Wow! The 19th Annual Rock Rodeo was a huge success! 165 competitors gathered at The Hueco Rock Ranch early Saturday morning, March 3, 2012. It has been one of the warmest winters I have ever spent in Hueco but this day the competitors got lucky. It was cold and the 40mph wind gusts that brought this cool weather in Friday subsided to a nice breeze. These temps would feel good at the rocks but as Emilia Rafaela and I stood at the registration table it was bitter. Eager competitors were eating the breakfast provided and cooked by Evolv as we got them through the registration process with the help of Wagon Wheel and Rock Ranch volunteers. 33 guides gathered to help get the competitors out into the back country. It was a bit chaotic organizing people in groups of ten, in their categories, getting their names on guide and north mountain forms and getting them on the shuttles but Mallory Pickrell and Heath Baily were able to help Adam organize the chaos. Adam Strong, Rocco Bocchicchio, Trevor Turmelle and Andy Klier were the masterminds behind the problem list this year and Adam was responsible for changing the guiding format up a bit to facilitate competitors moving around the guided access areas by having some guides stationed in areas and others running competitors.
Putting on an event of this size there are always a few things that don’t go as planned–the shuttles were not as big as promised. Freed up from registration I went into action. The first round of competitors were off to the park but there was a long line from the road at the Rock Ranch back to the barn. Our truck and Uhaul were both stuffed full of prizes, scanning the crowd and the cars looking for a match I saw Beau Kahler and I also saw his truck. I shouted to Beau about what I was thinking and he threw me his keys. I grabbed a group of 7 people registered in the open category, including Sean McColl, Mike Doyle accompanied by their guide Liz Gilbert. Every one crammed in and Doyle jumped in the back with pads. We were off. About 30 seconds out I remembered Beau telling me the day before that his truck was running on fumes! I remembered our yellow gas can sitting in front of our camper, “Ok everyone I hope you don’t mind but we are going to have to make a little stop at Wagon Wheel” I announced. I knew Mike was going to be confused when we took a right instead of a left to get into the park but we all laughed as we gassed up and filled him in on the pit stop. After a few trips we got the competitors in before 10 am. I was able to meet up with the ladies in the Mr Serious cave where Angie Paine and Nina Williams had just quickly dispatched of It’s a Good Day For Swiss Crisp Mix and Mr. Serious. They moved on and I hung out to see some really good tries by Flannery Shay-Nemirow, Natasha Barns and Courtney Sanders who fell off the top out. The ladies next stop was Focus. Nina Williams made some great attempts climbing to the end of the problem about eight times and Angie sent. After, Angie said it was the scariest problem she has ever done rivaling Suicide Season in RNMP. Angie continued to have a great day getting the first female ascent of Sub Zero V11. Later, she told me “I knew the Rodeo would be fun, but the event turned out to be even more fun than I expected, and I got to spend the day trying hard with an awesome group of strong women.” I had limited time in the back country since I wanted to return to the vendor village and get things rolling. On my way out I walked by Daniel Woods who was trying Crook By The Book and asked him how it was going, “trying to deal with the heat” Daniel responded, I laughed wishing I got to climb on one of the best days we have seen in months with some great and motivating people.
The comp went on and Daniel Woods said that it was “the best climbing day of his life.” In about seven hours Daniel did Two Days With Gene V11, Full Monty V12, Phantom Limb V12, Nagual V13, Crook by the Book V14, and The Machinist V14 totaling 7880 points. Jorg Verhoeven from Abcoude in The Netherlands was only 475 points behind Daniel. Jorg did Chupacabra Right V11, Rumble in the Jungle V11, Two Days With Gene V11, Sub Zero V11, Nagual V13 and The Machinist V14. Only 40 points behind Jorg came Sean McColl with a challenge flashing Nagual making him the second person to ever do Nagual first try. Sean also did Focus V10, Chupacabra Right V11, Rumble in The Jungle V11, Sub Zero V11, Full Monty V12 and Flamignon V13. Dave Graham was not far behind McColl by 305 points doing The Hand V10, Sub Zero V11, Chupacabra Right V11, Two Days With Gene V11, Phantom Limb V12, Cut To The Quick V12, and he came real close to Nagul but his foot popped at the last second. Brian Anthenunisse, Sam Davis and Nick Duttle also all had good days sending hard boulder problems.
Katharina Saurwein from Austria was a late entry. She and Jorg did not realize they would have stayed for so long and waited all morning to see if there were spots left in the backcountry and lucky for them there were. Katharina earned 6240 points by climbing Glas Roof V9, Russian Women V9, Chupacabra Left V10, The Hand V10, Focus V10 and Rumble in the Jungle V11. Angie Payne was175 points behind after a great day of climbing doing Mr Serious V8, Frogger V9, Glas Roof V9, A Good Day for Swiss Crisp Mix V10, Focus V10 and the first female ascent of Sub Zero V11. Nina Williams had a strong day as well with 3685 points doing Mr. Serious V8, Frogger V9, Sex After Death V9 and A Good Day for Swiss Crisp Mix V10. Courtney Sanders was climbing really well but it was a heartbreaker of a day for her as she fell off the top of Swiss Crisp, Frogger and Glas Roof! Flannery-Shay-Nemirow and Natasha Barnes were out there trying as well and had a terrific day giving good attempts and keeping the mood light.
The after party at the Ranch was a huge hit! Back at the Ranch Vanessa Compton was classing up the joint with an art show in the house. Her unique visions of Hueco and other pieces were available to purchase as well as Sam Davis’ photographs. Matt Segal and Emily Harrington entertained the crowd of around 350 people with their slideshows about their world travels including the various cultures and climbing they encountered. Party goers are still taking about Dave Graham’s slideshow, “amazing” and “hysterical” are what they are saying. People enjoyed Graham’s down to earth account of living the life of a climber growing up in the industry and some of his life shaping experiences; Graham theorized that if he were still in Maine he would be home shoveling snow.
About a month ago we decided that we should have a climbing wall. Dave from Joshua Tree helped with the design and a crew of Wagon Wheel volunteers got the materials and put it together quickly. The first year that a Rock Rodeo had a climbing wall obviously means that it was the first dyno comp. Daniel Woods set the dynos and Courtney Saunders emceed the event. There was a rare sighting of the masked man, Does Huevos who flew with conviction but Sam Tingey took the men’s victory and Nina William’s got first for females.
We were privileged to have such great athletes being a part of the 19th annual Rock Rodeo. The problem list was challenging and the competition was stiff. I was so fortunate to be surrounded by so many psyched people who were all happy to help volunteer their time to get The 19th Annual Rodeo together and thankful that the Rock Ranch allowed us to continue to host the event (the 9th Rodeo held at the Ranch). Emilia Rafaela killed it getting so many amazing sponsors and with out her I would have been lost. We were a great team. Our sponsors were phenomenal this year. It was a joy to work with professional supportive people. We had copious amounts of prizes to give away and several top dollar items donated for an Access Fund and Hueco Valley Foundation raffle. I have signed up to do this again next year and Adam has agreed to help and of course we will have the beautiful Emilia on our side.
We are still working hard to try up all loose ends but we expect to donate $9000 to Hueco Tanks—and that is what it is all about.