It’s finally here: a new Simply Adventure bouldering video, “Western Sandstone”

About 8 months ago, Niko and I made our first attempt at creating a climbing video. Armed with a homemade steady cam and as much patience as we could muster, we created this video about one of my all-time favorite boulder problems, Super Mario at Stone Fort in Tennessee. It wasn’t bad, but we quickly realized how much we had to learn about the process of putting together a quality video.

Fast-forward a bit, and Niko was determined to capture our experience climbing the stunning red rocks of the west. He lugged the tri-pod out to boulder fields, made me climb the same moves dozens of times to get the perfect shot, and slaved over the editing for weeks. We shot our favorite climbs at Joe’s Valley, Kraft Boulders in Red Rocks, and Moe’s Valley.

Note: Do yourself a favor, and watch this in HD at full-screen size to get the full effect! 

Without further adieu, enjoy:

For me, the best part of the video is the scene with me climbing Kill By Numbers. Not because I look pretty bad ass, but because of the story behind the climb. I had spent the better part of a week focusing on nothing but sending that rig. It tortured me, haunted me, destroyed my hamstrings, and beat me into a pulp. One morning, after two days of rest, I returned to the boulder determined to send it. Niko sat poised ready to film, and on my ‘warm-up’ attempt, I told him he should just start getting footage since I never wanted to climb that line again after the send. And then I day-flashed it. (And it’s all on film!)

I hope you all enjoy the video, and can’t wait to get to work editing new stuff to share with y’all. Let me know your thoughts, what you’d like to see more of, what we can improve on, etc. Thanks for the continuous love and support!

The end of an era: A bittersweet farewell to Joe’s Valley!

On our last night in Joe’s Valley, it rained. The canyons were hung thick with clouds, and the tops of some peaks were being dusted with snow. It cast a solemn tone on our departure – which was fitting for me as I finally bid farewell to this valley I had grown to adore so much.

We spent a total of 43 days over a nine-week period in Joe’s Valley, and in the last month we had knit a family unit that took up residence on the second pull-out in the left fork. Some stayed for the entire stint (or at least most of it), with folks like Spenser, Vikki, Adriana, Steven, Jeremy, and Randy becoming staples amongst our makeshift community. Others came and went, like Brad from Colorado and a flock of more than a dozen Floridian kids. Most days were spent climbing with the crew, and evenings saw us huddled around the impressive fireplace behind Vikki and Spenser’s trailer.

Niko on the iconic Angler problem at the riverside area in Joe's Valley.CP Santos finally crushes the Angler at Joe's Valley.

The final few weeks we spent in the valley are a blur of afternoons spent climbing by the riverside, discounted donuts from the Food Ranch, and lazy naps in the hammock. There are no new hard sends for me to report; I exhausted my list of projects, and lost the motivation to try-hard on any new ones. My laziness combined with multiple weekend trips out to Moab made it difficult to will myself to pull hard on anything.

Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.Pretty little things in Joe's Valley.

Perhaps the most memorable event of the last few weeks at Joe’s Valley was the bright Saturday morning when we teamed up with The RV Project, Steven, and Adriana to lend a hand during Orangeville’s annual city clean up. We figured it was the perfect opportunity to express a bit of gratitude to this small town for letting dirtbags live in their canyon and eat all their donuts.

My favorite moment was when the event organizer first laid eyes on us. One of the boys stepped forward and asked what we needed to do to get started, and the woman replied:

Oh, you’re here to help? I thought you just came to eat!

We all laughed, and quickly realized that our crew of six climbers nearly outnumbered the amount of town residents who had shown up. The morning was spent shoveling debris from the sidewalks, pulling stubborn weeds, and clearing out gutters. Our work was rewarded with a picnic at the neighborhood park, and the locals insisted that we take every single leftover with us back to camp. It was definitely a productive and positive day for climber and local relations.

The van worked real hard holding our rakes during the Orangeville city clean-up.The crew feasts on local treats after the clean-up.

Fast-forward a bit, and you’ll find us not in Joe’s Valley, but in Indian Creek. We took a quick weekend trip out to the Moab area to climb some cracks, fell in love with the creek, and then hastily returned to Orangeville one last time to retrieve the crash pads we had left behind at camp. As much as I had been clinging onto the comfort of our little Joe’s Valley nook, it finally felt like time to say goodbye to our little family and move on to the next chapter of our adventure.

The family.

