First, this blog is a personal record for me so it might be a bit long and maybe too detailed. But, I had such a great time and wanted to be pretty thorough and cover a lot more than most want to read. Sorry about that! Also, for most of the weekend we were followed by a film crew that were making a short film about our adventure this year. Dylan Welter and Austin Goldberg, the videographers, were taking both still pictures and video quite a bit of the time so we forgot to take many of our own. btw: Thanks Dylan and Austin and I can't wait to see the final product. It is also hard to take pictures when you are belaying. For the pictures we did get, click on them to see the full size version.
What is 24HHH?
The 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is a climbing competition where teams of two climbers climb for 24 continuous hours. Each climb must be a clean lead climb and to achieve bonus points, each team member must lead at least one climb each hour. The event is divided into 3 divisions. The Recreational division is for climbers that climb 5.9- and under. The Intermediate division if for climbers that climb up to 5.10d. The Advanced division is for the climbers that climb 5.11 and up. It is an honor system as far as the division you enter since it would be totally unfair for someone who has climbed 5.12 to enter into the Intermediate division. Likewise, a 5.10 climber would be "sandbagging" if they were to climb as a Recreational climber. The event is held at the incredible Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas which features hundreds of sport and trad routes with grades from 5.4 to 5.14.
Our Team - Leather and Lace
My partner, Natalie Neal, and I had competed as a team for the last three years. This was to be our final effort. Our first year, the very first edition, we competed as a Recreational team and Natalie finished second in the female division. Our hardest route that year was 5.8+ and we climbed 36 routes each. The next year we moved up to Intermediate and again Natalie finished second in the female division. We did a couple of 5.10's that year and climbed 60 routes each. Last year we trained much harder and we finished first and second in Intermediate and Natalie again finished second in the female division. We each did six 5.10s and exceeded our expectations by climbing 91 routes each. When we finished we were pretty sure it was our last 24. Natalie said that there was no way she could do any better. I too thought we were close to maxing out. But, with 91 routes, that magical mark of 100 routes was very close. After our annual Red Rocks trip in March, we decided to give it one last go. We wanted 100 routes.
Boring stuff about the Divisions but needing to be said.
Some people have asked if we were still going to be in the Intermediate division after winning in 2008. Well, time to get this straight. Advanced is defined two ways in the rules, once Andy put in the rules "For example, if you have onsighted 5.11a then you are an advanced climber. Do not register Intermediate." That implies if you have on-sighted EVEN ONE 5.11, you should be Advanced. In the registration form it defines Advanced as a "consistent" 5.11 leader. So, Nat has never sent a 5.11 clean yet, even on top rope. I have red pointed 4, all of which are 5.11a ( Newton County Mentality (many, many falls), Sonny Jim, Horseshoes and Handgrenades, and Horny Goatweed) Before the new guidebook I had 2 onsights of 5.11a climbs, Pimpass Midgy Mullet and Cracked Rib. But, those are now 5.10c routes so no longer qualify as Advanced routes. I hated to have to lay that out there but I have not even one 5.11a onsight and my hardest send to date is also just a 5.11a. I hope that satisfies any naysayers out there! I wonder how many of the other 100 competitors in Intermediate can justify their entry into Intermediate? They know if they were sandbagging and their friends do too. (end of stupid stuff, now on to the fun stuff)
Leather and Lace is known for our motto GESHIDO and GSD. These both stand for Get S__t Done. We have had it on our shirts for the last two years. Sorry for no picture but the front of our shirts this year had:
Leather and Lace
60 + 44 = 104% effort
The back had large letters:
Natalie and I were ready!!! The training had been intense for most of the summer. What is great about this competition is that it's not how hard you pull down as much as how long you can pull down hard. We climbed lap after lap in the gyms, we climbed at HCR to try to wire our hardest climbs, we did cardio almost every day, we watched our diet, we planned our strategy, and we tapered the last week. The final week we stressed about the rain forecast, whether we would catch a cold, if we would get some stupid injury or if we were over or under trained.
