The blood pulsing in your fingertips matches the beat of your racing heart. Your toes scream after climbing for eight hours nonstop, and as you pull onto the final summit, your arms have entered a state not unlike tetanus. Or rigor mortis. A feeling of pride and elation washes over your lactic-acid-tripped-out soul. Congratulations. You have just completed Hueco Tanks’ Wanker 101.
FORGET CARRYING AN AID RACK and climbing sketchy slab pitches by headlamp—far from Yosemite’s big walls, there existed an endurance challenge that even an un-savvy climber like me could tackle. I even owned the gear for it. And for training, I could skip the jumaring and short-fixing practice, and just hang out at my local Flagstaff, Arizona, gym. But, oh, how I would hang out. I’d traverse the gym’s entirety for as long as I could hold on—usually about an hour. Week after week. I felt like some old-school Olympian, sporting my Mad Rock Frenzies a size too big, worn with socks to keep my feet cushioned. I’m sure the bare-chested, buffed-out bouldering boys thought I had a few screws loose, but I let them speculate while I went about my business. After a month of preparation, I began to feel a true sense of urgency. My climbing ambitions had taken on a single-minded focus: I aspired to be a Wanker.
THE WANKER 101 is a one-hundred-and-one-problem bouldering circuit on the North Mountain of Hueco Tanks State Historic Park, outside of El Paso, Texas. It consists of problems ranging in difficulty up to V2— most in the V0 range—originally taken from the “Book of John,” John Sherman’s Hueco Tanks: A Climber’s and Boulderer’s Guide, and was first established in 2001 by five people dressed in costume, including a Santa suit that was discarded at problem 30. It is essentially a running/hiking/bouldering tour of North Mountain, the only one of Hueco’s three mountains still open to self-guided access. The Wanker is a sort of legend in Hueco, with legendary completions. For instance, rumor has it that Kim Lee did the entire Wanker 101 in two and a half hours, barefoot. There is a hard-to-find binder at the Hueco Rock Ranch that lists the problems and the story of the anonymous proto-Wankers. Their names have been lost, but the legend lives on.
UPON ENTERING the park at 10 a.m., my fellow wannabe Wanker, Andy Klier, and I put together only the necessities. We organized ourselves while Dawn Kish, our friend and photographer, watched the orientation video required of all visitors to the park every year. We began our walk to the End Loop Boulder, located at the south tip of North Mountain, at 10:30, entering the cool shadows cast by the imposing cliffs above. Andy led me to problems 1 and 2, which were side by side. The first, polished and powerful, went down, but the effort sent a shock through my body. I downclimbed, a bit shaky, and arrived at the base just in time to see Andy fall off the second problem, Arêtey or Not (V0). Determined, I threw a heel and tried to jam my hand in the crack, but still duplicated Andy’s failure-tofl ash. Was this how the Wanker was going to go? We both sent next try and walked away from the End Loop with mixed feelings.
Andy was the pacesetter and line leader, and had mapped out our route. The next climbs had no chalk on them, and the tall topouts required thought and precision. I watched Andy, taking note of what holds he used, and then tried to mimic his ascents. I quickly learned that we have very different climbing styles, so I could judge the holds but had to connect the dots my own way. I felt instant fear on most of the highballs. I waited at the bottom for Andy to return for the spot, and found myself over-gripping, shaky, and unsure, constantly asking where to go and what holds to use.
As we emerged from the cool shade, our pace relaxed a bit. The sunshine and warmer temps felt great, but they began to do a doozy on my baby-skinned fingertips. If I was going to make it through the day, I had to start climbing with my legs more, including the downclimbs.
Andy stopped talking and began virtually running up the problems—and then running between them. We were scrambling from one to the next, giggling, breathing hard, and trying not to think. About 20 feet up a 30-foot slab, I ran into choss. I had abandoned my pad somewhere, and a pang of anxiety hit me, but I didn’t stop. “Even the choss in Hueco is good,” I said to myself, and continued up the rock, repeating this statement out loud. Only when I heard people beneath me laughing did I realize we had an audience. I’m a naturally social person and would have stopped to talk, but at this moment we had shit to do and little time to do it in. So we ran.
Fifteen problems later, I found myself on one of the most classic boulder problems in North America, Nobody Here Gets Out Alive (V2), and, arriving at the lip, I melted. Before I could yell, “Spot please!” I was on the ground, unhurt but beaten. “I can’t do this,” I whimpered.
