Tim Stypolkowski, of Bend, Oregon, enjoying a daylight burn on Rules of Aqusition (5.10) during the 24 Hours of Gunnison Glory.
24 Hours of Gunnison Glory kicks off its inaugural year //
Do you know what it’s like to climb 24 hours straight, pitch after pitch on demanding, technical granite till your tips pink out, feet swell, and mouth dries up like the ass end of the Swahili? Well, let me tell you . . . er, actually, I only made it to hour 22.5 at the launch of the friendly new competition: the 24 Hours of Gunnison Glory, held at Hartman’s Rocks, west of Gunnison, Colorado, this June 28-29. But even turning in our scorecards 1.5 hours shy of the finishing line, we came to know the experience. And the thing is, it’s a tough but extremely rewarding one.
Based roughly on the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell competition, held in Horseshoe Canyon, Arkansas, the Gunnison comp was the brainchild of Gunny locals Luke Mehall and Alec Solimeo, who worked for six months to bring their vision together. If you haven’t been to Gunnison, it’s a classic Colorado mountain town, small, quiet, and half-cowboy, surrounded by rolling mesas, and endless pockets of boulders and cliffs. (You’re also just down valley from the aspen-grove blocs of Skyland, where Mehall also organizes an annual bouldering comp.) Hartman’s Rocks sits south and west from town, on BLM land it’s a collection of Joshua Tree-like domes, spires, and boulders ranging from flaky white grain-pain to dark, patina’ed heaven. The routes (many of them sport climbs) tend to be short but hyper-technical; boulder problems abound along the winding Jeep and ATV roads.
The 24 Hours dovetailed with the larger Gunnison River Festival, a series of events and competitions showcasing Gunny’s lively town center and many outdoor-sport opportunities. The 42 contestants who registered for the climbing had their choice of 137 roped routes ranging from 5-easy up to undone projects, in sport, trad, and mixed styles, plus, 47 boulder problems. (The organizers diligently taped route numbers under each.) The Western State College (WSC) Rescue Team was on hand during competition, just in case. Many of the contestants, especially for the 12-hour category, comprised the Peaceful Warriors (wherewarriorsrise.com and gunnisonvalleypeacefulwarriors.blogspot.com), a local youth climbing team (30 members) that Solimeo founded in 2005 and coaches to this day for the Gunnison Parks and Recreation Department. Ted and I had the good fortune to spend most of the morning climbing alongside the Warriors on the west-facing Tiger Wall, with its series psyched, talented kids climb sans fear was nothing if not instructive and humbling. In fact, the event itself was held to raise money for multiple projects, says Solimeo, ranging from the publicly funded Peaceful Warriors, to WSC’s planned boulder garden, to the newly founded WSC climbing club.
“People showed up and gave it their all,” says Solimeo. “For me as the Warriors’ coach, the highlight was definitely seeing the kids push hard for 11 of their 12 hours.” Adds Mehall, “I honestly thought there would be more blood. [But] there were no injuries. As the night wore on, most people did decide to sleep and then resume climbing at sunrise.” That Solimeo and Mehall climbed through much of the night themselves showed their love for Hartman’s and dedication to the idea.
I’ll leave you, then, with some impressions: the sun’s heat midday Saturday and the quarts and quarts of water we kept drinking, only to pee dark yellow again. The perfect, sinker jams of Best Crack, a 5.10- hand and finger fissure on impeccable silver stone flanking a shady gully. The inkblack thunderstorm that darkened skies at sundown, lashing Hartman’s with rain. The spirited campfire session (and slam poetry) as dark descended, the climbers regrouping, re-hydrating, eating, and planning, while the granite dried. Those tentative first few climbs by headlamp, struggling to find nipple footholds on vertical 5.11 while head bobbing desperately for that next clipping crimp. A gripping 5.10a friction slab at 1:45 a.m., heat lightning flaring over the horizon. Digging deeper to climb at sunrise, the rock chilly, arms slack, fingers refusing to close around anything less than a double-pad incut but everyone still smiling anyway. The sweet taste of a McDonald’s soft-serve cone on the drive home, and the three-hour nap I took that afternoon before another 11 hours of sleep. . . . Pitch after pitch, 24 hours, climbing and climbing, that thing we do because it’s the best thing there is.
For sure, I’ll be back next year, and Solimeo has even promised to time the next 24 Hours of Gunnison Glory with a full moon. Right the hell on!
Special Thanks go out to our most gracious sponsors: Evolve Sports, Sterling Ropes, Sanuk, Metolius, Access Fund, Western State College and the City of Gunnison.
Winners of the 2009 24 Hours of Gunnison Glory
>First-Place team, Youth: The Wanderers Ziggy Adkins, Josh Duft, Sebastian Infantes, Alec Solimeo, Daisy Willis, and Isabella Willis (85 climbs)
>First-Place team, Adult: Team Viper Alex Buccli, Seth Caulkens, Adam Ferro, and Jonathan Schaffer (183 climbs)