The last evening in Joe’s Valley was spent huddled in the van with Vikki and Spenser. Rain had turned our campsite into a mud pit, and all the firewood was soaked – so we got cozy in the van and watched The Royal Tennenbaums while munching on kale and booze from Trader Joe’s.

Joe’s Valley has by far been my favorite experience of this trip so far. The people I met there, the idyllic bouldering, the town of Orangeville – this place is just perfect. I’m not quite sure when yet, but I will be back. In fact, this whole living in Joe’s Valley thing might be a yearly tradition.

The best problem at Joe’s Valley – that you’d probably never climbed – Cobra Con

Me on my new favorite problem in Joe's Valley, Cobra Con. For weeks, Steven Jeffrey kept name-dropping a V4 he was convinced I’d love. Initially, I thought he was just conning me into another supposed V-easy that’s really a V-hard (it’s happened before) – but he was right. This particular problem is called Cobra Con, and Steven was right: I love it. 

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Cobra Con is the best damn boulder problem in Joe’s Valley – at least of the V4 variety. Really, it’s that good.

If Cobra Con sat roadside like so many of the boulders in Joe’s Valley, I can guarantee it would constantly be swarmed with a flock of climbers. Strong folks would warm-up on it every day, and moderate climbers would aspire to become strong enough to send it. It would be slicked with shoe rubber, and caked with chalk. But instead, it’s tucked away on a lonesome hillside.

Getting to Cobra Con is no easy task, but thanks to the trails we built up to it, it’s much easier to find now. It is 100% worth the river crossing, uphill trek, and possibility of getting lost while trying to find it. Trust me. Just follow the cairns, edge your way around a big ‘ole boulder blocked by a prickly bush, haul your gear up the big wash, and behold.

You start on two enormous jug underclings, then throw up to the seemingly endless tufa feature that extends for nearly 20 feet of incredible roof climbing. And when you finally reach the end of this snaking sandstone, you’re greeted with a sustained yet totally manageable top-out. It’s everything I could ever ask for in a boulder climb.

Heel hooks, knee bars, no-hands rests – this climb has it all.
Jeremy Rush gets the party started on Cobra Con.

Adriana works the first moves on Cobra Con at Joe's Valley.

CP Santos takes a rest while working up the tufa on Cobra Con.

Adriana works out the top moves on Cobra Con.

Not convinced yet? Drive yourself out to Joe’s Valley, find Steven and Adriana in their sweet old Dolphin RV, and ask them to lead you up the hill to Cobra Con – then climb this route and remember, I told ya so.  

A peek into the grit and glory of climbing development at Joe’s Valley

For my entire climbing career, I’ve always walked up to boulders, examined the perfectly chalked holds, and climbed problems confident that the line was solid – and it always was. When presented with a perfectly developed bouldering area, why would one even stop to ponder the process that made these lines so clean, inviting, and often classic?

Niko on the river crossing before Steven built a sweet little bridge.

Niko on the river crossing before Steven built a sweet little bridge.

During my extended stint living in Joe’s Valley, I was blessed with the opportunity to assist in a bit of development of new areas. We met Steven Jeffrey, and his incredible girlfriend Adriana, who are currently knee-deep in the creation of a new (and vastly improved) Joe’s Valley guidebook. They invited us to accompany them while scouting out new boulder problems, and we eagerly obliged – then quickly learned involved a lot of wet river crossings, and hours where the fellas disappear for hours in search of new problems.

As a moderate climber, the first thing I noticed in Joe’s Valley is a distinct lack of super-easy warm-up feel-good problems. I was stoked for the opportunity to help establish some V1-4 problems to help even out the spread. The first thing I “first ascented” was a flakey V1 below Bring the Heatwole. I quickly learned that when you’re bagging the first summit of a boulder, everything is 10x scarier, no matter how easy the grade is. As I pulled up on flaked edges at the top, I kept re-assessing my feet and praying holds didn’t break.

My proud first ascent onsight was a V2-3 I named “Tree People.” It’s tucked around the corner from the entrance to the Eden area, aptly named because of the parted trees you have to climb through to complete the extended slab top-out. I continued my lesson on development during this climb, learning that the holds are sharper, the unknown condition of top-outs is slightly more daunting, and the thrill of being the first person to climb something is addicting.

Me on the first ascent of Tree People.

Me on the first ascent of Tree People at Joe’s Valley.

The majority of our feeble attempts at helping Steven and Adriana develop new boulders in the left fork of Joe’s Valley were spent across the river at Superhero Hill. Niko was particularly enthralled by the prospect of helping to establish new trails, especially after a heinous hike up to my favorite problem in Joe’s, Cobra Con (V4).

