Today’s guest blogger, Austin Howell (Dreaming of Gnar), shares how he made peace with bouldering.
Hueco is magic.
I always hated bouldering, something about the fact that I’m terrible at it was always a turnoff for my occasionally egocentric personality. But half-way through a crushing fall semester, when some friends gave me two days notice that the vehicle had room for one more to Hueco, I jumped on it. Something was different. I’ll never forget seeing my first sunrise in Hueco, despite the fact that we were all delirious from the long haul between the hours of 4pm and 5am. No rest for the wicked I suppose, but I was smitten, and six months later I returned on my own initiative.
For months I planned, scribbled, and dreamed about my objectives… As soon as I pulled into the park, all that went out the window as I realized “DUDE! I’m in HUECO!” Suddenly that was all that mattered. 11 Days and endless boulders were mine to savor. First day of climbing was just acclimatizing to the area, and trying not to get too terribly sore.
Day 2 was a solo exploration, and probably the real reason behind the trip. I’ve found a certain continuum of mentality throughout my journey as a soloist, and it’s been interesting to explore and observe the process. My first solo was haphazard, horrific, and accidental. I learned from that and years since, and have a huge list of things to avoid, to stay calm. Calm is safety. For a soloist, Trad-man, Sport climber, or Boulderer, Calm is safety. This trip was an exploration of that zone. Dealing with the wind, occasional loose rock, onsighting off route, 1500ft of endurance and it felt normal.
Weird. I mean… It wasn’t weird, but THAT’S definitely weird.
But I finally made my peace with bouldering! I quit sending and started just playing with rocks, jumping on climbs entirely out of my league, and that turned every successful move into a blessing. With failure expected, the ego subsided and I actually started climbing hard. Not hard in the grand scheme of things, but hard for me. I started holding on at levels of intensity that once made me give up, without even realizing I had. Somewhere in Hueco, I found calm in the face of intensity amongst the boulders instead of my usual ego-fueled frustration.
Every time I come home from a climbing trip, I feel I’ve learned something. Somehow, in this strange desert oasis in time, ecology, and modernity, that effect is magnified. Each time I leave to head home, I feel satisfied with whatever passed.
Hueco is magic.