And today in totally ridiculous and impressive feats, we are super proud to announce that Summit climbers Tanner Merkle and Dalan Faulkner took first place in Men's Elite at this year's 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell competition, which took place this weekend at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. If the name doesn't already give it away, it's a 24 hour climbing competition, where you have from 10 am on Friday morning til 10 am Saturday to climb as much. as. you. possibly. can. If you wanna do well, you can't sleep, but instead must become a climbing machine, programmed to crush, and crush only.
Obviously Dalan and Tanner got that memo, and climbed 174 routes each in that time - about 45 of which were 5.12. Most of us would be happy to just do ONE friggin' 5.12 in a 24 hour period — but like, 45?! Jeebus. I sat down with Dalan a few days after the competition (to allow his brain to start functioning again) and asked him about his experience! Read about it here so you're never tempted to actually attempt this sh#* in person. *
*Disclaimer: Horseshoe Hell is actually an incredible amount of fun, regardless of whether or not you win the whole thing.
What was y'all's secret this year? (This was Dalan's third Horseshoe Hell, and Tanner's third, and their third time completing it together.)
Honestly - you don’t have to be all that good of a rock climber to win - you really just have to be prepared. We brought a comical amount of food this year — like, a full pizza from Papa John's, two burrito bowls from Chipotle, a gallon of sweet potatoes that we chopped up and seasoned with cayenne pepper, and then four sandwiches — and it worked amazing. Any time we started to cramp or get a little hypoglycemic, we’d just eat a slice of pizza and feel amazing again for another hour. I remember some friends looked at us just like, incredulously and were like, "You guys brought a pizza?" And we were like, "Yeah we did!" I honestly think that was why we were able to climb the whole time without stopping.
We started the competition at the Ren & Stimpy area, because it's a lot of really short 12s we knew we could bust out quickly. So our plan was to climb that whole area - the second-place team and the third-place team actually started there, too! The team that got third place - they’re Petzl athletes, like freaking strong. They've both climbed V14 and 5.14d. They were the people we were scared of! When we saw them skip out on doing the 12d we thought, "Oh wow, we actually might have a really good shot right now." Then we saw the second place team fall on a 12b and we were like, "Oh … oh yeah!" The second-place team just went for full on strategy, and the third place team had no strategy, and was all strength. We were kind of a combination of the two and it worked out really well.
Ever have any doubts?
Honestly, at the end of the competition we thought that we had lost. We thought we were gonna get fifth place again for like, the third year in a row. Just through word of mouth, people are like, "Oh man, did you see that one team? They have been killing it!" in reference to another team and we thought we were getting crushed. We ended the competition at the Roman Wall area on the East side, and that’s where the fourth place and the second and fifth place teams were ending too and they were climbing so fast. They looked like they had just started the comp — meanwhile Tanner and I are like, hallucinating and couldn’t move our arms. We were pathetic. But it turns out we looked like so much sh#% because we had been climbing super hard through the night, while they had been taking it easy. Once we finished and gone back to the campsite, someone nudged us over and was like, "So it looks like y'all have won," according to the Horseshoe app. We were terrified for the next four or five hours before the awards ceremony, thinking there might have been a mistake.
How did it feel to win?
It took way too long to really settle in. I remember one time, Prater came up to us and he was like, "Guys, try to look a little excited ... y’all won." We were like still so out of it – we were like, "No we’re excited, we promise, we just aren’t all here yet." And then we were too tired to really go to the after-party. I think we went to bed at 10 o'clock that night.
How did you guys train?
Well, I did the 12 hours of Summit Suffering comp, which gave me a nice boost of confidence, to know that I could suffer. (Dalan and his partner Sean won our 12HSS comp, as well!) . That means that I am good at suffering, and this whole competition is about suffering. Also, Tanner and I probably then logged about 1000 pitches at Summit Dallas, on toprope and in the lead cave. Over a lot of weeks, we would go in twice a week, and do the whole lead cave, and like half the top rope area.
Ultimately for me, Horseshoe Hell is less about training, though and more just about preparation. And really, it's all about the food.
Why do you do 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell?
I am one of those rare humans that kind of likes to suffer. There are not many of us, but we’re stupid. I knew the first year when I competed with Canon that it was for me when I was just trying it out, and afterwards I was like, "Well, that was the most fun I have ever had." And then I did it the second year with Tanner, and we did even better. Then Tanner got the bug! For the past two years, we have always come home knowing that we could have done better. This year, it wasn't like we were trying to win — we just we wanted to go home knowing that we climbed exactly how well we thought we could have. And this year we absolutely did.
So .... think you're gonna do it again?
(*laughs and pauses*)
I really don’t know if I’ll do it again.
I dunno, ask me in year. Everyone says that they’ll never do it again — but then sign up comes around and they’re like, "Oh ok, it was so much fun last time ... "
Finally, tell me your favorite stories from the weekend!
This was actually my highlight of the whole event, or one of them. We were on the climb Petrified at the North 40 - it's a 12a that has like, four V4 moves off the ground and then it's like, 5,6 to the top. It’s a super gimme, so that was the last 12a we were gonna do during the competition, and we did it at hour 13 in the dark. The route starts on this 4-foot rock stack and it’s really sketchy. I did it twice so then it's Tanner’s turn and there was this drunk spectator watching us from a distance. Now Tanner this whole comp had been bitching about his foot pain, because he was wearing Mythos and they hurt his feet so bad. So he’s pissed off, and he didn’t want to toe in on this small little edge to make the crux moves, so he just campuses it. Of course we didn’t stick clip it, because we’re stupid, and he’s like ten-feet off the deck ... if he had fallen he could have definitely broken his ankle. But for Taner it's just like, "Finally I get to use my insane arm muscles, and campus this 12a!" So this drunk spectator sees this and probably sh#% his pants. He fell over. It was so amazing. We heard him run around the corner and he was screaming, "GUYS, GUYS I JUST SAW CRAZY THINGS!" This poor guy was all alone in the dark, and stumbled upon us and saw this freak amount of strength out of nowhere — everyone else is running laps of 5.6 and Tanner is campusing 5.12.
Then probably my next favorite memory was at maybe hour 22 — and we’re on the East Side, and there’s this pillar climb over there. It’s a 25-foot pillar, and there are climbs on either arete. And there are climbs on it that share a bolt - so there were two quickdraws in it as we and the team next to us were climbing on it. Tanner is already starting to get super delirious and super pissed off. We're making fun of him so much. So he gets to the second bolt, where there are two clips in, and he clips them both and is like, "Take." And I’m like, "What?" And says again he's like, "Take, Dalan!" So we're like, "Tanner ... you’re ten feet off the ground ..." Sohe looks up and is like, Oh, what the hell!" We had quite a few spectators and volunteers around us and they were like laughing so hard, they had never seen anything like that. He was dead serious. He was ten feet into a twenty-five foot climb and he thought he was done.