A Week of Bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park

As we entered a barren landscape from the urban wasteland of El Paso, Niko and I quickly realized what we had just gotten ourselves into: a week of true desert living while bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We arrived late on Sunday afternoon, and I totally got a little giddy as Jason Khel checked us into the Hueco Rock Ranch. We paid for four nights, then scoped out a prime parking spot close to the main climber’s barn. (For more on the Hueco Rock Ranch, stay tuned for my review tomorrow!)

Our first day of climbing was brutal, in the most enjoyable way possible. A southeastern gal, I’m used to forest trails winding to boulders scattered along a field. At Hueco Tanks, the approach is an often epic hike straight up enormous granite slabs. I was admittedly wrecked within the first few hours, and spent the majority of the day watching Niko crush hard problems. At one point, Paul Robinson walked up and asked Niko for beta – pretty incredible to have spent our time at Hueco climbing amongst some of the world’s strongest boulderers, like when Niko projected a V10 with Anna Stohr and Melissa Le Neve.

Niko and I out at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

The next few days really picked up, and we got into a nice groove. We woke up every morning at 5:45, drove out to the gate to wait in line for a walk-on spot, made breakfast, then climbed on North Mountain for the rest of the day. In the evenings, we ate dinner in the ranch barn while I caught up on work, then promptly passed out in the van not long after the sunset.

One the third day, I found my muse: Lobsterclaw (V5). Easily my favorite route at Hueco Tanks, this Hueco-filled line sat in a small cave area secluded from everything else around it. While climbing it, we met a great couple from Minnesota, Emily and Zach, who were on a three-month trip. We instantly connected, and spent the next few days climbing together. Zach and Niko are on the same level, as are Emily and I, so it created a perfect group dynamic.

Emily cranks out of the tricky cave section on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks.

The boys led the next day, egging each other on during burly climbs and crushing incredible routes. Zach shared my sentiments about Hueco being a bit polished, which was slightly disappointing but to be expected at such a popular destination. Once we started hitting more obscure climbs, the rock quality was superb.

Niko working Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.Niko falls into the sweet undercling move on Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park.

After days of projecting Lobsterclaw, I found myself on our final day at Hueco Tanks with less than an hour before we had to leave the park. Emily and I made a lot of progress on the crux, and I finally stuck the hardest move just as time ran out.

It wasn’t a send, but I felt fairly satisfied having at least broken through the seemingly impossible crux – I honestly hadn’t believed I’d be able to stick the move.

Moving towards the crux move on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We celebrated the last night of our trip, which happened to be on Valentine’s Day, with authentic Mexican food at El Pasito’s Meat Market. The meal was shared with our newfound climbing couple friends, and a dude we met in line at the gate one morning, who happened to have gone to the same high school in Miami as me!

Niko and I considered a quick morning session the next day before heading to Phoenix, but when our alarm went off at 5:45 the next morning, we shut it off and went right back to sleep.

Hueco, we’ll be back.

And when I go back, I’m going to crush Lobsterclaw. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Trekking through the desert landscape at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

Stay tuned for more Hueco Tanks blog posts this week!

I’ll be publishing the first post in my new series “Dirtbag Beta” – the inaugural piece will give climbers the beta on how to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation. I’ll also have a review on the Hueco Rock Ranch comin’ up soon.

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Categories: Rock Climbing, Simply Adventure

Author:Katie Boué

Katie Boué is the voice of TheMorningFresh.com - a travel lifestyle blog focusing on climbing, Airbnb life, and the outdoors.

5 Comments on “A Week of Bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park”

  1. February 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    So glad you and Niko are having a great time :) Can’t wait till you make it to CO!

  2. Nam Phan
    March 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Great article for beta at Hueco! I didn’t know what you meant by climb lobsterclaw when you posted on fb. I though you were using some kind of climbing analogy. haha

  3. March 11, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    So cool, already your dream is a reality and the van set up is sweet! Thanks for posting, best to you guys.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dirtbag Beta: Climbing at Hueco Tanks without a Reservation | THE MORNING FRESH - February 26, 2013

    […] 10 spots may seem like a long shot, but Niko and I didn’t have a single reservation during our trip to Hueco Tanks, and were able to get in every single day we were […]

  2. Dirtbag Beta: Review of the Hueco Rock Ranch | THE MORNING FRESH - March 2, 2013

    […] you’re planning a trip to climb at Hueco Tanks, you basically have two options for lodging: camping inside the park, or staying at the American […]

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