There is a delicate relationship between the climbers and the Native American culture that is preserved here – many paintings adorn the walls of Hueco Tanks. The Parks Service makes the effort to preserve this cultural history while allowing climbers and hikers to enjoy Hueco Tanks.
The strum of the Spanish classical guitar blared from my truck’s speakers as we drove down the highway towards El Paso. Kilian, Li, and I pulled into the unpaved parking lot of a Mexican meat market on the outskirts of El Paso and shut off our soundtrack, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s album, 11:11.
We had driven 9 hours from Austin the previous night and were ushered into our campsite by the urban glow of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez metropolis, visible on the horizon west of Texas Ranch Road 1111. Of course, we arrived at the Hueco Rock Ranch campsite at exactly 11:11pm.
Within an hour of leaving Austin, I realized I had no way to charge my phone for the weekend, so I turned it off – and it would remain off until our return to the city on Sunday night. I knew it was going to be a good weekend as I lay in the back of my truck staring up at the Milky Way overhead instead of checking for useless emails one last time on my phone before falling asleep.
Kilian attempted to order breakfast in English and shortly realized that I was going to have to order for him in Spanish. I summoned my knowledge of the language to order our pre-climb breakfast successfully. Our initial El Pasito Meat Market breakfast did not disappoint, and that satisfaction led to our collective purchase of at least 20 burritos over the course of the weekend. Cheap and delicious.
We didn’t waste any time heading into the maze of boulders at Hueco Tanks State Park. There are over 3000 boulder problems at Hueco, and more routes are established every season. It was my first time climbing here, and I was blown away by the bouldering and the geology.
35 million years ago, a small pluton intruded into the limestone beneath West Texas and cooled to form syenite – a rock that is similar to granite, but with significantly less quartz. Uplift and erosion of the region has now exposed the pluton for us to enjoy. The syenite has joints that are continuously being weathered by exfoliation to form the boulders, caves, and roofs of Hueco Tanks. The rock here has large feldspar crystals that either make great holds for climbing or cut your fingers when you fall.
Our trip was short, but worth the long road trip. We attempted to solve many boulder problems – some were sent and some remain to be sent. We each have multiple reasons to return later and climb harder.
In the age of constant wireless communication and smart phones, it is sometimes difficult to put away your device and forget about pointless texts, emails, facebooking, and all the other time wasters that smartphones provide. But, when you turn it off and go outside, you’ll find that life is much more simple and enjoyable. Now, turn off your phone and go climbing!