The original plan was to HCR sometime on Thursday and get some final beta and maybe a route or two in. But, Tuesday I got a call from Jeremy Collins. He needed a ride since his partner, Tommy Caldwell (yes THE Tommy Caldwell) was getting in Wednesday afternoon. Jer had already taken me up on my offer to let them crash at my cabin so this was a huge bonus. Hmmmm, a chance to spend a day out watching the dream team prep for the comp. Logistics were rearranged and Jer and I left on Wednesday. Tommy got delayed. He bought a van in Texas and was driving in from there but underestimated the drive time by a few hours. This gave Jer and I the chance to check out the North 40 section of the ranch. What a disaster. Water was running down a huge percentage of the routes. We were both quickly trying to figure out how to change our strategies to deal with the wet. The whole game had changed. But, the forecast was getting better. Maybe things would dry out.
Later that evening, we spent a little time hanging out with the Patagonia crew at their cabin until Tommy showed up. It was great to see Brittany Griffith again and to meet Kate Rutheford. When Tommy showed up we crashed.
We headed to the East side early Thursday instead of heading to the Ozark Cafe with the Patagonia crew. Jer wanted to get some alone time with Tommy to finalize some beta and familiarize him with the Arkansas sandstone. I didn't even bring my shoes since this was their only time to preview. But, fortunately, I did bring my harness. As luck would have it, Tommy forgot his so I lent him mine for the day. The interesting thing is that we use the same harness, the BD Chaos (mine was given to me by BD on my Castle Valley trip).
Tommy putting on my harness for their first route in HCR.
The morning was spent finalizing their east side tick list.
Tommy on Maximus.
After the morning burn we went to Jasper for breakfast/lunch and some grocery shopping. Jer and Tommy got into the Halloween spirit.
After a nap, it was time for the afternoon session on the west side.
Tommy flashing Cradle of the Deep, 5.12d and did a second lap.
And Roary Breaker 5.13a
Jeremy's wife Tricia, Jesse Gross and Natalie came in late that evening and brought pizza from the Ozark Cafe. Jer, Tommy and I were up at the Patagonia cabin when they came in. As soon as the group came up onto the porch, Tommy showed his class by coming straight over and introducing himself to Nat and Tricia. We retired to the cabin and got to bed pretty early.
I whipped up some pancakes for the crew and looked forward to a nice quiet day. Nat and I planned on getting some final trad beta and hanging some slings and biners on routes that didn't have anchors. Jer and Tommy were in total rest mode. We also had to make up our "Electric Juice" smoothies (thanks to Carisa's special 24hhh recipe), load our cooler with extra water and snacks and stash it on the North 40. This year we also put some water and our larger trad gear in another stash at the other end of the cliff.
Lucas Marshall's unicorn by Jeremy.
Our driver (a necessary safety valve for the 5+ hour drive home) , Ryan, showed up in the afternoon to fill the last bed in our cabin. He got to experience the famous Spelio Box in the barn. It is a simulated cave where you enter one hole, climb up and down and around forever in a tunnel that is not much larger than your shoulders and come out another hole right next to the first one!
After the great pasta dinner supplied by the ranch, we retired to the cabin. There was a great "Big Smith" concert going on but our cabin was ALL BUSINESS. We all chilled and went to bed early.
Nat chillin on the couch with Tommy.
Jer trying out his special experimental glove to try to keep his fingers protected on easier routes. I never asked if he actually ended up using them.
The weather was PERFECT. Most of the routes had dried out. The temp was in the 70's and the humidity was low. How did this happen? My morning was busy! I got up at 6:30 and loaded the rope bag and both Natalie's and my pack into the truck. Ryan accompanied me as I made the final stash of our primary gear. One of the rules (that is not always followed) is that you are supposed to be self-supporting. Ryan grabbed Nat's pack out of the truck and as we started up the hill I realized it. I had to take her pack too to be "legal". We took it slow and dumped it all below Prophesy wall. When I got back I made pancakes and omelets for everyone and before I knew it, it was time for the mandatory meeting. I am a compulsive planner and list maker but the breakfast took way to long to make for 7 people since the griddle was small. Here we were at the meeting and time was running out for prep work. We had to borrow tape from Tommy since ours was now sitting at the top of the hill in the rope bag!! But, as nervous as we were, the starting line was fun.