Before you can climb a boulder, you have to get there. I will forever appreciate the ease of established approaches after experiencing the before-and-after of a path to a boulder. On the first day, we trudged up a towering choss pile that sent waves of dirt and rocks tumbling down with every step. Adriana slipped into a thorny bush, and I twisted my ankle no less than 5 times. It wasn’t pretty.

A few days later, we hiked up the hill to find Steven and Adriana working on improving the trail. Armed with shovels, Niko and Steven sought up to flatten a landing while us ladies focused on building cairns, packing down the dirt on our new trail, and digging out a dirt mound to save a little tree from being trampled by climbers. It was tiring work, but nothing compared to the weeks Steven and Adriana have spent out here toiling to create accessibility on the steep hillsides surrounding the new areas.

Niko cleaning his new route at Joe’s Valley, GI Jane.

Niko’s effort to establish his new V3-4 , GI Jane, offers the best glimpse into what it takes to create a new boulder problem. He found the line one day while exploring with Steven, and was instantly infatuated with it. He rapelled from the top of the boulder armed with chalk and a brush, then set to work cleaning the holds. Scrubbing sand and broken bits from the pockets, feeling potential new holds, smacking their sides to make sure nothing would break – it was a tedious process.

His dedication to this line paid off when we brought a gaggle of climbers up to the hill to explore some of the new routes in the area. It was blatant that Niko was swelling with a bit of pride as he watched everyone take turns cruising up his new problem.

CP Santos going for the send on Niko's new problem, GI Jane.

CP Santos going for the send on Niko’s new problem, GI Jane.

And to think, we merely dipped our toes into the process. There’s a whole crew of folks who come out here every weekend and slave away at the seemingly endless task of establishing new areas. Holds are broken (sometimes in a violent manner that send the climber crashing to the ground), rocks are scrubbed, trails are plowed, and at the heart of it all, first ascents are proudly conquered.

Next time you hike up a nicely built trail to your new bouldering project, don’t forget to reflect on all the hard work, dedication, and relentless passion that made your climb possible. I’ll never experience bouldering the same way again. Huge amounts of gratitude, love, and appreciation are due to all those folks who are constantly out developing in Joe’s Valley (and across the country).

The reverence, history, and cultural importance of the bolt on Midnight Lightning in Yosemite

It was 2010 when I first visited Yosemite with a chalk bag and climbing shoes. I had explored the park a dozen times before, but never through the eyes of a climber. This new perspective redefined my valley experience – suddenly, every hunk of granite was beaming with potential, and many were slick with rubber and chalk caked on from decades of legendary ascents.

I remember the first time I walked into Camp 4. It was my fourth day in Yosemite, but I had avoided Camp 4, frankly because I was absolutely intimidated by the history, the prestige, the undaunted stature of this iconic nook in the national park. It was magnificent. Not much unlike the rest of the valley, but the air in this particular meadow was heavy with ambition and grandeur left by the countless climbers who came before me. I was humbled by the history of this place.

Eager climbers scour the message board on the side of the Camp 4 ranger kiosk in Yosemite National Park.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Midnight Lightning. It was one of those “when I grow up, I want to _____” moments. I was new to climbing, and in my eyes, sending a V8 was the ultimate goal. This boulder, with its beckoning lightning bolt icon, was it. Long before I was a dirtbag climber living in a van, I was a little girl endlessly inspired by the promise of Midnight Lightning.

This morning, I read that some self-righteous dude, James Lucas, decided that the magic of the chalked lightning bolt had been tainted with tourism. Thus, he felt it appropriate to erase the bolt from the boulder (in the cover of darkness), and proceeded to brag about his deed in a desperate attempt for more blog hits.

I am infuriated. I loathe excessive tick marks on problems, I cringe at the sight of graffiti, and nothing irks me more than having to pick up trash from other climbers – I am by no means a crusader for climbers leaving unnatural marks in nature. But the lightning bolt on Midnight Lightning is hardly an eyesore in the middle of Camp 4.

John Bachar on "Midnight Lightning" in 1982. (Image via Mountain Project.)

John Bachar on “Midnight Lightning” in 1982. (Image via Mountain Project.)

The bolt is symbolic. It challenges climbers to become stronger, to climb harder, to elevate themselves to a level that would qualify them as a worthy conqueror of the legendary boulder problem it marks. Much like the rusty old car sitting on the trail to New Joe’s in Joe’s Valley has transformed from car crash remnants to a landmark, the bolt on Midnight Lightning is a piece of history that should be preserved. It was drawn on in 1978, and after enduring 35 years of Yosemite’s ever-evolving climbing culture, it has earned its place as a landmark.

