The quiet before the storm, climbers drag their bleary eyed bodies into the barn for some much needed coffee and snacks to start the morning. For many of them this will be the last meal of the weekend that isn’t accompanied by a PBR. Slowly but surely they all cram into cars and vans enroute to Hueco Tanks State Park, a mecca of bouldering outside of El Paso, Texas.
Photo Gallery: 17 Photos From the 2019 Hueco Rock Rodeo
This is the 26th annual Hueco Rock Rodeo. An outdoor climbing competition based on V-point accumulation that, for some, is also a good excuse to get drunk in the desert. With the competition held on day two, the first day allows everyone to enjoy the climbing and take in that sweet Hueco goodness. Slowly, the day fades into dusk and the successful and punters alike head back to the Ranch, a campsite and mess hall run by the American Alpine Club. Soon enough they start the vendor shuffle, visiting anyone that's handing out free stuff. A sticker here, a hat there, holding conversation just long enough to squeeze a pair of sunglasses out of the grips of La Sportiva.
Night falls soon after and the wub-wubs start pouring out of the speakers and into the desert air. Beer flows and the projector shines in the barn for Sam Davis and Ana Burgos, a husband and wife who have been living near Hueco Tanks since 2000 and 2002. They talk about their lives and how Hueco brought them together. They show off the beauty of the area, from the thunderstorms of monsoon season, to the crisp days of winter when the park offers up its best climbing weather. Then the music dies, the games end, and we all drift off to our tents and sleeping bags, ready for the comp the following day.
With a stiff wind out of the south to wake us in the morning, buses are loaded, and climbers go to the mountain that corresponds with their competition category. This year the men’s and women’s open divisions are on North Mountain. I spend most of my day with Michaela Kiersch, Alex Puccio, Paige Claassen, and Norwegian climber Tina Hafsaas. I watch as Kiersch climbs Tequila Sunrise (V11) first go, having sent the problem previously. “This has been my best day of bouldering ever,” she would tell me. As the competition comes to a close and we head back to the Ranch, her words are confirmed. Kiersch wins this year’s women’s open and Keenan Takahashi wins men’s open for the second year in a row. We all gather in the barn for awards. Soon enough the massive bonfire is lit outside and dancing commences. After, a short dyno comp takes place with the threat of a water balloon firing squad for the losers. Overall it was a great year for the Rock Rodeo with amazing competitors and fantastic weather. The beer was cold, the weather was warm, and the boulders were climbed.