Wednesday, October 12, 2011

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell 2011

I’ve seen 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell grow exponentially each and every year since it’s beginning of 120 climbers in 2006. It’s been a pretty exhilarating endeavor watching the fun multiply each and every year. In 2010 we had around 550 bodies packed onto Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Little did I know we’d be pushing over 800 people in 2011…
As it does each and every year, the threat of rain infused the minds of everyone as we entered the week of the event. Thursday morning the skies opened up on a dry landscape and dumped multiple inches of rain, even making us push back packet pickup an hour. But the precipitation did finally stop, the breeze started drying things out, and the forecast for Fri and Sat looked SPLITTER! Sponsor banners and tents were up and climbers started arriving to pick up their swag bags, receive the customary haircuts (mullets, mohawks, custom cuts, etc), and get amped for the weekend to come.
After a pretty chill Thursday evening, Friday awoke to cool temps and sunny skies. We finished up the lingering climber packet pickups and prepared for the climber meeting and climber’s creed. As the 10 am shotgun blasted a capacity filled 250 climbers, many decked in ridiculous costumes, galloped across the fields attempting to beat their fellow competitors to the valued crags.
If you’ve ever competed at 24HHH, you know that strategy is very important. But you also know that luck is just as important. Oddly enough this year many of the competitors decided to stay away from the north forty during the day which made it easy to find open routes. The east side, on the other hand, was busy all day long. However, as the sun went down it seemed that every climber on the ranch made their way to the north forty.
The North Forty crag was to be a veritable mass of people, music, and energy. Each and every year “TNF” gains more and more lore as the place to be. This year was no different, and was taken to a whole new level. Patagonia, Petzl and Backwoods had taken their tents up; Bearded Brothers energy bars was there, Elemental Coffee was pouring cold brew, Black Diamond demo lanterns had it looking like Christmas, Evolv chalk bags filled with free shoe cards were strategically hidden, Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles/pint glasses were everywhere. As one tweet stated, “the north forty resembles Times Square, only the haircuts are more strange @twofourhell”. The 10 pm climber check in was in full effect, and TNF was a mad house of climbers in a hurry to turn in their first half scorecards in return for clean, blank new ones.
As the night wore on, the rumors began to fly. Who already has 100 routes? Team Petzl is trying to break Alex Honnold and Matt Segal’s team record from 2010, has anyone seen them? Who just sent Paying the Rent? How many people have done Cradle of the Deep?
The time period of 4-6 am is the low point for most climbers. It’s a wall. It’s a complete loss of psyche, a struggle to stay awake even while moving, and a time of cramps and many times sickness. By this point, a climber has been vertical for over 18 hours and the body is rejecting everything but closed eyelids. Even the screams that echo off the canyon walls every hour on the hour become weaker and less pronounced. Volunteers are faced with the daunting task of keeping climbers safe, carrying conversations, and reminding them to double and triple check their systems. This is what many call the danger zone. Make it through this period, and when that sun starts to brighten the sky in the east you can bet on an unexplained shot of energy that carries your weary body unknowingly into monster mode again. The last 3 hours of 24HHH is filled with big sends of hard routes, physically unexplainable to all of us.
This year’s new format brought the end of the climbing to Saturday morning at 10 am. As climbers turned in their scorecards, the celebratory beers were cracked by many while others chose instead to retreat to their beds for a long nap before the evening festivities began. Some even chose a cool down yoga class that was offered. It was a nice pause, a recharge of sorts. Everyone was content. All was good.
By 4 pm a large crowd had gathered in the barn for the awards ceremony. Boxes upon boxes of sponsor swag was delivered, and it was time to recognize. Love was shown to those who had just conquered the hardest rock climbing competition in the world. Suffice it to say, everyone who completes 24HHH has won. It’s a test of true guts ; proof of ones desire to push past points of complete fatigue and desperation. To risk it all for a horseshoe.
The night was not over. Pasta dinner. Tallgrass beer. So Ill slideshow. Lucas Marshall slideshow hosted by Jer Collins. Patagonia arm wrestling tourney. Dancing. Music. Afterparty.
Sunday morning awoke to another beautiful day on the ranch. Sore bodies filed into the lodge for one last gathering, a pancake breakfast put on by Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. As climbers lingered, unwilling to get in their cars to drive home, I sat in front of the trading post. It had been another great year of new friends, old friends, and good times.
2011 brought the sustainability initiative to 24HHH. I count it a glowing success. Climbers and spectators were provided the means for sustainability from companies like Patagonia, Klean Kanteen, MSR, Packtowl, Sterling Rope, Nuun and Tallgrass Brewing Company. We are still putting together numbers for the amount of waste saved over the weekend, but I’m very encouraged by the amount of effort put forth by all to live this agenda not only at 24HHH but in our daily lives as well.
24HHH has become so much more than a rock climbing competition. Long lasting friendships have been forged. Passion for this sport has been renewed and rekindled. I could never even begin to thank all the people who make this event possible. My contribution is a mere penny of a dollar’s worth. The behind the scenes work of our sponsors, volunteers, and countless other avenues of workers make 24HHH what it has become. I’m pretty psyched to say that I count you all as my friends, and look forward to the many years to come at 24HHH.
For more images and information on 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, visit our website at or like us at Many thanks to Lucas Marshall who has been our official photographer since day one in 2006. His iconic images have completely captured the spirit of this event.

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