melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily

Thanks prAna for support and bringing us Fred Nicole!

20th Hueco Rock Rodeo Round Up


20 years and Fred Nicole what else can you ask for!  Oh a beautiful day, psyched competitors and great rock climbing!  The Hueco Rock Rodeo, one of the longest running outdoor climbing competitions, celebrated its 20th year with style.  The festivities started Friday night with Marmot presenting the Incan Odyssey. Andy Mann, Paige Claassen and Abbey Smith all came down to show the movie!  Paul Robinson followed presenting Chasing Winter to cap off the night.  The six a.m. breakfast came quickly, maybe a little too quickly for a few enthusiastic revelers. Thanks to our great friends at prAna all of the competitors were served pancakes by Fred Nicole, who made the trip overseas just for us!!!  The morning was crisp but the newly remodeled barn at the Hueco Rock Ranch (recently purchased by the American Alpine Club) provided a cozy spot for breakfast.  153 well-nourished climbers made their way onto the shuttles and the first three shuttles were at the gate by 8:00 am!

Amongst the crowd were the top contenders in the Open category Paul Robinson, Jimmy Webb, Jon Cardwell and local favorite Sam Davis.   For the ladies it was Angie Payne, Nina Williams and Jill Waters.   As the day warmed up these competitors were ushered around East Mountain in Hueco Tanks by volunteer Rodeo guides.  The action was unfolding fast and Paul Robinson got right to work doing Bastard in a Basket v13 in two tries.  He proceeded to the Maiden Gully to do Blood of a Young Wolf v14 in six attempts.  Earlier this week Paul had sent both of these problems dedicating a session to each–this is Robinsons first trip to Hueco after a five-year absence.  He stayed in the same cave and did Ayanami Rei Right Start v12 also in six tries.  After that Paul went for a walk escorted by a guide up and over East Mountain to Phantom Limb v12, which he did quickly–just two attempts.  Close by is Cut to the Quick v12, which took Paul ten tries to figure out his beta and send.  Robinson now walked back over East and through the Dark Heart to send Le Chninkle V11 in three attempts. Then he returned to the Dark Hart to finish his day with The Tax Gatherer and even after all of this climbing he did not seem tired doing this challenging v12 on his second attempt.  Paul won the comp with this impressive list with 7780 points.

165 points behind Paul Robinson was local Sam Davis.  Sam had the best climbing day of his life sending Julio & Me v9, Le Chninkle V12, Dry Pinch v8 and Full Throttlev13 all in one try!  He went to the other side of East after that and did Neon Desert v14 and Cut to the Quick v12—he gave both five attempts.  Then he did Phantom Limbv12 and Power of Landjager v11 with just two tires on each to end a great day for Sam!  Jimmy Webb and Jon Cardwell were only 55 points apart vying for third place.  Jimmy did three problems in one try Phantom Limb v12, Power of Landjager  and Full Service v10 and did Le Chninkle in two tries.  He sent Ayanami Rei Right Start  andShake n Bake v11 after six attempts.  Jon Cardwell had a great day as well sendingFull Throttle v13, The Butter Pumper v10, Le Chninkle v11, Phantom Limb v12 andFull Service v10 all in two tries and Mo Mojo v11 in one try.

Meanwhile the talk from the ladies is that the list was hard this year—5 v8s, 4 v9s, 5v10s, 4 v11s and 5 v12s.  I do have to agree that the problems were challenging and reachy in some instances; however, Angie Payne and Nina Williams decided to throw in another challenge and made a pact to try problems from the bottom up only—no working out beta or figuring top outs!  This resulted in a lot of climbing for the ladies and not as much sending.  This is Angie’s first trip to Hueco since she took second in last years Rodeo and was able to take first this year even with the extra challenges.  Payne tried 7 hard problems 39 times from the bottom up including 10 falls at the end of Sunshine v10 and not sending it.  She did send Crimping Christ v10 in five tries theButter Pumper v10 in three tires and Hobbit with a Boner v8 in three tries.   Nina Williams who left Hueco not too long ago after having a great trip sending several v11 and v10s returned for the Rodeo.  She attempted five problems twenty times.  She was able to repeat Sunshine quickly in one try and did the Butter Pumper in eight ground up attempts.  Jill Waters was on her own program and did the Butter Pumper and Sam’s Problem for third place.  This was Paige Claassen’s first Rodeo and she loved it sending Crimping Christ and getting close on the Butter Pumper—we were so happy she came down to present the Incan Odyssey and climb!

