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.

 

Pho­to cour­tesy of Austin Howell

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.

Pho­to cour­tesy of Austin Howell

 

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.

 

Pho­to Cour­tesy of Austin Howell