Trip Report: Hueco Tanks State Park

After three months of being on the East Coast, we finally left Maine with a van that looked new again, a pocket full of money, and a heart full of love from our families. Okay, that was pretty cheesy but it’s true.

For a little bit, it felt strange re-emerging into the world of the “traveling nomad #vanlifer,” because for that last three months, we had been settled in one spot, Alex’s parents driveway. To have it suddenly shift from a stagnant place to the open road and its ever changing sleep locations, felt odd. But it also felt exciting again, which is the feeling we are searching for.

When we left for the open road, we had a plan on where we would head to first. The first spot we choose was Hueco Tanks State Park, in El Paso, Texas. We first learned about this area a few years ago when we started climbing and thus have been interested in this area for a long time. But due to the state’s regulations for the park, we weren’t ready to make the investment in time and money to go. Until now.

Hueco Tanks State Park is a historic site that holds significant value to numerous groups of people. For more information on the history of Hueco Tanks, check out this site : https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hueco-tanks/park_history

The history of the park is interesting but we weren’t going for just a history lesson, we were going to climb. Hueco Tanks is home to world class rock climbing, there is even an outdoor climbing competition held in the park called the Rock Rodeo. (We wouldn’t be participating in this event as it cost $150 per person.)

The rock that lays in Hueco Tanks State Park is home to unique features called Huecos. Huecos are holes which were created from a combination of water and wind. It’s so unique that climbers from all over the world come to climb on establish boulders while keeping an eye out for the next great climb.

Alex and I arrived on January 10th, our first reservation. We immediately entered the park to go rock climbing that very day. While we were in Maine, we made the effort to call for reservations, which would give us access to one of the 3 mountains, North Mountain. The State park only allows a certain number of people entering the park on any given day, in order to limit the impact and erosion on the land. This meant that any climbers and hikers would need to either have a reservation (created up to three months prior to day entrance,) or wait at the gate in a line of cars with other climbers and hikers and hope to get into the park. It’s complicated to say the least.

Thankfully, we knew the access issues ahead of our planned stop and prepared while back in Maine to call every day to make reservations. Although we were successful at getting most of the days we wanted, we did end up missing a few consecutive days and instead waited in line at the gate.

Once inside the park, we started to orient ourselves in our new surrounding. We ask ourselves while referring to the rock climbing guidebook, “Where are the boulders?”, “What trails do we take?”, and “Where do we find water, food, and camping?”. Once we got our bearings, we set off to climb all the classics.

As of this writing,we have since left Hueco Tanks. In total, we spent a month in the area, and managed to climb most of what we wanted to do. Alex climbed his hardest boulder to date, and I found myself working on mileage (multiple climbs, typically in an easier grade range,) rather than one single climb.

Originally, we planned on staying for two months, but as time went on, we found that we were getting discouraged by the parks regulations. For example, in order to go to the other mountains, where there are thousands of climbs, we would have to pay a fee of ~$20 per person to be guided around. After a few trips, that can add up to a lot.

Throughout our month in Hueco Tanks, we spent most of our time on the North Mountain which is free. Although there are excellent climbs on this mountain, we ended up getting bored of the area and were eager to climb in an area with less regulations and restrictions.

So after a month, we left to head to Roy, New Mexico. A new climbing area located on the outskirts of a town that only has 200 people. This area was found by climbers and thanks to one individual that released a guidebook, there is now a greater chance that Roy bouldering will be the next great bouldering area. So far the climbing in Roy seems endless and can easily have thousands of climbs that are waiting to be established. We don’t know how long we will stay in this area, but we are ready to explore without limitations. Roy seems to be the perfect place for an adventure.

 

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