Dawn put her camera down and came over to give me a hand up. As I rose to my feet, Andy reminded me that in our frenzy we hadn’t rested, eaten, or drunk anything in an hour. So we rested, and I gave another attempt. Yes! It felt great to top it out, knowing we only had 10 problems left to do.
A small crowd of friends had now joined us, and walked with us up to the Summit Boulders, carrying on conversations and establishing a new, euphoric mood. It felt like falling in love. Problems 96 to 99 were fantastic, every move a joy. We would rest at interesting holds, 15-plus feet up, no pad, almost singing to one another the beauty of the climb.
OUR 100TH PROBLEM was The Laughing Sutra. The roof that shades this climb contains a circular hole peering toward the sky. Upon grabbing this unique hold, my climber’s high was all but complete... until I remembered we still had one epic problem to do. We hiked over to Ghetto Simulator and rested.
With half an hour before the park closed, we had some time to make sure we were ready. Dino, who had come in late and was only on about problem 70, walked straight up to the boulder and crushed it. I was not as confident. I was sure I only had one attempt in me, so I pieced out my beta and asked a friend to point at a hold I’d often forgotten when I’d tried this classic problem previously.
Andy gave an uncharacteristic grunt to top out the full Ghetto Simulator and finish the Wanker. Filled with excitement after watching him pass the finish line, I took deep breaths, trying to fully oxygenate my muscles, grabbed the first holds, and started to climb out of the shadows toward the sun. As I made big moves on big holds, the setting sun cast a beautiful golden light on my heel hooks. At the crux, I grabbed the bad left crimp, crossed into the hold I always forget about, and grunted, locking off to reach the fi nal holds. I rocked over the lip in total relief—except that my right arm wouldn’t open from its locked-off position. But I didn’t care. From the top of the boulder, I let out a jubilant yell: “I’m a Wanker!”
Carrie Cooper is bracing herself for the fame and fortune that surely await her following the completion of the Wanker. Should be any day now.
WANKER 101 LIST
The Wanker begins at the southwest corner of North Mountain, at the appropriately named End Loop Boulder, located at the end of the road that traverses North Mountain’s front side. Traverse clockwise along the base of North Mountain all the way to the northeast side, then work uphill on the east side, in the vicinity of the chains, toward the Summit Boulders. Finally, descend to the base on the south side to the Wanker’s Ghetto Simulator finish. “O” denotes optional, alternative climbs.
1. Slam Dip (V0)2. Arêtey or Not (V0)
3. To-Bo or Not to Be (V0)4. Jellyroll Jamboree (V0)5. Sir Nose D’voidoffunk (V0 R)6. No Scruples (V0)7. North Deliverance Left (V1)8. North Deliverance Middle (V2)9. North Deliverance Right (V1)10. South Deliverance East Face Left (V1)11. South Deliverance East Face Right (V1)12. Albino Simpleton (V1)O. Squeal Like a Pig (V0)O. Manly Stuff (V4)
13. Family Size (V0)14. Busted (V0)15. Legal High (V0) HAIRY AND SCARY16. Indians Laying on Dawn’s Highway Bleeding (V0)17. Tobacco-Chewing Gut-Chomping Kinfolk From Hell (V0)18. Butt Buddy (V0)19. Saxon Tactics (V0)20. Top Guy (V0)21. Gay Abandon (V0)22. The Sphincter (V0)23. Dingleberry Jones and the Lost Crusade (V0) 24. Hard Wipe (V0) 25. The Hashmarker (V0) 26. Feces of the Ages (V0) 27. Boo (V0) 28. Eek-a-Mouse (V0) 29. The Melon Patch (V0) O. Epilady (V1) O. Shaved Pits (V2) O. Five O’Clock Shadow (V2)
