Horseshoe Hell 2011 -Notes from a survivor.. ..

Camp photo – 9 shot panorama on iPhone 4

Our spot. on the hill. just after the Rain

First, I would like to preface this brief by stating up front that this was my FIRST climbing comp ever, and that my brother and I have been climbing all of 4 months. We thought we had a good idea about what to eat, what to carry, and the routes to attack. But pretty much from the first climb, everything we thought went right out the window.Just being surrounded by so many other equally enthused climbers was intense enough to make you vibrate. Energy was through the roof! Most surprising of all, even though it was a competitive situation, EVERYONE was helping Everyone and the sense of camaraderie and friendship was incredible. No way you could avoid the beta spray, kindness and sense of belonging to something much larger than yourself. By far the most personally fulfilling and supportive environment for any competitive situation I have been a part of !

We had wanted to start on trad routes, thinking they would be the least likely to have lines, and while right about that, My brothers first placement to a quick ball sack straddle of the closest sapling had me thinking a few warm up climbs were in order. So we moved down the line, and did a few 5.6 and 7’s to get warmed up, and from there just kept on rolling down the north forty lines, the hard part, and a mistake I think I made, was to not keep track of pace, with so much energy, we got swept up in it, and were Far ahead of our set pace before we realized it! – Time was flying by in a blur, the sun was racing across its trajectory, and we were having an incredible amount of fun, then it happened.

I was on a 5.5 trad route, just a 40 footer, throwing slings around chicken heads and placing cams like I had been doing it all my life, when I hear a sound like someone had thrown a fridge off the cliff – WTF was that! then I realized, I have heard that before. the sound of flesh hitting the ground – Fast. A few routes over, someone took a fast fall and it sounded BAD. For someone as new as me, on trad, almost to the anchors, It was unnerving to say the least. Someone had done SOMETHING wrong. I paused, What had I done wrong?!?!? I quickly checked my last cam placement, looked at my tie in and slings, and was happy with it. so I quickly completed the Route, lowered, and found that the person who had taken the bad sounding fall was up on his feet surrounded by folks checking him, and saying he was ok. the belayer was apparently injured, and I never heard the whole story, but the rest of the night, My teammate and I were triple checking everything and continued without issue.

As evening came, Energy was still crazy high and every hour on the hour, a primal scream erupted from every climber in the canyon, I am certain you have heard this described, but this is not some stupid football game drunk crowd, this is a heartfelt, enthused – defiant, and uplifting scream to the Gods to the other climbers, and to yourself, sharing the energy, and the challenge. you really do have to be there to feel it!!  9 pm and the suns down, we had just ate Mre’s and they were sitting heavy in the stomach, trying to slow us down. some hot coffee at camp and it was back on the north 40 for the route, “emmas got a mullet” A 5.6 – but so Different from every other route in terms of holds that I was quite taken by it. A nice break from the sharp chicken heads and flakes, it was a great route to get your mind thinking. My first big mistake of the night, making my harness tie in a bit to large, and in the darkness, clipping in the loop ! an attempt to stand and quickly being pulled to my knees had me correcting the error of my ways. at this point, It was just about 10pm. Time for some decision making, keep on the 5.7 and up, or switch to 5.6 and below?

A decision was made to focus on 5.6 and below, so finishing up those climbs on the north forty, had us prepping to do what we said we would not, trek over to the east wall, with a quick stop at camp, to caffeine up and have a bit more food. by the time we had gotten there. it was around 2 am. the weariness was starting to cut through my excitement and even through the rush of lead climbing, and my decision making was off. Hindsight being 20/20 I can say now that having some tasty – calorie rich treats would have been the key to picking me back up, and next year, I am boing to have a plan for more calories that are meals without cooking. I have no idea how many calories I was going through, I just know I couldn’t eat enough energy bars to keep up period. And no matter how much water you think you drink, its not enough. the temp had dropped to the low 50’s/ upper 40’s and on belay you could feel it. stripped down to my shirt while climbing, and the heat up cool down was a bit wearying as well. It was on a tallish 65 ft 5.6 that the visual hallucinations started. the climb was exposed, your headlamp gives you about a 5 ft circle and the chicken heads start casting shadows that seem strange. next thing I know I see animals jumping at me from my peripheral vision :S bunnies and things jumping at me! I realized what was happing, compartmentalized and kept going.

TO THE FOLKS ON THE EAST WALL PLAYING THE SPACE MUSIC – that shit sucked, not sure if it was to put your competition to sleep, or if you found energy in it somehow, but waiting for a line was like being in the dentists office. and a huge change from the energy that was on the north forty. 1 climb each and we got out of there, on to magoo for the 5.7 and 5.6 that were on the side. the sun came up while we were down there, and that was the signal our bodies needed, second wind!

We went on to do more climbs and finish around 9:45 am at checkin. I had forgotten to write down 2 climbs somewhere in the night, so didn’t get credit, I don’t care, we finished in the middle of the pack for our class, and I was happy to survive this amazing event. By the time we had gotten back to camp, it was breakfast and some conversation about our experiences and where we think we could have improved. My biggest issue was nutrition, you think you have eaten enough, and then all of a sudden, your body says NO! this far, no further! – better quality food, that is easy to carry and chew, would have helped me, especially later on. All in all an incredible event and a wonderful time! I am sure I have left something out, as I am still recovering 2 days after its all over, the auditory and visual hallucinations have stopped, but pain seems to move, first my hands and feet, then my abs… time to start training for next year 😀

pic below is getting home, and sorting my gear before I passed out.

Much Love to HCR, the sponsors, and the Volunteers. just so great to be a part of it!

Also some love to Petzl – the 17cm finesse draws clip so smooth, and remove so fast even when pumped, and under tension, I love those little biners!

Love to black diamond for the Demo’s – the apollo helped tons with lighting the belay area and helping us not leave gear or trash anywhere!

and love to my body, for not giving up on me, and to my mind for not deserting me anymore than it already has 😀

sorry for any typos, and or mistakes. I am not quite myself  yet!!

-Just me 😀

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