Paige Claassen recaps her experience at the 26th Hueco Rock Rodeo, an annual climbing comp in Texas...
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Two boulders into the 2013 Hueco Rock Rodeo, I ripped my pants straight across the left butt cheek, mid boulder, while 15 friends and strangers watched. I spent the rest of the day in my friend Angie’s long underwear and struggled up 3 of the 6 boulders needed to fill my scorecard. (*they weren’t La Sportiva pants, in case you were wondering.)
Unsurprisingly, the 2019 Hueco Rock Rodeo exceeded all past experiences.
Having only climbed at Hueco a handful of times, I was only familiar with one of the boulders on this year’s Open competition list, which began at the stiff grade of V7. Where was the filler climbs to round out my 6 boulder problems? My plan, for lack of a better option, was to follow the other competitors around and try to keep up.
We began without warmup on Diaphanous Sea, a V11 on positive crimps with a jump in the middle. With no choice but to try, I fast forwarded through my feeble theraband warmup and surprised myself with a second-go ascent of Diaphanous. Ok, one down.
I completed a few new-to-me boulders here and there, feeling proud that after 19 years of climbing, I finally seemed to have caught on to the skill of jumping between holds. Yet by afternoon, I was only halfway to my goal of completing 6 boulder problems to fill my scorecard. 6 boulders doesn’t seem like a lot, but when they’re all near your max effort, it’s a pretty full day of climbing.
The afternoon proceeded rapidly, with Michaela Kiersch and Alex Puccio firing every boulder they touched in a try or two. Their willingness to share beta and cheer on all the competitors after their own quick ascents really define the spirit of the Hueco Rock Rodeo.
In the words of fellow La Sportiva athlete and first place winner of the Men’s Open category, Keenan Takahashi, “I like the collaborative aspect; its super rad to get to work on problems with each other and try to figure out the best beta. [The Rodeo] has a more mellow vibe than most comps, and it’s also climbing on real rock, which is definitely my fave!”
This new wave of competitors supporting one another is what struck me the most during this Rodeo. I’ve seen it in the televised national competitions as of lately, but it’s refreshing to experience in person as well. Much of the cattiness prevalent in competition climbing seems to have taken a back seat to comradery.
Of course, the sense of community inherent to our sport has always displayed itself in competitions on some level. But recently, the genuine desire to see fellow competitors perform their best has become the norm. I dig it. Who doesn’t love a bluebird day out climbing with your friends, cheering one another up a solid day’s worth of difficult climbs?!
I ticked my goal with a few sharp crimpy lines, and an ascent of the Open category’s lowest scoring boulder and most difficult climb of the day for me – Baby Face, a ruthless V7 with a picturesque setting of North Mountain.
All this fun during the day is followed by the famous Hueco Rock Rodeo after party, a giant blaze of fire in the middle of the Texas desert. A festival full of happy climbers danced around a mountain of flames into the wee hours of the morning. Keenan says, “I love the raging after party” – and you better take his word for it. The 27th Hueco Rock Rodeo is just around the corner, so start training and be ready for a wild day of Texas-sized rodeo style rock climbing.
See you there!
Keenan Takahashi’s 2019 HRR Ticklist (1st place, Men’s Open)
• Barefoot on Sacred Ground, V12
• Bleeding Brothers, V12
• Diaphanous Sea, V11/12
• Diabolique, V12/13
• Right Martini, V12
• Tequila Sunrise, V11/12
Paige Claassen’s 2019 HRR Ticklist (3rd place, Women’s Open)
• Diaphanous Sea, V11
• Dirty Martini on the Rocks, V9
• Free Willy, V10
• Rogered in the Shower, V10
• Pumped Full of Semen, V9
• Baby Face, V7
Photos: ©Arjan de Kock
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PAIGE CLAASSEN has been a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team for 9 years.
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