On our way to Hueco
Since my last blog post I read a comment posted by a good friend that went something like “ please bloggers rather than outlining your daily itinerary please post something useful and insightful in your blogs”. So, I will take this advice and start this post off with a section I’m going to call “logistics”. So if you are familiar with Hueco logistics just skip this section 🙂
It’s actually fitting to describe some of the logistics surrounding our time in hueco, and I hope it can shed some light for those who plan to go.
El paso is a relatively large city, no I take that back, it’s a huge city with relatively little to do … no hard feelings I hope 😉 It’s got everything you need, coffee (starbucks), Walmart and groceries. Actually, the Vista Mercado grocery store is pretty badass, you can get fresh tortillas, pastries and a total random assortment of good food (I say random because for 4 months I had been endlessly searching for Spitz brand pumpkin seeds and I found them at the Vista!). You can grab a pretty good burger and pint at Torro Burger on Zaragoza (warning: service is slow here, but beer selection is good and so is the food so it’s worth it). If you need something closer you can grab some burritos at the local confectionary / restaurant behind the Vista. It’s cheap and they have cane sugar coke!
But if you are a total hard-core, you really don’t have to go into town if you don’t want to. There is internet available at the park and the vista is just out of town (close to the park).
We stayed at the Hueco Tanks state park campground, which I highly recommend. The sites are huge and the picnic tables are covered. There was shelter from the wind with the big rocks around, and the best part, the washrooms are super-heated and the shower is amazing!! Some logistics about this place …
You will like buy a year park pass which was ~$80.00. It gets you into the park daily to climbing for free and it also gets you some discounts on nights of camping. Each night was $16.00 but that got us water and electricity and since there were four of us staying there is really broke down to be pretty cheap. Another logistic is the curfew. You have to be back in the park by 6pm. So, no late night burritos. We really didn’t mind this part of it honestly we were pretty much ready for bed just after 6 😉
You can also stay at the Rock Ranch located just outside the park. Camping was $7 per person and showers are at a minimum but it seemed like a nice chill place to hang out. There’s a big barn to hang out in and there’s internet and also a lot of climbers staying there. The only down side is during busy season if you don’t have reservations to climb you can’t even come past the park gate, you line up in your car until the park officer gets word that he can let some in … some people would be waiting all day. Some would never get in. Some would park outside the gate and sleep on their crash pads in the ditch so that they would be the first in line the next day!
There are also some relatively close motels and hotels at a decent price.
Reservations / climbing
I’m sure everyone knows that you need reservations to climb at hueco. Some people complain about this, but really it’s to protect the area and I didn’t feel at all like I was restricted in any way by the rules of the park; if you can’t deal with rules, don’t go. Bscially they reserve 60 spots on North Mountain and let 10 extra people in a day. Those staying in the park campground have first dibs on those 10 spots.
In early October we called the park to make reservations and we only got two climbing days out of a month and a half (from Dec 4 – Jan 15th) we accepted that fact and decided to wing-it with climbing, ie. We would stand in line early in the morning to try and get in. We did however get camping reservations for the entire time we were there, but, one person can only reserve for three days, so Alex would book three days then Josh would book three days then Alex again then Josh and so on for a month and a half. And yes, you do have to go check in every three days but you should be able to keep the same site, at least we did. What I would recommend is to try calling back for climbing reservations. Some friends of ours said they called the park every couple days and each time another day would open up for climbing (someone had cancelled) and they ended up booking a month straight! So be persistent and you should be able to get resos 🙂
If you don’t have resos (like us) then you have a couple options ….
In early December when it’s not super busy you should be able to go to the park office and get in relatively easy before 9-10 am. If you did end up on the waiting list what happens is those that had reservations if they don’t show up then they will give their spots away to those waiting. So if you have resos you need to show up before 10am! When it did start to get busy (around Christmas break) we were getting up at 6am and going directly to the park office to “get in line”. It’s really an honor system thing, first car that gets there gets first dibs. You can’t just send one person to sign up for the group, each member has to be there, plus the park people need to see everyone’s cards. This brings me to the certification thing. You have to watch a 15 min vid to go into Hueco tanks park; no one can even pass the office without seeing the video; we learnt this the hard way when we had someone fly in late and we brought them back to the campsite that night and the next morning they were not psyched that he was there at all! They said he should have stayed outside the park that night.
