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“Welcome to Hell” was the greeting one partner gave to another as he rolled out of his sleeping bag the morning of September 29th, 2007 before the competition. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to sleep deprivation, exhaustion, malnourishment, dehydration, prolonged pump and bloody fingers? Why else; the prestige and honor that comes with winning such a high profile event. Actually 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is not that well known, maybe because Horseshoe Canyon Ranch itself is not that well known. Located in North West Arkansas, it’s just a hole-in-the-wall climbing spot. But this year, September 28th-30th the second annual, 24HHH would have almost twice the number of climbers and the competition would be even fiercer.
Teams gathered around the ranch outpost to hear their names called off and to pick up their scorecards. With almost 100 teams competing with names like, “Rock Out With Your Chalk Out”, “Wicked Crease Grease”, and “Ground and Sky Review”, almost 200 individual climbers would comprise the field. At 10am the shotgun blast was finally fired by a ranch hand and the teams quickly made their way to the areas they thought might see the least traffic early in the comp. Four mandatory check-in stations were all that stood in the way for these ambitious men and women. They would be required to visit these stations every six hours to prove they were coherent and able to continue.
The crowd chomps-at-the-bit before the race begins.Photo by Luke Laeser
As night fell by about 7:30pm, headlamps could be seen all over the canyon dotting the sides of the walls and walking the trails across the valley. The moon loomed low in the sky and helped climbers see their way from bolt to bolt while harmonicas and the occasional victory cry could also be heard through the cool night air.
The North Forty, one of the more popular areas for moderate routes, looked like a war zone, with bodies of would-be climbers hunched over in the dirt and passed out on crash pads. Many climbers chose not to make the hike back down to their tents for some much needed sleep, after all, the necessary equipment was at their immediate disposal at the base of so many climbs. Others chose the pre-twilight hours to record some of their toughest climbs, like Doug Englekirk who chose to climb the 5.12a Lavender Eye at 4am after having climbed for 18 hours
As the sun rose, climbers kept-up the pace with only a few hours remaining until the scorecards had to be handed in. A second wind of energy swept through the canyon and across the walls rejuvenating tired rock junkies and forcing them to go on. Local climbers Clay Frisbee and Todd Johnson (Team Petra) chose to climb trad routes at Crackhouse Alley through the wee hours of the morning, avoiding all crowds, and took home first honors because of it. Another team set the bar high for next year’s competitors by climbing a record 199 routes in their besiegement of the canyon with an of average just over eight routes per hour.
Welcome to the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell; the Friday night slackline competition; Clay Frisbie on Door Prize, 5.12a; climbers on Hackberrry Crack, 5.9; Josh Carrick on Powdered Toast Man, 5.12b; Clay Frisbie on Granny Tranny, 5.12a; night time headlmap chaos; and event winner Todd Johnson on The Farrier , 5.12a, September 28th-30th, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch near Jasper, Arkansas.
A record 94 climbers would record routes for every hour of the competition. Volunteers stayed up for all hours monitoring climbers and keeping the competition moving along and to report any injuries.
Twenty-Four Hours of Horseshoe Hell attracted climbers from over 15 states including a lively group from Southern California, as well as climbers from overseas. Being such a unique event, and only in its second year, it is sure to grow in popularity and to attract climbers from all reaches of the earth. With names like Chris Sharma and Jason Kehl also having visited the canyon, as well as being featured in the Dosage Video series, it is not unreasonable to imagine Horseshoe growing quickly into one of the Midwest’s premier climbing destinations.
Highlights compiled by Andy Chasteen — twofourhell.com
Clay Frisbie and Todd Johnson’s (Team Petra) 24 Hours included 16 5.12’s to put them at 33,900 points compared to their 19,270 last year. Todd Johnson nabbed first place in the individual advanced category, edging Josh Carrick from the Bomb Squad by only 30 points (a 5.6 is worth 60). Doug Englekirk flying in from Nevada to onsight every 5.12 he could find, cruising the 5.12a Lavender Eye at 4 am after 18 hours of hard climbing. Travis Donn and Jesse Gross logged a mind boggling 24HHH record team total of 199 routes during their 24 hour jaunt. Natalie Neal and Dick Dower, the hard core 24HHH trusties who combined their age of 100 years and took home “24 hour” honors. Natalie also brought home 2nd place in the women’s individual division. The Bomb Squad, Team Petra, Mile High Rednecks, This ain’t Missouri and The Coming Out Party all logged double digit numbers of 5.12’s in the duration. Amanda Smith coasted to another women’s individual victory for her second straight year. A record 94 climbers would record routes for every hour of the competition.