“How do I keep these people coming back each year?”
That was the thought that shot through my mind as I sat at my computer at 9 am, watching the registration fill up. It was August 3, 2010. With each new year, more routes are added to the Ranch so I’m able to allow additional competitors. This year we had around 15 new routes that had been put up since last 24HHH, so I had the number of competitors set in 240-250 range. Registration was full in a day.
Anyone who has ever put on a large event knows it can be a draining experience. Rules. Logistics. Swag. Sponsors. Money. Logistics. People. Stress. Logistics. Paperwork. Lists. Logistics. Did I mention logistics? I started 24HHH in 2006 with a massive level of psyche and determination to make a successful event. It has grown exponentially in each year since, and continues to pick up steam. My steam, however, has faded a tad with each passing year. My life is a whirlwind of busy-ness, and 24HHH just adds to the mix. In addition, my wife and I had a beautiful little girl named Maverick in early 2010. So I went into 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell this year carrying mixed emotions. Did I want this event to continue on? Was it worth it? Should I pass the torch to someone else? I had a lot of unanswered questions leading up to Sept 24, 2010.
Packet pick up
Alex Honnold receiving a 24HHH mohawk
Rain was in the extended forecast. What’s new? It always plans to rain during 24HHH. Every year it’s in the forecast. But God seems to smile down on us each and every year, and we always make out like bandits on the weather front. Friday afternoon the party ensued with packet pickup. Free mohawks, mullets and anything else our resident barber, Adam Peters, could think of. Yes, there were lines!! The pasta dinner never disappoints, and as the sun was moving low into the sky everyone flocked to the deceptively large barn loft for the evenings festivities. The slackline comp. Dancing. David Chancellor from SoIll Holds started the tag team slideshow with some fun skits and shorts, followed by Matt Segal showing us how to fall on a rope. Alex Honnold finished the set up with a little slideshow/FAQ on how NOT to fall, without a rope. Last but not least the people were treated to the annual Pimpin N Crimpin/Urban Climber Magazine after party. Kegs, cocktails, basketball, dancing, slacklining, crate stacking, and speleo box action. Shenanigans, I like to call it….
Chancellor, Segal, Honnold slideshows
The temps were perfect for sending the next morning as competitors crept out of their tents and made their way down to the trading post for the mandatory meeting at 9 am. Roll call, questions, answers, and the climbers creed were the topics of the day. Team names were at times sensored. Costumes were in full force. Nervous laughter was heard. Masked focus on the next 24 hours. Without warning the shotgun blew off it’s rounds, 10 am was here, and 242 climbers scattered to their planned beginning points.
Jer Collins leading the annual Climbers Creed
24 hours is a long time to climb non-stop. The first couple of hours are run on adrenaline, excitement about the event. You’ve been training, planning for this. You are on top of your game. However, at a certain point (which is different for each competitor) it really becomes a game of survival. You have pain everywhere. You typically climb lower rated routes than your usual because you have to pace yourself. This leads to blisters in places on your hands that aren’t used to being overworked. Imagine pulling on and off your climbing shoes 100 times in a 24 hour period. Or even worse, imagine having your climbing shoes on for a 24 hour period. Have you ever belayed for 24 hours? Lowered a partner from the top of a climb 100+ times in a 24 hour period? Can you say “raw hands”? Imagine the amount of fluid and food needed to fuel 24 hours of non-stop climbing. Then imagine having to carry that with you along with your other gear. Oh, and don’t forget your headlamp because you’ll be climbing in the dark for about 11 hours. Did you remember batteries? Ten competitors this year climbed the equivalent of El Capitan twice. Seventy (yes, I said 70) climbed the equivalent of at least once up the Big Stone.
Brittany Griffith early in 24HHH
Sun fading on the east side. 24HHH
Fast forward to 10 pm on Saturday. The competitors have been at it for 12 hours. All are required to check in at one of three checkpoints. At this checkpoint each climber turns in their scorecard and receives a new one to continue recording on. Fireworks shoot off all over the canyon in bright blasts of red, green, purple, and white. The acoustics produce deafening tones as energy is renewed, screams erupt from all corners of the Ranch, and all feel lucky to be witnessing a moment like this. Every hour on the hour throughout the night an uproar of 242 tired but motivated climber voices pierce the canyon walls. It’s the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. 242 people competing against each other, unified in one voice of camaraderie.
10 pm fireworks
2 am. Rumors of Alex Honnold and Matt Segal shredding somewhere in the canyon. “Can Alex beat Tommy Caldwell’s record from 2009?” “Some guy from Oklahoma had over 100 routes at the halfway point?” “Are their lines for routes over at the Cliffs of Insanity?”
Night life on the North Forty
Lighting the walls of the North Forty
4 am. I hit the North Forty and am blasted with an overwhelming energetic buzz. Climbers are psyched. Past 24HHH’s have brought numerous exhausted climbers to sleep during this time of the night. 2010 is a different story. I see smiles, I hear energy in voices, I see climbers on 5.12. I’m amazed. I arrive at The North Forty a tired mess. I leave a rejuvenated soul. No caffeine needed.
Planning under the lights
Seth staying awake late
7 am brings the light. It’s a cloudy morning, cool, breezy, with a few sprinkles making their way to the ground. Daybreak brings another natural energy boost, and climbers begin sending hard again. I just hope the rain stays away.
9 am. More rumors of fantastic climbing, records being broken, and people climbing HARD. Set up begins for scorecard turn-in. Volunteers begin sweeping the crags, giving final directions for climbers.
10 am brings the shotgun blast. 24HHH 2010 is in the books. Tired faces begin arriving at the Trading Post. Celebratory beers are opened. Stories are shared. Food is consumed. Scores are tallied.
Clay Frisbie tallying his impressive score
12 pm comes and we find all the climbers back in the loft for the awards ceremony. Swag is flowing like milk and honey. Tunes are blasting on the speakers. Some are energetic, running on fumes. Others are dozing off into zombie-like states. I take the mic. We celebrate another 24HHH success. Awards are handed out. Horseshoes are earned. We thank sponsors. We thank Barry and Amy (owners of the ranch). This is my favorite time of 24HHH. We are all proud. We accomplished our goals. Our best friend is the person sitting next to us. Our best friend is every person in the place.
Waiting on awards to begin
To Every 24HHH 2010 Competitor:
Thank you for renewing my passion for this event. Your energy, psyche, enthusiasm and thankful spirits have brought me back to the roots of this comp. It’s not about winning. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about pushing yourself to the limit. And then pushing past that. It’s about new friendships made. Laughing together. Pushing through the agony together. And sitting in that barn loft on Sunday morning knowing that every other person in the place just went through the same thing you did. You all came out stronger and prouder. I’ll never forget 2010 or the people who made it the best we’ve ever had.
I’ll see you all in 2011,
For full results go to www.twofourhell.com.