There are three other mountains that make up the park, east spur, west and east. To visit these other three mountains you need to go on a guided tour. There are two types of tours, volunteer and paid. There are pros and cons to both. Paid tours cost money, but you can book a guide and have them take you to exactly where you want to go. We never went on a paid tour but I never heard anything bad about them save for the fact that they do cost ~$10 – 20 per person / day. The volunteer tours are done by guides who are volunteering their time to take you out climbing, very cool! How this worked in our experience is that we knew a volunteer tour guide. We would plan with him to go out on a certain day and then he would call the park office and book a tour in our names. He would put me +4 and Josh +4 to equal 10 total (the max number of people on a tour). Josh and I then could bring anyone we wanted to a max of ten people, and even if it was just the two of us that would be ok (more on this point later). Because Josh and I had our names down that meant we were the ‘primaries’ and we decided where we wanted to go (and the group would have to go along with us weather they wanted to get on those climbs or not) and the group can not break up, it has to stay together. This is a non issue if you are a group of friends who want to go check out the same things, but it can be suckie if you get on a volunteer tour that goes to a V14 for the entire day and that’s it! If you don’t get into the park on a regular climbing day you can sometime get in on a volunteer tour (if there are open spots the office might fill them with random people waiting to go out). This is fine, but this is also where you run into maybe not getting out to the places you want. We had an awesome experience with our friend / volunteer guide, he was super accommodating and psyched to be out at the rocks. Volunteer guides are not allowed to climb or give beta and two groups can’t be at the same boulder at the same time. I definitely appreciate Antonio for taking his time to take us out!!
Wow, that pretty much sums up the logistics … I’m sure there are things that I’m forgetting but most of it is here as a resource for those wanting to travel to Hueco.
Alex, Stacey, Josh and I arrive in hueco full of psyche!!
Team noon-to-four catching some sunshine in the am.
Alex Quiring, Regan Kennedy, Josh Muller, Stacey Weldon
We started climbing two days on, one day off but soon realized we needed to climb day on day off as we were feeling spent! The rock was really different from what we had been climbing. At first it felt like there was no texture, but within a couple days, after getting a feel for the rock, it really started to feel good! The movement was gymnastic and we were really feeling the burn in the core!
Josh on Martini right (V12)
Early on we were all hitting personal bests! I had climbed my first V8 (Mc. Bain) on the second day. Josh was crushing double-digit problems like it was his job and Stacey had done Fern roof (V9).
Here’s the link to a vid of our time there!
Stacey Weldon on Dark Age (V11)
Alex Quiring finishing up Martini left (V10)
Regan not quite making the move on Gloria (V7)
Josh Muller on Diabolic (V13) ... project left behind.
In the first couple weeks there the park was very quiet. Some friends from Calgary were also there, Krystal Chin, Mark Fraser and Sam Fischer. We spent a lot of time climbing with them. It was also on the cool side (not good for me as I am a fair weather climber). Us girls would hang out in the washroom in the am drinking our coffee, visiting and keeping warm. We spent most of our time on North Mountain. We didn’t want to get too tied into things (projects) on the other mountains so we pretty much stayed on North and for the first part of the trip didn’t have any troubles getting in. Days consisted of wandering around north hitting the classics or projects or resting in town at the starbucks, Vista or Torro 🙂 The four of us had an amazing, fun time in Hueco! We all loved it and were super motivated to climb :)Here are some pics of some of the classics.
Mark Fraser working out some moves on Dark Age (V11)
Josh on Power of Silence (V10)
On a cool and windy day, Alex crushing Bloodline (V8)
Regan sending the slopey problem right of girls of texas (can't remember the name ... sorry)
Look at that hair! Alex Quiring on Free Willy (V10)
Sadly, Team noon-to-four’s time was coming to an end near Christmas. Stacey was heading back to Calgary 😦 I was about to take 10 days to go see my mom in Yuma. And, the boys, they were left alone at the tanks.
Part II coming up soon!!!