30. Banana Split (V0)31. Split Crack (V0)32. Split Shift (V0)33. Split Ends (V0)34. Split Crack, Jr. (V0)35. Splitting Hairs (V0)36. 7-10 Split Left (V0)37. Splitter Splatter (V1)
38. Wonderhole (V0)39. Orifi ce Affair (V1)40. Tell Mama (V1)41. Turtle Wax (V0)42. The Dripping Gash (V0)43. The Thighburner (V1)44. Vanilla Smoothie (V0)
45. Asylum Crack (V0)46. Asylum Slab (V0)
47. Loopzilla (V0)48. Elder Statesman (V0)49. Young Man Blues (V0)50. Dumbo (V0)51. Bitch Magnet (V0)52. Rumble in the Jungle (V0) 53. Ju-Ju Wall Right (V0) 54. Ju-Ju Wall Center (V0) 55. Ju-Ju Wall Left (V0) 56. Big Shot (V0) O. Thunderbird (V1) O. Backscratcher (V2) O. The Butter Dish (V2)
57. Home of the D-Cups (V0)
58. Chocolate Thunder (V1)59. Tralfaz (V0)60. Ah-So (V0)61. Mission Impossible (V0)62. IM Force (V0)
63. Gums (V2) 64. Gums Slab (V1) 65. Root Canal (V0) O. Any line on the slab left of Gums (V0) O. Speak to Me Oh Toothless One (V1)
SIGN OF THE CROSS
66. Lughead (V0)O. Sign of the Cross (V3)
67. Mid-Term (V1)68. Short Term Memory (V0)69. Memento (V0)70. Long Term Memory (V0)
71. Mothertrucker (V0) 72. Gumby Traverse (V1) O. Gumby Direct (V0)O. Look at Me (V1)O. Money Sucks (V2)O. Blackmail (V3)O. Fici’s (V1)O. The Sweat Shop (V2)
73. Solid Pleasure (V0) 74. World Without Lawyers (V0) 75. Jimmy Hats on Parade (V0) O. The Belly Bomber (V1) O. Celebrity Simulator (V0)O. Return Business (V0)O. Thumper (V0)O. 40 Ounce King (V0)
76. Rotten Traverse (V0)77. Man of Leisure (V0)78. Spud Boy (V1)79. Eye Gouger (V0)80. Mashed Potato (V1)81. The Peeler (V0)82. Suckah Inna Yucca (V0)83. Mr. Potato Head (V0)84. Bassin’ (V0)85. The Honey Hole (V0)86. Chive Sucker (V0)87. Baco Bit Left (V0)88. Bawl and Chain (V0)89. Men in Chains (V0)90. Women in Chains (V0)O. Cast Iron (V1)
BIG TIME AND THE GRENADE
91. Little Big Time (V0)92. Nobody Here Gets Out Alive (V2)
93. Navajo Bubba (V0)94. The Colonel’s Secret Recipe (V0)95. Easy Dilator (V0)96. The Laughing Sutra (V0)
97. Aftershave (V0) 98. Aqua Velva (V0) 99. Brut (V0) 100. The Used Blade (V0)O. Dry Shave (V2)O. The Unused Blade (V0)
101. Ghetto Simulator (V2)
Circuit Circuit: 3 more, coast to coastBy Jeff Achey and Amanda Fox
Old Glory CircuitFlagstaff Mountain, Colorado
This historical expert’s circuit features problems up to V5 from the 1960s and 1970s, many by Boulder bouldering pioneer Pat Ament. Park and begin at Cloud Shadow Rock. Limber up on the nice pockets found along the Cloud Shadow traverse, then start the circuit proper with a f urry of tricky “moderate” problems and an ascent of Hagan’s Wall, arguably the circuit’s technical crux.
Come back up to the road, passing by the Roadside Boulder, and follow the trail uphill to the Red Wall, the archetypal Flag boulder—thin, sandbagged, and betaintensive. Congratulations and you’re welcome. Now move down to the Pebble Wall for some easier but classic pebble problems, before stepping back up the hill to the Amphitheater. Pick a few cherries up the Great Ridge, finishing on the mega-classic highball King Conquer. (The older version of this tour finished at First Overhang, but this problem has eroded and is omitted here.) At present, print guidebooks to Flag are a bit outdated; for the most up-to-date beta, see flagstaffmountainbouldering.blogspot.com. Special thanks to Peter Beal for helping improve our old-school list.