Tommy and the "Climbing Elvi" team
Brittany and Kate - rock angels
GO BIG OR GO HOME
When the gun went off, Nat and I took off up the hill. I was first to the trail but there was a line of people right on my heels. Good thing we were almost running because when we reached our gear and claimed our first route, all the other routes around us were taken immediately. Our first routes was pretty hard for us since we would not get a warm up. But it was more important to get our hard routes in than to get a warm up. Our first route was Learning to Fly (5.10c) followed by Dr Stupid (5.10a), Log (5.10b) and then Jihad (5.10b). We had one more route we wanted in this area but it was occupied so we moved on the Titanic Boulder. In this competition, waiting is death. You need to find routes to climb and keep moving. At Titanic we snagged Ship of Fools (5.10a), The Lookout (5.9+) and I grabbed Cracked Rib (5.10c). Again the last route we wanted here was occupied (actually by the same party that had been on the 5.8 at Prophesy) Time to move! We had been successful on all our planned hard routes but were now two good 5.8's behind on our plan.
Our final destination, the famous North Forty!! We planned to spend the rest of the 24 here and this is where our stash of water and gear was. Our first route was our hardest of the day, the five star Crimp Scampi (5.10d). At this point we ran into Grant Brady, one of our friends from the KC area. He was a volunteer and was gracious enough to take some pictures. So, these are the only pics we have of us actually CLIMBING in the 24. THANKS GRANT!!!!
Nat cruising on her first lap of Crimp
Finally we took some time to eat and catch up on our score sheet.
Me on Private Property
Nat on Leonid
Around this time Nat had took a fall on Controversy. She stayed on way too long before taking the fall and got totally pumped. It was gut check time. But Nat stepped up and went back up and sent twice. We were running around trying to find open routes and had to finally resort to doing trad routes. We dug out the trad gear and did Groove Tube, Clown Suit and Circus Freaks. We would resort to filling in with trad routes whenever we couldn't get an open route. Two major routes on our list were running water, More Better and First Normal Form. We would try to fit these in but they were lower priority now since they would be much harder and uncomfortable.
Nighttime did not slow us down. In fact, the 10pm check-in messed us up. We were about to do Jackhole but had to leave to check-in. Jackhole was the only route left for us in the Corridor. This would come back to haunt us later. The night was uneventful. One route blurred into another. I would do two laps, Nat would do two laps. Move on.
Finally, we arrived back at Jackhole with Brittany and Kate doing the route by us. I did my two laps and Nat stepped up. She got half way through the tough mantle move and just got stuck. She couldn't quite make those last few inches to get her center over her hand. She took the fall. Brittany was giving her beta for a different way but that beta was better suited for someone of Brittany's size. Nat tried again and fell again. One final try, using Brittany's beta was unsuccessful. Nat was pretty upset. She could see her goal slipping away. We left our draws, did two quick trad routes in the area and headed east again looking for some sport routes to makeup time.
Nat was now 4 laps behind me and I had just hit 100. We ran up to the kiddy wall and I told Nat " I won't climb any more routes until you catch up. You need to do two laps on two more routes before I climb again." The Dirt Barbie team of Virginia and Annie were sitting in front of Tunnel Vision waiting to do their 9am route. Since it was't 9 yet, they let Nat jump on. She ran up, pulled the rope without untying and ran up again. The team on Sundial was also waiting for the 9am hour so they let Nat go too. The crowd in the kiddy wall arena now knew this was for the big 100 route goal and they were going NUTS. Every lap there was cheering and shouting lead by the Dirt Barbies. When Nat got her 100th in, it was incredible the applause and cheering. But, our actual goal was our combined age. I'm 60 and Nat is 44. So, we quickly ran up Kid's Stuff, an easy trad route and used a sling around a chicken head halfway for protection.
