Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
They came, they saw, they sent, and sweated. Even with recording breaking temps pushing the mercury into the lower 80s on competition day, the weekend of the 24th Hueco Rock Rodeo passed with as much success, frustration, and pure try-hard as climbers have come to expect from the iconic grassroots competition.
Recreational climbers competed Friday, roaming the length of East Mountain from the Moonshine Roof to the Warm-up Roof, while more and more climbers trickled into the Rock Ranch and surrounding campgrounds. Friday night saw Jason Kehl’s slideshow and video presentation to kickoff the weekend festivities. Listening to Kehl describe his early experiences in Hueco, and watching footage of some of his most recent, not to mention daring, FAs in the park left the anxious crowd with plenty of motivation. The presentation began with photos showing Kehl’s send of Full Service (V10) twenty years ago, and his first homemade crashpad (essentially a square cut from 5” foam emblazoned with a Sharpie bullseye) that he recalled breaking in under the 45 Degree Wall on East Spur. In one video clip Kehl said, “Sometimes the longer you stand under a boulder, the taller it gets” and went on to describe how maintaining control of his breath and building mental strength are some of the tactics that have allowed him to continue putting up the hard and proud Hueco FAs showcased in the presentation. Kehl has ticked 20+ FAs in the park in recent years, like Count to 6 and Die, and Wormwood, and now a nearby resident, plans to continue seeking out unfound lines.
Along with providing a glimpse inside Jason Kehl’s intrinsic drive to push the limits of highball bouldering, the presentation was sprinkled with lighter moments as well. A short animé-esque clip titled “Ashima’s Perfect Day” was a cartoon depiction of the young crusher’s love for Oreos cookies and her send of Full Service (using nonexistent crimps), while another video showed Kehl getting the FTA (First Trampoline Ascent) of Eye for an Eye where he hiked in a mini-trampoline to get through the jumpstart crux, and latch the starting holds.
The next morning climbers rose early, caffeinated, carbed-up at the pancake breakfast, then funneled into vans and were shuttled to their respective mountains where they had eight hours to tick off their six hardest climbs. Open competitors climbed on North Mountain and spent most of the day chasing the shade and battling greasy skin.
After the results were tallied, Daniel Woods took first place in Men’s Open, first time Rodeo competitor Keenan Takahashi placed second, and Ben Hanna came in third. All three competitors filled scorecards with double-digit climbs. Woods’ day started with an early flash of Tequila Sunrise (V12), an unsuccessful attempt of Esperanza (V14) where he fell on the last move, and then went on to fill out his scorecard with sends of Barefoot on Sacred Ground (V12), Loaded Direct (V12), The Rhino (V11), Diaphanous Sea (V11, as graded in the comp book) and a surprise repeat of Diabolique (V13) at the end of the day. In sum, Woods scorecard totaled 7,295 points, securing his sixth win of the Rodeo over the last decade. A seasoned Hueco climber, Woods’ still found a new boulder to tick on Rodeo day, climbing The Rhino for the first time. He also said Diabolique felt like a new climb, as he hadn’t repeated it since he first sent the line in 2008.
Keenan Takahashi, hailing from Davis, California was not far behind. His scorecard included: Tequila Sunrise (V12), Barefoot on Sacred Ground (V12), Diaphanous Sea (V11), Dark Age (V11), Loaded with Power (V10) and Loaded Direct (V12). The second place finalist also completed Black Mamba (V10) and Dirty Martini (V10), but bumped the former off with a higher scoring climb, and realized too late that the latter wasn’t listed on the competition list. In total, Takahashi totaled 7,100 points, just 195 points behind Woods. When asked about his favorite part of his day, Takahashi said, “Tequila Sunrise, and the rugged conditions. I was psyched to do a ton of climbing where everyone was super supportive; it didn’t feel like a competition.”
Still feeling the effects of a tweaked finger from an injury sustained before Bouldering Open Nationals, Nathaniel Coleman said, “At the beginning of the day, I realized it was not going to be my day, so I decided to treat it like another outdoor session. And of course I was following around the best outdoor boulderer,” referencing Daniel Woods. Coleman climbed primarily with Woods and Hanna, where as he said, “There were a lot of different styles and hard climbs. It was also cool to see all of the companies come together—it really brings the community together to do this event.” This year was Coleman’s first time competing in the Rodeo and visiting Hueco, and certainly won’t be his last.
In the Women’s Open category Kyra Condie took first place at her inaugural Rock Rodeo, Molly Rennie of New Mexico placed second, and Juliet Hammer of Colorado rounded out the podium with third. Condie’s scorecard ironically included two climbs named for the machismo culture of Hueco, Pumped Full of Semen (V7) and Daily Dick Dose (V7), along with Fern Roof (V8), Stegosaurus (V7) and Big Nose Milley (V9), where she used the standard barefoot beta in order to get the narrow toe hook in the steep roof. “It was really cool climbing with so many people with the same goal, and not having to save your skin,” said Condie who also attempted three V10’s throughout the day, Left Martini, Free Willy, and Black Mamba, but without success. Rennie’s scorecard mirrored Condie’s in V-Points (both totaling 38) sending Daily Dick Dose (V7), Fern Roof (V8), Speed Bump (V7), Shower Cap (V9) and Stegosaurus (V7). All three podium women completed Fern Roof which formerly received a V9 grade, but a break to the start hold a few days before the Rodeo forced climbers to begin one move in, and take the climb at V8. Both Condie and Rennie ended the day with 3,910 points, with Condie winning the competition through less attempts.
The palate bonfire lit the nocturnal celebrations: the raffle, award ceremony, dyno competition, and dance party. As the embers disintegrated, weary climbers stumbled back to cars and tents. In the morning, a fierce wind swept through the Chihuahuan Desert as if to wipe the slate clean from the previous night. Until next year when the Rodeo turns 25, watch for more moments captured in the Mind Frame Highlight Reel coming soon.