To remove the bolt on Midnight Lightning erases the history of that climb for so many generations of climbers that will come forth to Yosemite. We like to gripe about the newcomers, and how they don’t understand or respect the history of climbing – but how can we expect them to be inspired to learn if we erase the crucial evidence of our past?

When I first saw that lightning bolt in the middle of Camp 4, I was intrigued. The moment I returned to connectivity, I hopped online and read about the history of Camp 4 and that chalky icon. It expanded into an education experience that spanned far beyond that little lightning bolt symbol. I learned about Yvon Chouinard selling homemade gear out of his trunk in the parking lot, I became enthralled by Lynn Hill, and I went from being someone who climbs to a true climber, interested in my community, the culture, and the history. All because of that chalked bolt on Midnight Lightning. I wonder how many other climbers felt the same inspiration that I did, how many climbers went home and read about the history of Yosemite climbing after seeing that bolt.

Even though he’s apparently a pretty alright guy, what James Lucas did to Midnight Lightning is everything that is wrong in the clash between the “old” and “new” generations of climbing. Every seasoned climber is guilty of a salty attitude towards the “new kids,” but there is a sharp divide between those who want the growing community to become educated (about climbing history, outdoor etiquette, the works), and those jaded folks who decide that climbing is just “too cool” now, degrading epic symbols of climbing’s culture into “another tourist attraction.” That bolt shouldn’t have been erased; it should have a plaque beneath it regaling visitors in the history behind it.

A commenter on Lucas’s post put it best: “The history of that boulder is too big to be marred by someone like you.” Within a few days, someone redrew the bolt, and the importance of that chalky icon was restored.

One day, I’m going to send Midnight Lightning – and after I do, I’ll trace my fingers along the chalky lines of its symbolic bolt and reflect on the strong, determined, sometimes-barefoot climbers who came before me.

New climbing companions, Niko’s first ascent, and deciding to return to Joe’s Valley

Last week, the tribe I had been traveling with for the past few weeks finally disbanded. Our two main companions, Zach and Emily, drove back home to Minnesota, and the rest of the crew headed off to other climbing areas like Bishop and Red Rocks. We had planned to hightail it out to Moab on Friday morning, but ended up forced to stay in town until I sent my nemesis climbing project, Kill By Numbers – and I’m so glad it took me so long to finish that boulder problem.

While moping around the Food Ranch, I happened to meet a charming lady who mentioned working on a blog post. Naturally, I asked what the name of her blog was, and it turned out that she’s half of the two-climber team that runs The RV Project. I told them we were planning to head out of town the next morning after sending Kill By Numbers, but wished them good travels in Joe’s.

The following day, I gave my all on an early attempt of Kill By Numbers, which was a horrible failure with me unable to even lift myself off the first move. Defeated, I retreated to the Food Ranch once again – and opened my e-mails to find one from Spenser, the other half of The RV Project. It basically said, “Love your blog, wish you were still in town so we could invite you to our campfire.”

And I wrote back, “Well, as it happens, we’re still in town.” A few more correspondences were exchanged, and suddenly we found ourselves huddled around a fire with strangers who would become family overnight. We made plans to climb together the next day, and it wasn’t very long before Vikki and Spenser convinced us to just come back to Joe’s Valley after our trip to go climbing in Moab with a few old buddies. We awoke the next day with a reinvigorated passion for the valley, which was amplified by the great vibes we got from climbing with Spenser, Vikki, and their buddy Will.

Spenser climbing Save Yourself (V9) in Joe's Valley.Will works the beta on Eden (V9) in Joe's Valley.

I spent the day working Kelly’s Arete (V5) with Vikki and two other super strong gals while Niko and Spenser hopped around the boulders shooting photos. It was so inspiring to enjoy an all-ladies bouldering session – there’s something special about sharing beta, cheers, and promises of a send train.

One of my newfound lady friends crushes Kelly's Arete (V5) in Joe's Valley.

Finally, the moment came for me to send Kill By Numbers the following morning – and by some miracle of climbing, I crushed it on my first attempt. A celebration of PBR and “oreo dessert” from the Food Ranch quickly followed as I moved on to watch the fellas climb a few projects, including a never-climbed line scoped out by Steven Jeffery, who is working on a new Joe’s Valley guidebook.

