24 Hours Of Horseshoe Hell

On Saturday and Sunday Chris and I competed in the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell climbing competition at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas. The competition consisted of teams of two climbing as many routes as they could in a 24 hour period – from 10 am Saturday to 10 am Sunday. Each climb was given a certain amount of points and additional points were given for climbing at least one route per team member every hour.

Our team name was The Amoebacorns (“The rarest, smallest, and most elusive of mythical creatures.”) The idea for the team name came from a comedy cartoon sketch by comedian Dimetri Martin (props). Chris and I developed a plan by which we would accomplish our personal goal of 100 climbs – we named it Operation Mythical Science. When people asked what our strategy was we would reply, “We would explain it to you, but you wouldn’t understand. It would blow your mind. The plan must have worked because we were able to achieve 112 climbs by 10 am the next morning.

So you might be wondering, what is it like to climb for 24 hours straight? The answer: It is everything at one time or another. There are those times when you feel at the top of your game, as strong as you can be, of sound mind, hopeful, energetic, unstoppable! Then there are those times when you think, what am I doing here? This is absurd! This is crazy! I should be asleep right now. There are times when you can’t remember the last sentence you said, when your palms feel like the skin is on fire, when your mind swims in a sea of blackness as you search for the next clip 50 feet above the ground – your only source of light a slim beam emitting from a headlamp. Tunnel vision takes over. Muscles cramp. You no longer laugh at things that are normally funny. You are focused not only on the next handhold but on keeping your mind tethered to reality. The reality is that you are climbing, or that you are belaying, or that you are staring off into space waiting for the next hour to arrive so that you can get credit for the 4 am hour climb. Nothing seems real except for those few moments when brain chemistry coalesces in just the right way to make things seem normal if only for a moment. Then the moment passes and you are back in the void of the early morning brain fog.

When dawn arrives the sun spawns a newfound energy in the climbing zombies. You shake off the pain – or simply ignore it – thinking that you might have just a little bit more energy to go on another climbing spree. Just one more push before the magically 10 am quitting time. And so you pop an ibuprofrine, guzzle an energy drink, choke down whatever form of carbohydrate you can muster and tie in form another climb. “On belay?” “Belay’s on.” “Climbing.” “Sure.”

This is one of those events that will take a year to forget all the little painful elements that make you think at the time – I will never do this again. Then the next year arrives, you have forgotten how difficult it was – only remembering how fun it was and what do you do but sign up again. I can’t wait.

Chris and I had a great time. It was one of the most unique climbing experiences I have ever had. It was great and I would love to do it again.

I think our goal for next year is going to be 200 routes in 24 hours.

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