3 days we spent at the park. We both finally sent it on our last day, and we were completely stoked!
I’ve since made 10 more trips to Hueco throughout the years, and, as any sane person would expect, not all of those trips ended with me triumphantly sending a project. However they did almost always begin with me naively thinking that I could send the same grade at Hueco as I could at the gym. Those kind of expectations led to a lot of trips that ended in frustration, even ridiculous promises of never going back to that ‘stupid place’ again!
While discussing climbs with Joey and Carlo I kept describing everything as hard. T-Bone Shuffle is a really hard V4 and Lobster Claw is a crazy hard V5. I had flashed V7 at the gym before I ever sent Lobster Claw, and trying to remove your ego from the fact that you keep falling on a V5, when you consider that grade to be something easily within your reach can be pretty difficult. The climbing at Hueco is incredibly humbling. If you only care about counting your sends you’re probably going to experience some of those same frustrating trips that I did in my first years at the park.
But on this, my eleventh trip to Hueco, I had a very different attitude. On the first day, I progressed one move on Martini Roof (V6) and it was a GREAT step forward. I was ecstatic! I did T-Bone Shuffle (V4) in only one go, and that was unprecedented for me! I came up with some new beta to a pretty challenging climb that I could never start before, and although I didn’t manage to send it, I still got excited for every single new move that I stuck. I even nabbed the send of Mexican Chicken (V6), a climb that I’ve probably hopped on during each of my 11 trips out here.
I would encourage anyone who goes out to Hueco to get as excited about sticking one new move as they are about sending. No matter what grade you climb, when you are pushing your limits you won’t always walk out with a quick send. You can either spend the months in between trips lamenting the moves you didn’t stick, or feeling accomplished that your hard work has put you just a little bit closer to the send. Progression in climbing doesn’t come in leaps and bounds, it comes in the little inches between what you did last time and how much further you pushed on this time.
Never give up!