Niko works the first moves on his still-unnamed first ascent of a V7.

Niko spent about an hour working out the beta for the first moves, which involves a strong, stretchy crank up to a sloping pocket from an overhanging ledge. He quickly solved the sequence, and eventually found himself on the tall bulge top-out. As he pushed his body upwards, he started uttering one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard him say while climbing:

Niko delicately manuevering the top-out of his V7 first ascent.

 

 

“Please don’t break,
please don’t break,
please don’t break.

 

 

I guess that’s the price you pay for snagging a first ascent. Fortunately, none of the sandy  he was pulling on broke, and Niko proudly claimed the first ascent of the problem, which he gave a V7 grade. He hasn’t given the problem an official name, but we’re toying with the idea of “Oreo Dessert” to pay homage to one of the Food Ranch’s finer delicacies.

After a few more campfires fueled by booze, a bout of nasty weather, and a dip in the local pool, Niko and I finally willed ourselves to leave our little Joe’s Valley home for a few days to go explore in Moab – but one thing is for sure: we’ll be back.

Three Weeks of Climbing at Joe’s Valley in Words and Photos

A frozen waterfall at Joe's Valley in Utah.It all began with a dreary midnight drive through the nothingness of rural Utah. We arrived in Joe’s Valley after a brief stint in Moe’s Valley that left us eager for cooler temperatures and a landscape with more than just blistering sand. It was dark when we pulled up to camp, so I was elated to wake up on the first morning surrounded by tall pine trees, snow patches, and a gushing river that snakes through the left fork of the valley.

I didn’t do much sending during the first week due to my tweaky tendon, but just getting to explore the incredible valley was enough to keep my spirits lifted. Our old housemate Bo was with us for the first few days, and another Tally Rock Gym-er, Bryan Cox, drove out from his new home in Salt Lake City to join us during that first week as well. Even better than the climbing was getting to watch all the fellas reunite.
Niko, Bo, and Cox messing around on the landmark crack boulder in the Left Fork of Joe's Valley in Utah.We broke up our three weeks in Joe’s Valley with a weekend in Salt Lake City, and a quick escape to Moe’s Valley for two days while the temperature dropped down to single digit wind chills in Joe’s – but every time we left for a bit, we felt a persistent urge to return to the valley. So, we kept coming back.

There were many highlights for the crew during our long climbing sessions at Joe’s Valley, including a very successful Easter Sunday where Niko sent his first V10, and I climbed V6, 5, and 4 all within two or three attempts. Our lady friend Emily sent her first V7, and many more projects were ticked off all our lists. I also had an awesome experience flashing a V5 for the first time, which I totally did not expect to happen. Here are a few of the highlight shots from the past few weeks:
Angus executes the ultimate beast-mode while climbing Playmate Of The Year (V9) In Joe's Valley.Here's a shot of me flashing Blue Eyed (V5) in Joe's Valley, Utah.And a few more..
Angus looks heaven-sent while projecting Beyond Life (V10) at Joe's Valley in Utah.Bo throws some fancy footwork on during his send of Bring The Heatwole (V7) at Joe's Valley.
My favorite climbs at Joe’s Valley were two V5s that offer a style of climbing not often encountered at this climbing destination full of face and mostly vertical climbs. The first send, Self Service, is a beautiful line in the New Joe’s area that follows big holds through big movements up to a committing top-out. I’d call it a bit soft for the grade, but a blast nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to send Self Service when I first hopped on it – one of the first moves is a left-hand reach up to a crimpy edge, and my tendon was still aching like crazy, plus my still-sprained ankle was NOT happy with the heel hook beta I originally tried. Eventually, I found my own beta, muscled up a bit, and pulled off the send.
DSC_9618
The second favored send was possibly my hardest personal triumph in climbing thus far. The problem, Kill By Numbers, is an outstandingly burly V5 with gnarly heel hooks, strong arête slopers, and a big first move that required some serious lady beta for me. I spent days working it, with two days of many attempts, followed by two days of “oh man my butt hurts,” and one “today is the day” attitude that led to a send on the first go during a fresh day. I think it may just be my proudest send of all time – it feels even more earned because of all the work I had to put into it.
Gunning for the perfectly placed crimps on Kill By Numbers (V5) in Joe's Valley, Utah.Thus far, we’ve spent the majority of our time at Joe’s Valley in the company of our friends Zach, Emily, and Angus – two of which had to return home to Minnesota, and one who headed out to the Red Rock Rendevouz in Nevada. We ended up spending a total of 30 days traveling with Zach and Emily, from Hueco Tanks to Red Rocks to Moe’s and Joe’s Valleys. It was an incredible experience meeting them and becoming a little family on the road together. As for Angus, well, the kid can crush, as you’ll see in this awesome Joe’s Valley bouldering video he recently posted (and he’s as sweet as he is strong).

