melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily

From Estes Park to Hueco to Chattanooga!



From Colorado to Hueco

It is always a difficult for me leaving my home in Colorado but once I wake up and see this view of Hueco—I am home again.  It was a whirlwind leaving, as it usually is—trying to tie up so many loose ends and unfortunately we were hit hard by the flu, first me than Adam.  But despite the flu and flat tire along the way we made it!  We made it to sunny warm Hueco!  We were welcomed by beach weather the first few weeks, which thankfully has finally relented to some cooler temperatures.

We arrived the day before Thanksgiving and began the season opening our doors to friends we hadn’t seen in a while and had a Thanksgiving pot luck.  I was eager to test my idea of Thanksgiving pizza out on the group, sautéed garlic, sage, and thyme was the sauce topped with caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, sage rubbed roasted chicken and sprinkled with stuffing!  It was well received!

It has been one of the quietest Hueco seasons I have seen in a long time but familiar faces and friends fill the valley.  It is terrific being reunited with friends and having time to climb and have a social life and not be running off to work all of the time.

Besides climbing a ton and enjoying friends I am putting most of my free time into organizing the 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo.  I am organizing the event–helping the American Alpine Club host their first Hueco Rock Rodeo February 15th-17th at their newly purchased property – the Hueco Rock Ranch!  It is gearing up to be a great event with tons of challenging climbing, slide shows, movie premier, dyno contest, a mechanical bull, food, beer, music, top athletes competing, conducting clinics and hanging out including the one and only Fred Nicole who will be there helping us cook breakfast!!!  It has been an enriching experience being more involved in this event getting sponsors, advertising, attempting to grow the event, introducing cultural aspects, getting athletes on board and local organization—wow there is a lot involved from beginning to end and it has been time consuming adding to my growing list of jobs (bartending/managing at the Dunraven, owning and operating Wagon Wheel Co-opt,, book keeper for Adam’s Tree Service and writer on occasion) but a great fun learning experience.

The serenity that I spoke of in Hueco has abruptly come to and end with the passing of Christmas.  Set free from family commitments people begin their migration, flocking to the gates of Hueco Tanks where they are stopped and waiting.  The report was 44 people waiting to get onto North Mountain yesterday and almost a full backcountry.  Currently and by default our guiding service, Wagon Wheel Co-opt, is the only operating guiding service in Hueco Tanks.  That will change eventually since new concessions were recommended this year but until they get their insurance, radios and guides—it is!  We will be happy to share the brunt of the clients but until then we are proud we have been able to help climbers gain access to Hueco Tanks for the past seven years! We have several eager guides who are vying for clients—you can arrange a tour at!

Since we knew that everyone was in good hands we decided to take a break from the busy season in Hueco this year. After celebrating Christmas with friends, we packed up the truck with: myself, Adam, our good friend Mike Wickwire, two dogs and a cat and headed to Chattanooga, TN!  We met up with Keith Allen Peters half way to Tennessee, which gave us a lot more room in the truck when Mike and his dog Bran switched cars.  A long journey greeted us with rain but we have been able to get a few days in climbing on the amazing southern sandstone, we got toured around by the locals and celebrated New Year’s Eve in the city.  The forecast looks promising so hopefully there will be a lot more pictures to come.  We are really lucky to have Hueco and Rocky Mountain National Park at our doorsteps but after so many years of the same thing I am really exited to be trying some new boulders!


Bronson on Daily Dick Dose

Helping the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition(featured Dave Head) and the Hueco Tanks Park Staff (Jane McFarland) with a project in the New Meadow.

Great Christmas gift–a photo book of Hueco by Sam Davis! Get your copy here

Ashley Veevers on Theator of the Absurd Monkeys

Sam Davis sending Blood of a Young Wolf, V14