Pick up any publication pertaining to the sport of rock climbing, and chances are, you will see a smattering of descriptive chronicles highlighting the travels and adventures of the prolific scribe Abbey Smith. A climber and writer for over 10 years, Abbey travels extensively, financing her jet set lifestyle though her writing, allowing her more opportunities to pursue her love of adventure. Abbey has reported on a myriad of topics. From the exclusive hobby of vintage motor racing, to sassy, healthy-savvy posts on BeThree.com, to being on the editorial staff of the independent green publication elephant journal, a quarterly magazine devoted to living the "mindful life" through conscious consumerism, sustainability, eco-fashion and non new-aged spirituality.
Abbey's energy for writing is ravenous. When she speaks of it, her article ideas roll out of mouth in constant barrage without commas, periods, or other punctuation, but when placed in front of a computer, the word stream subsides into descriptive prose reminiscent of Joanne Harris. Dead Point Magazine is privileged to have her as a contributing blogger.
Time seems to get absorbed by the remote desert expanses of Hueco Tanks. My 10-day road trip managed to stretch on four weeks unexpectedly. With untroubled peacefulness, warm sunshine, world-class bouldering, good friends and ripe avocados — it’s my whole world complete. Besides the arctic storm that caused rolling blackouts, busted water pipes and societal distress, the conditions were ideal and I had many memorable experiences. Here are highlights of the month:
I’m a firm believer that dressing your best improves your performance. One sunny Sunday, Chris Dye sported his three-piece suit, Ty Foose put on his casual business attire, and Jason wore his white Indian dress shirt for the exciting highball Injury Man on East Mountain. At 35 feet with a backslapping boulder after the crux, it requires a dozen pads, trusted spotters, and group motivation. Fortunately the difficult moves have a safe and short fall to the ground, but you’re committed once you press the left gaston passed your shoulder and grab the incut crimp on the right side of the scoop. One more long reach and you’re secure on a massive rail, with a boulder that follows closely behind to the top. There’s still 20 more feet of climbing on vertical face holds, where you just have to forget about the void below. That day cheers echoed through the park as eight people climbed to the top wearing their Sunday’s best.
It’s Texas tradition to shoot guns and then feast on a hearty steak for dinner. For Hannah Robertson’s 19th birthday, her parents Chris and Jamie loaned their heavy artillery to a group of Aussies, Corey Dawn, Jason and I so we could all act like gun slinging cowboys in the Wild West. The ammunition ran out as the sunset, so we continued along the dusty back roads to the famous Cattleman’s Restaurant. Two days before Valentine’s Day, we loitered for 2.5 hours, but the filet mignon was worth the wait.
On Super Bowl Sunday, over 30 climbers forfeited watching football to help stack straw bales for the structural support of Heather and Glen Johnson’s new house. We received a tutorial from an expert builder and then split into teams to tackle a different corner of the house. They kept the crew well fed with chili for lunch and grilled pork butt for dinner, and energized with beer and margaritas. By the end of the day, the basic framework was complete with tight rows of bales and ready for the chicken wire wrap and stucco finish. It was a privilege to help raise the foundation of our friend’s home, and help build the future of Hueco Tanks.
Typically I have projects in Hueco that I obsess about and return to day-after-day in hopes to send by the time I leave. Rather than trying the same set of moves over-and-over again, this year I cleaned up old projects and climbed as many new problems of all grades as possible. First I faced my old nemesis — 1969 on West Mountain. The shallow, slopey dishes on a slight overhang require continuous full-body tension and power generated from a right heel hook. A year break had relinquished the mental barrier I had created from falling off the end repeatedly, and I was finally able to put this project to rest on the second day.
Last season I made the Bathtub my fitness test. It’s like a sprint race with 25 sustained moves on solid stone, skin friendly slopers, few open-handed crimps and a tall top out. I failed the endurance run last year and I had to get this monkey off my back. I’m pretty bad at remembering beta on long problems, but the subtleties were still engrained in my memory and I was shocked to link it in two parts on the first day. Then it became mental. The fluctuating weather was menacing. It can’t be too cold, or my hands go numb, and it can’t be too hot because I’m unable to stop to chalk for 20 moves. One day, after the cold spell, I fell five times in the knee bar reaching for the blocky jug where I can relax for the first time. Then I was angry. Two days later, with tender scabs on my right knee and left ankle, I returned to send on my third try. Satisfied and carefree, I left Hueco Tanks on February 15 to spend a few weeks at home in Colorado.