It was a sad moment when we all parted ways. The crew spent our last evening together huddled around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and drinking the only full-proof beer we could get our hands on in this little Utah town. In the morning, we all scattered to our respective “final projects” in the valley, and bid our final farewells.
The original Joe's Valley crew on our last night together in Utah.
After a few days on our own in the valley, we met Spenser and Vikki from The RV Project, and have been camping, climbing, shooting footage, and hangin’ ever since. Meeting them has totally reinvigorated our stoke on climbing at Joe’s Valley. We were originally planning on leaving Joe’s Valley to check out other areas, but have decided to come back to the area for a bit after we do a little bit of sport climbing in Moab this week.

Come back tomorrow to read more about why we’re coming back, and Niko’s V7 first ascent!
And, since I’m in such a sharing mood, check out this still we pulled of Niko climbing Resident Evil (V10). We’ll have an awesome video coming out sometime this week, featuring some of my favorite Joe’s Valley climbs, with a few bonus sends from Moe’s Valley and Red Rocks!
Niko getting the high foot on Resident Evil (V10).

Dirtbag Beta: Review of the Hueco Rock Ranch

If you’re planning a trip to climb at Hueco Tanks, you basically have two options for lodging: camping inside the park, or staying at the American Alpine Club’s Hueco Rock Ranch. Of course, you could always rent a motel room closer to town, but let’s get real.

With the park campground often being entirely booked during peak bouldering season at Hueco Tanks, your best bet is to snag a campsite at the ranch. When I visited, the park was full, but the ranch had plenty of space.

The cost isn’t the cheapest, but the fees make up for it with free wi-fi, a spacious barn to cook and relax in, hot showers, and did I mention free wi-fi? The nightly rate is normally $10, but if you are an American Alpine Club or Access Fund member, you get a discounted price of $7/night.

To the Hueco Rock Ranch!

There are also a few rooms available in the main house area, but this beta is intended for dirtbags, and I doubt any of y’all are trying to get fancy.

The campsites are well laid out, and marked with numbered stones. If you’re setting up a tent, make sure you really secure it to the ground. The desert is notorious for freakishly windy weather. Car camping is also allowed, and I’d recommend it during the winter season if you aren’t experienced with cold weather camping.

Since you’re surrounded by fellow climbers, it’s safe to leave your gear out at the Hueco Rock Ranch. Many folks left their food tubs next to their tents during the day, and we left our crash pads sitting next to the van each night.

A panoramic view of our 'camp' spot at Hueco Rock Ranch near Hueco Tanks State Park.

The real attraction at the ranch is the recently renovated barn where climbers gather each evening. There are a few couches spread out, a big picnic-type table, and a sizeable kitchen to cook in. The barn has plenty of plugs, and the wi-fi is decent (but don’t bother trying to watch any climbing videos on most days). You’ll also find a library of random books, a foos ball table, and three full bathrooms in the ranch. In my opinion, the barn is what makes Hueco Rock Ranch worth the money.

Here are a few more tips for staying at the Hueco Rock Ranch:

Important Shower Beta: Do NOT use the rightmost shower. I repeat, do not use the rightmost shower unless you want to feel like you’re getting peed on. That was the first mistake I made. The second mistake? Not realizing that the hot/cold sides are switched on the shower knob. Folks, the ‘cold’ side is hot, and the ‘hot’ side is cold. You’re welcome.

Feeling hungry? The closest grocery store is Vista Mercado, a funky little Mexican market where you are highly encouraged to give yourself a taste of local food. For the best and cheapest tacos near Hueco Tanks, stop by El Pasito Meat Market. It sits inside a little gas station-type market, but it’s delicious.

Looking for ways to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation? There’s a blog post for that! 

A Week of Bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park

As we entered a barren landscape from the urban wasteland of El Paso, Niko and I quickly realized what we had just gotten ourselves into: a week of true desert living while bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We arrived late on Sunday afternoon, and I totally got a little giddy as Jason Khel checked us into the Hueco Rock Ranch. We paid for four nights, then scoped out a prime parking spot close to the main climber’s barn. (For more on the Hueco Rock Ranch, stay tuned for my review tomorrow!)