There was a lot of action in the Advanced category this year.  We had a tie for first and third!  The tie for first was between Layla Mammi and Rachel Meyers—they both sent the same four problems Ides of March v6, Hector in a Blender v7, Man Gum v9 and Something Different v7 earning 3005 points.  The winner in this situation is determined by total attempts and Layla Mammi won with eleven attempts verses Rachel Meyers’ fifteen attempts.  It was a great day of climbing for both ladies!  Robin Maslowski and Olivia Hsu tied for third! They both completed Ides of March v6, Hector in a Blender v7 and Dragonfly Direct Finish v6—Robin won with three attempts to Olivia’s five.

Kyle O’Meara won men’s Advanced by doing Taxing The Pipe v9, Full Service, Whispers of Mortality v10, Mojo v10, Snake Charmer v7 and Li Stand v7!  Only 90 points behind him was Nate Drolet who also had a great day sending 10-10 v9, Mojov10, Try Harder v9, Man Gum v9, Julio & Me v9 and Dry Dock v7! Cha Hoeun came in third with the ascents of Dragon Fly Direct v6, Dry Dock v7, 10-10, Mojo, Man Gum, Hector in a Blender.

After a long day of trying hard Angie Payne put on a great slideshow on her trip to Greenland as the burger line subsided.  Thanks to our volunteer grill masters Tim Vastine, Lindsey Tjian, James Lucas and Kim Groebner we had four grills going and served approximately 300 people 324 burgers!!!  We were happy to welcome John Bragg from the AAC to present the Hueco Rock Rodeo’ donation to Wanda Olszewski from Hueco Tanks State Historic Site & Park and Ian Cappelle from the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition.  Thanks to our amazing sponsors and all of the competitors we were able to donate $9000 to Hueco Tanks to help their efforts to preserve the park and remove graffiti and $1000 to the CHTC for their project of getting climbing historically acknowledged in Hueco.  Once again thanks to our sponsors including 5.10, Adidas, Osprey, Organic, Marmot, La Sportiva, Metolius, New Mexico State University, Petzl, Bosavi, and Send Climbing and many more we were able to raise $1500 in our raffle that we used to sponsor some kids from a local youth outreach program, Ciudad Nueva, to come out for the Youth Comp on Sunday (more to come about their experience and the youth comp excitement soon).  There were about three hundred people visiting sponsors booths, meeting Fred Nicole, Nina and Jon Cardwell, visiting the spectacular art show put on by Vanessa Compton who was displaying her own art work, Sam Davis’ photographs and Martina Mali’s knitwear and local Mary Bocchicchio won the Dyno contest for the ladies and Alex McIntyre won for men!

It took a village to raise this event and I am so happy we had an amazing local village that came together and made the 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo one to go down in history! Thanks so much to the folks who worked so hard as volunteers, the AAC for hosting the event and for their support–John Bragg, Phillip Swiny, Jason Kehl, Martani Mali, Lisa Hummel and Jenn Flemming were amazing.  And I was so lucky to have Bronson MacDonald, Adam Strong, Kwang Lee, Nataile Hawley, Emma Flaherty, Andy Banks, Trevor Turmelle, Sam Kelly, Cletus Wilcox, G.P. Salvo, Vanessa Compton, Heath Baily and so many more. Thanks to Kenny Coppedge and the guys from Fort Bliss for bringing down the Dyno wall! Thanks to all of the guides at Wagon Wheel and volunteer guides who made this happen! Thanks to Hueco Tanks for allowing us to have this competition.  Thanks to Andy Klier and Allen Peters for helping with the website and posters and Daniel Yagman Jr for the artwork! Thanks to Merrick Ales, Beau Kahler and Louder Than 11 for the media!!!  Thanks to all of the folks who signed up and had a blast!  This Rodeo was fueled by 5.10, AAC, Adidas, prAna, Marmot, Arc’teryx, Organic, Trango, Fat Tire, Osprey, Asana, La Sportiva, New Mexico State University, Metolius, KMAC, Crimp Chimps, Petzl, Climb Tec, Alpine Cowboy, Aims Adventure Outfitters, Joshua Tree, Clif Bar, Rock & Ice, Wagon Wheel Co-opt, Send Climbing, The Access Fund, AK Screen Printing and The Tobacco Tin!


It was a pleasure working with Louder than 11 making the highlight reel for the Hueo Rock Rodeo!  They did a great job!

Paul Robinson on the Tax Gatherer

Nina Williams always psyched with the fist bump to photographer Merrick Ales

Sam Davis on Bastard in a Basket

Jimmy Webb on Neon Desert

Nina Williams

Another from Lt11 Daniel Woods having the best climbing day of his life--thus far! 76 V Points!

Paige Claaussen on Sunshine

Angie Payne on Sunshine

Nina on Hobbit with a Bonner

Robin Maslowski on Man Gums

Paul Robinson on Ayanami Rei