We had gotten our 100 and thought we only needed one more for our goal. We turned the corner and Cows in the Mist was open for the first time in a very long time. We nailed that but wanted to get back to Jackhole. As we left, we had to go right by Newton County Mentality (5.10d). This was a route that was a very big maybe for me. I had sent it fully only once and had fallen on it at least a half dozen times. I couldn't risk it early in the comp because it is very powerful and I am NOT. It also has a bad fall and the potential to give your rope a core-shot if you do fall. I said I would give it one shot. But, one big issue. I didn't have a stick-clip and the first bolt is out of reach. Nate to the rescue. It took him three tries but he valiantly JUMPED up and clipped the first bolt for me, risking a turned ankle each time. He and Todd were amazing in their support for my attempt. Now safely clipped, I heel hooked got the little pocket, got the crimp, move the feet and threw. First try I nailed it. What a big relief. Nate calmed me down as I almost slipped off on the 5.8 section above. I rigged to lower off so I could get the biner at the top and then we started running to try to fit in Jackhole. But, as luck would have it, the gun went off before we got back to the corridor.
Mine Mine Mine
What a treat. When we got to the corridor, Tommy was half way up Mine Mine Mine, 5.11d. I got out my camera and started videoing. I was treated to an fascinating demonstration of Jeremy throwing out beta and Tommy calmly flowing up the route following each instruction smoothly and efficiently. And this was his 123rd and final route of the competition.
Now was rush time to get back to the starting line before 10am. But, before I left I was treated to the following!!
Spiderman helps Superman suit up for the run to the finish.
I grabbed two packs and the rope bag and ran after the super heroes. Nat was confused. WHY ARE YOU RUNNING. I wanted to be sure we got to the finish line by the required time so I was going to make every effort possible to get there on time. We passed several teams walking down but the super men were too fast for mere mortals to catch. As we ran up the final stretch to the finish, the Dirt Barbie team was leading a cheer from the crowd knowing we had achieved our goal of at least 104 routes each.
I would have loved to just crash while the results were tallied BUT, I wrote the scoring software and they were using one of my computers. I took a quick shower and headed back to the store to help with the computer work. I needed to do the merge of the data from two computers into one. After working out a few glitches the results were finally there and after putting away my computers I headed to the barn.
The barn was rocking. I had missed the swag throwing and arrived just as Andy began the Awards. Here is a link to
Here is a quick summary of how we did:
First - Tommy Caldwell
Second - Jeremy Collins
Tommy and Jeremy - Nineteen Finger Two Headed Beast of the Rockopolis
First - Natalie Neal
Intermediate Individual (out of 102 registered - 70 of which were in their 20's)
Second - Dick Dower
Third - Natalie Neal
Intermediate Team (out of 50 teams)
First - Leather and Lace
104 routes each - check - 106 for Nat, 107 for me
First Intermediate Team - check
11,000 points for Nat - check (11,860)
12,000 for me - check (12,430)
At least 10 5.10s - check - 11 for Nat, 13 for me
Number one - NATALIE - her 106 routes and amazing drive got her to within 250 points of Kate and within 530 points of Brittany. She put up with me all summer and trained harder than almost anyone in the competition. She blew her goals out of the water.
Andy Chasteen for putting on this amazing event.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch for hosting.
Jeremy Collins for his inspiration and sharing strategies.
Tommy Caldwell for showing us how it is done! He is truly a class act.
The whole Patagonia crew and especially Brittany and Kate. We love those ladies.
Arkansas Climbing Coalition for cleanup and supporting climbing all over Arkansas
Cole Fennel for his beautiful new guidebook and his continued support for our efforts (and for putting both me and Nat in his book)
Ryan McDonnell for driving us and helping support us throughout our training.
Todd Johnson and Nate Moore for getting me psyched and encouraging me on Newton County
Anyone in Intermediate that has sent 5.12
Anyone in Recreational that has sent 5.10
Finally time to go home
The crew from our cabin