Our first day of climbing was brutal, in the most enjoyable way possible. A southeastern gal, I’m used to forest trails winding to boulders scattered along a field. At Hueco Tanks, the approach is an often epic hike straight up enormous granite slabs. I was admittedly wrecked within the first few hours, and spent the majority of the day watching Niko crush hard problems. At one point, Paul Robinson walked up and asked Niko for beta – pretty incredible to have spent our time at Hueco climbing amongst some of the world’s strongest boulderers, like when Niko projected a V10 with Anna Stohr and Melissa Le Neve.

Niko and I out at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

The next few days really picked up, and we got into a nice groove. We woke up every morning at 5:45, drove out to the gate to wait in line for a walk-on spot, made breakfast, then climbed on North Mountain for the rest of the day. In the evenings, we ate dinner in the ranch barn while I caught up on work, then promptly passed out in the van not long after the sunset.

One the third day, I found my muse: Lobsterclaw (V5). Easily my favorite route at Hueco Tanks, this Hueco-filled line sat in a small cave area secluded from everything else around it. While climbing it, we met a great couple from Minnesota, Emily and Zach, who were on a three-month trip. We instantly connected, and spent the next few days climbing together. Zach and Niko are on the same level, as are Emily and I, so it created a perfect group dynamic.

Emily cranks out of the tricky cave section on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks.

The boys led the next day, egging each other on during burly climbs and crushing incredible routes. Zach shared my sentiments about Hueco being a bit polished, which was slightly disappointing but to be expected at such a popular destination. Once we started hitting more obscure climbs, the rock quality was superb.

After days of projecting Lobsterclaw, I found myself on our final day at Hueco Tanks with less than an hour before we had to leave the park. Emily and I made a lot of progress on the crux, and I finally stuck the hardest move just as time ran out.
Niko falls into the sweet undercling move on Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park. Niko working Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

It wasn’t a send, but I felt fairly satisfied having at least broken through the seemingly impossible crux – I honestly hadn’t believed I’d be able to stick the move.

Moving towards the crux move on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We celebrated the last night of our trip, which happened to be on Valentine’s Day, with authentic Mexican food at El Pasito’s Meat Market. The meal was shared with our newfound climbing couple friends, and a dude we met in line at the gate one morning, who happened to have gone to the same high school in Miami as me!

Niko and I considered a quick morning session the next day before heading to Phoenix, but when our alarm went off at 5:45 the next morning, we shut it off and went right back to sleep.

Hueco, we’ll be back.

And when I go back, I’m going to crush Lobsterclaw. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Trekking through the desert landscape at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

Stay tuned for more Hueco Tanks blog posts this week!

I’ll be publishing the first post in my new series “Dirtbag Beta” – the inaugural piece will give climbers the beta on how to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation. I’ll also have a review on the Hueco Rock Ranch comin’ up soon.

Official Results from Tallahassee Rock Gym’s Save The South 2013 Grand Reopening Event

There’s a rare phenomenon amongst writers: It’s that experience that you simply can’t seem to put into proper words. Any description or attempt at retelling the story feels subpar, grazing the surface at best. That’s exactly how I feel about trying to recount the incredible event that was Tallahassee Rock Gym‘s grand reopening and annual Save The South bouldering competition.

I’ve adopted the Save The South fundraiser event as my favorite rock gym project for the past three years, and while we knew that this year would be huge with the unveiling of our enormous new bouldering section, I was entirely unprepared for how incredible the event would turn out. Maybe it was the weeks of building and preparation I had watched unfold in anticipation of the event, or maybe it was the three hours of sleep I was running on, but I definitely choked up while welcoming climbers to our beautiful, hand built, grassroots, constructed-with-love, new bouldering section. I mean, look at it. We MADE this:A first look at the new bouldering section at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Here’s a few stats to put things in perspective: Last year, we had about 50 climbers, and raised around $1500 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Pretty sweet, right? This year, I wanted to dream big and aim to raise $2000 for the SCC. What really happened is this:

Over 100 climbers came out to the Save The South event,
and together we raised $3160 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition

In addition, our friends at the SCC started a new effort to boost membership, so each registered climber at our event is now a 2013 member of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition – that’s over 100 new folks joining the family of this grassroots conservation organization. Incredible.A few of the lovely ladies who climb regularly at Tally Rock Gym, and came out to show their love.