1. Pedestal Traverse (V2) 2. East Inside Corner (V2) 3. The Consideration (V3) 4. The Moderate Bulge (V1 R) 5. Ramp Traverse (V4) 6. Alcove Overhang Crack (V3, sit start) 7. Hagan’s Wall (V5)
8. Right Side (V5) 9. Standard (V4)10. Center Left (V5)
11. Southwest Arête (V3)
12. Crystal Mantel (V3) 13. Direct South Face (V3) 14. Northwest Overhang (V3)
15. Gill Direct (V4) 16. Sandpaper Ledge (V3) (Option: You can descend 15 and 16 by reversing Overhanging Hand Traverse)
17. Big Overhang (V2 R) 18. Upper Y Traverse (V4 endurance) 19. Shark, Direct West Face (V4) 20. Face Out (V5) 21. King Conquer (V3 R)
The Horse Pens 39Horse Pens 40, Alabama
Often referred to as the Fontainebleau of the South, Horse Pens 40 in Steele, Alabama, contains some of the finest boulders in the Southeast. The bulbous faces feature everything from basketball-sized slopers to credit-card crimpers, and the topouts will test your mantel skills—and courage. If the sometimes-cryptic sequences leave you scratching your head, at least the fine-grained sandstone won’t torture your tips. The blocs sit close together in the boulderfield, so hiking between sectors is minimal. For this classic V2 tour, stroll over to the Front Area to start, then wind your way through the park, ending at the Point Boulders. And don’t worry—despite the area’s name, you won’t have to do 40 problems... quite. See Horse Pens 40 Bouldering by Adam Henry for problem-locator beta.
1. Hive (V1)2. Honeycomb (V1)3. Breaktime (V0)
4. Deck Crack (V0) 5. Ring My Bell (V2)6. Tork (V1)
7. Interact (V0)8. On the Side (V0)9. FT (V1)
TURTLE ROCK AREA
10. Turtle Head Left (V0) 11. Turtle Head Right (V2) 12. Contraband (V1) 13. Panty Raid (V2) 14. Fabio (V2) 15. The Gate (V1) 16. Cicada Song (V1) 17. Boy Scout Crack (V1) 18. Night Crawler (V0)
19. JB1 (V0)20. JB2 (V0)21. Ticket Home (V0)22. Lob (V0)23. Sure Thing (V2)24. Orchid (V2)25. Merlin (V1)26. Hooters (V0)27. Jugs (V0)
28. Nurse (V1)29. Tracers (V1)
30. Lady Slipper (V2)
31. Short Change (V2)32. Chasers (V2)33. Contusion (V2)34. Eight Ball (V2)35. Waiting Line (V2)36. Tourist Attraction (V1) 37. HL Slab (V0) 38. Sea Shell (V2) 39. WASP (V2)
The Milk RunThe Buttermilk Boulders, California
“Like a Zen rock garden” is how 1970s Buttermilks developer Doug Robinson describes this bouldering heaven, located near the town of Bishop on the east side of California’s Sierra Nevada. The patina-covered granite boulders—some house-sized—offer more than 1,000 problems of all grades, from low traverses to 40-foot mini-solos, in a spectacular, big-sky setting.
Robinson’s words of guidance for this classic V2 tour apply to all circuit bouldering: “This is really more of a movement circuit than it is crimp-down-and-boulder,” he says. “It’s about the flow, which goes better without pads, brushes, and whatever. I don’t even carry chalk. Just a few sips of water, get in the flow, and keep moving.” Start at the Peabody Boulders, then continue uphill in a winding, counter-clockwise pattern, finishing at the Cave Boulders. Note that some tall V0s must be reversed. Check Bishop Bouldering by Wills Young and Mick Ryan (wolverinepublishing.com) for more beta.
GRANDMA PEABODY BOULDER
1. V0, mantel from small hole 2. Essential Peabody (V0)
3. V0, rounded arête4. V0-, six feet right5. Mantel (V0-), east corner 6. Undercling (V1)
GREEN WALL BOULDER
7. Green Wall Arête (V1) 8. Essential Green Wall (V2) 9. Flakey Foont (V0), farther right 10. Crack My Knob (V0), far right
11. The Hunk (V2)
LOWER SMOKING BOULDER
12. Hog Ridin’ Fools (V0), uphill side 13. Secondhand Smoke (V1), sit at hueco, climb flakes
UPPER SMOKING BOULDER
14. Smoking (V0) 15. Contact High (V0)
16. Birth (V1)
17. Northeast side (V1)
18. Angelfood McSpade (V2, misnamed The Buttocks in most guides) 19. Naked (V0), southeast side 20. Descend by The Flake (V1)
21. Harrisons (V0), left center of east face 22. Descend by V0, center of east face 23. Monkey Dihedral (V2)
FRICTION BOULDER (NW of Fit Homeless)
24. V0-, west face 25. PSOM John (V0-, west face
26. Unfit Homeless (V0), north side left
27. Robinson’s Rubber Tester (V1)
UPPER CAVE BOULDER
28. V0, slab to right
LOWER CAVE BOULDER
29. Inner Sanctum (V2) 30. Mantel Motha (V1), southeast face