One thing that I have learned to appreciate since the start of this trip is a house with a solid roof and insulation. I’m incredibly grateful to have been hosted by Rocco and Mary Bocchicchio at the Hacienda. The Hacienda is a large adobe house built in the 1980s originally as a religious retreat. Located just a few minutes from the Hueco Tanks Park gate, the Hacienda now serves as a staging ground for climbers looking for a warm place to spend those cold desert nights.
Hueco Tanks consists of a four different mountains: North Mountain, West Mountain, East Moutnain, and East Spur. They are not really mountains, but rather four large mounds of boulders. North Mountain is the only area that you are allowed to climb without the supervision of a guide. My first climbing day was spent on North Mountain. Feeling a little car-lagged and sick after my sixteen hour ice-road-trucking adventure, I took it pretty easy just playing around on some of the classic warm-ups, trying to re-teach my body how to climb steep features.
After warming up a bit I decided to play around on Barefoot on Sacred Ground, a classic technical compression V11. The problem can be climbed to an obvious jug part way up the boulder where most people just drop off. When I was here two years ago, I made it to the jug, but fell on the easy topout. I thought it would be a good idea to return and take all the way to the top.
While re-learning the moves, I started to feel some minor pain in my shoulder, so I called it a day on that problem. I spent the next couple of days on North, trying to kick my cold and get use to the style here and not try too hard. My shoulder was still bothering me a bit, but it didn’t feel too serious. When I woke up the next day, it hurt to lift my arm as I sat up to get out of bed. Uh oh. Over the next few days, my shoulder showed little sign of improvement. Even rotator cuff exercises without any weight were painful. Climbing was out of the question.
There seem to be some dark forces conspiring against me on this trip preventing me from climbing. First, I had the pleasure of climbing in The Red for a season with some of the worst weather they have seen in 4 years. After leaving Kentucky, I arrived just in time for a wet spell in Chattanooga and was unable to climb. In an attempt to escape the crappy weather vortex, I ice-road-trucked to Hueco. With perfect weather nearly everyday, I managed to injure myself on day one. So, in the last couple months I’ve visited three of some of the best climbing destinations in North America and have only been able to climb at one. After a ten-day stay in Hueco, I only climbed on my first 3 days. Oh well. Despite not climbing at all, I managed to entertain myself by exploring the park, looking for new boulders and enjoying the gorgeous desert weather.
I originally had plans to climb in Red Rocks, Las Vegas. With a bum shoulder, I was a little hesitant to make the twelve-hour drive to a climbing destination and not climb. However, I had a bunch of friends that I knew were going to be there so I figured it would at least be fun to hang out and maybe climb a little bit. After making it to Vegas, I met up with my friend Max and his girlfriend Clara. I started off easy and slowly started to push myself bit by bit to test the limits of my shoulder and the rest of my body after a long break from any hard climbing.
Slowly but surely, I started to trust my shoulder a bit more and it certainty was not feeling one hundred percent better, but it was certainly an improvement. I has been extremely challenging restraining myself from trying climbs that I know are well within my ability, but run the risk of making my shoulder worse. Training myself to say no is a valuable skill that I need to learn if I want to keep climbing at a high level.
After a few days of bouldering, I’ve started regaining some strength and confidence. Most of my time here in Red Rocks has been spent climbing with my good friend from school Jesse and his sister, Allie. Jesse and I were psyched to make a flash attempt on the Lethal Design (V12). I don’t think I could set another boulder problem that fits my style more perfectly. The climb consists of tensiony lock-offs between small, but incut crimps with the hardest moves low on the twenty-foot problem. I had initially wanted to wait to try this problem towards the end of my stay here to give myself the best chances of making the flash. But, after seeing the other people try it, I couldn’t resist.I pulled on confidently, and bared down on the tiny crimps made it through the first crux. I set up for another deadpoint to a good hold before the slightly easier upper section. I hesitated, trying to find the proper body position before lunging. I went for it and missed. After watching Jesse send on his second try, I followed suit and sent it easily on my second try. Less than two minutes later, Josh Muller took it down on his second attempt. The boulder was sent three times in about 10 minutes.
Flashing is an interesting game. It’s amazing how hard you can push yourself with the added excitement of a flash attempt. You sometimes find yourself doing moves that you can’t repeat on subsequent tries. Whenever you study a climb with a flash attempt in mind there is a balance between figuring out exactly what you plan to do, but not overanalyzing to the point where you can’t improvise and let your body react and do what feels natural. A successful flash also requires a good bit of luck too. I think this failed flash attempt was a result of a bit of over analyzing problem, doing what I was told to do, not what felt natural. Lethal Design didn’t go perfectly, but I was still psyched to take it down second go. Although I made quick work of Lethal, I’m still finding myself flailing on problems that are less my style. All part of the process of getting back in shape.
After climbing here for a few days, I’m finding that Red Rocks offers some of the highest quality boulder problems that I have ever seen. There is not the same volume of hard problems like Hueco, however, so many things I have tried here have made it onto my all time favorite list.
I’m looking forward to so many problems once I get a bit more power back!