We decided to host this year’s Save The South in January instead of the usual March date, largely because Niko and I will be many, many miles away from our home by spring – and this turned out to be the perfect way to kick off our year of Simply Adventure’s mission to spread the love of climbing and conservation within the community. We donated hundreds of dollars of gear to the event raffle, and spent the past few weeks toiling away to prepare for the climbing festivities.

I am still reeling from the unbelievable amount of love and sense of community that was exploding as climbers returned to Tally Rock Gym, some after being gone for many years, and celebrated the hard work and craft put into the new climbing walls. We had folks travel from Colorado, Texas, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and beyond. Whether Tally Rock Gym was the first place they learned to climb, or they were veterans of our annual Save The South event, everyone poured into our humble warehouse space with the same eager attitude and unwavering excitement. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out to climb, spectate, and cheer – it was a true honor to have been a part of this event, and share it with all of you.
Max Richardson and Shea Nicole share the climbing wall during the Save The South event.

There are still over 1500 photos that I need to sort through and edit, but enjoy a few teaser images while you sort through the official score results. Note: The top three competitors for each category are in bold!  

LADIES

Meagan Martin 3769
Aubrey Wingo 2236
Lexi Toro 2153
Amy McKenna engages interesting beta during the Save The South event at Tallahassee Rock Gym.
Sarah Tepper 2061
Tessa Bullington 1773
Anna Hartzog 1750
Katie Devick 1713
Lauren Buntemeyer 1687

Cassie Newman 1648
Amy McKenna 1574
Nicole Nguyen 1533
Rima Nathan 1482
Jill Smith 1445
Melissa Martin 1390
Kaylee Cubeta 1313
Robyn Weinlauf 1258
Katie Pullen 1217
Candy 1175
Kayla Hibbard 1162
Ingrid Baldeon Passetti 1148
Haley Hyde 1062
Caitlin Marsteller 1013
Becka LaPlant 917
Casey Gray 893
Toni Sturtevant 805Sarah Tepper maneuvers up the arete at the Save The South event.
Tara Bullard 730

Kirsten Clauser 675
Leigh Fremuth 605
Heather Barry 350
Amy Gregor 310


MEN

Mark Mercer 4061
Usman Bashir 3556
Bryce Van Dam 3552
Brandon Iglesias 3184
Jackson Reynolds 3179
Ross Elliot 3150
Kris Long 2843
Wilkiam McKaba 2823
Johnathan Nilson 2803Finalist Lexi Toro crushes the women's finals route during the Save The South climbing competition.
Max Richardson 2801
Jim Smith 2773
Charles Carbiener 2688
Bryan Brindt 2665
Joe Mason 2631
Garrett Garner 2623
Mark Spottswood 2623
Thomas Sullenberger 2611
Ryan VanDeWater 2601
Nam Phan 2596
Colton Peters 2561
Michael Underwood 2546
Bo Cobb 2501
John Permenter 2491
Phil Harrell 2462
Jerry Polmerski II 2459
G Golding 2453
Eli Wolfe 2446
Marc Akbar 2436Dakota Lundeen eyes a big dyno move on the new roof wall at Tally Rock Gym during the Save the South event.
Kyle Sumner 2432
Dakota Lundeen 2431
Dominic Delgado 2417
Taylor Passetti 2398
Martin Stroh 2356
Mike Harrell 2347
David Lawson 2184
Patrick Bresland 2120
Ryan Abramowitz 2068
Alex Woo 1800
Philip Fralix 1768
Michael Hooten 1959
Asa Emmons 1753
Nick Seale 1723
Adrian Thompson 1509
Hunter Metzger 1427
Kurt Marsman 1349
Hal Fravel 1343
Justin Iseman 1304
Alex Pina 1167
Tyler Scheele 1005
Christian Stowers 813
Gary Fowler 727

Whether you placed first or fourteenth, I am so proud of each and every climber who came out to show their love for Tallahassee Rock Gym and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. My heart grew about three sizes the morning after the competition, reading all of the statuses and posts from folks who love our rock gym, love our family, and felt welcome into our community. (We love you all too!)

Women's finalist Sarah Tepper shows off her raffle winnings - a sweet new Teton Sports Outfitter Quick Tent!Enormous heaps of gratitude are owed to some of our sponsors. Teton Sports and Geigerrig really stepped up to the plate and made generous donations for our gear raffle – which is a huge source of our fundraising for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Climbers were hovering over the swag table in hopes of winning the Teton Sports Outfitter Quick Tents and Geigerrig Hydration Packs, and I’ve already received a rave review from one of the lucky winners.

Thank you all again for coming out – and get ready for Save the South in 2014!