Random jumbled letters and numbers? Or world-famous rock climbing comp? Maybe a little of both?
You may recognize “24HHH” from a tattoo on a trad daddy, or heard about it from your climbing friends, or maybe you still have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me break it down for you - turns out 24HHH actually stands for 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, an endurance lead and trad rock climbing competition and festival, a full weekend of climbing camaraderie and sleepless sending. Our very own 12 Hours of Summit Suffering competition is inspired by, and is a nod to honor the annual 24 hour comp that takes place on a dude ranch in the small town of Jasper. Jasper is a hidden gem tucked away in the northwest corner of Arkansas, right outside of the Ozark National Forest and just a hop and a skip away from the Buffalo River. When you drive out to Jasper, you are truly OUT THERE. No cell phone service (good luck if you get lost), rolling hills, farmland everywhere, everything is green, just as it should be.
After coasting through a winding, and potentially (definitely) confusing drive down the back roads of Arkansas, you finally arrive at a small sign posted to a tree stating “Horseshoe Canyon Ranch”. And this is where the adventure begins. One bumpy downhill eternity later (watch out for your axles), you arrive at the ranch and it is BEAUTIFUL, a truly picturesque landscape covered with green hills, trees, goats, and horses. If this sounds like a fairy tale to you, that’s because it IS. In addition to incredible 360 views, it also has some of THE best climbing, with beautiful sandstone gracing about 420 routes throughout the ranch. It’s got trad, it’s got sport, it’s got boulders. Not only does it have a ton of climbing, but it has a wide range of grades all right next to each other - so you can be chilling on a cool 5.9 while your buddies are on the route next to you projecting a 5.12. A little something for everyone - one of the reasons why HCR draws such a big crowd, and ESPECIALLY for Horseshoe Hell.
Okay enough backstory already, right?? So what IS Horseshoe Hell??
Who: teams of 2, anybody and everybody
What: a 24-hour lead/trad climbing comp
When: the last full weekend in September
Where: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, in Jasper, AR
WHY??: countless reasons - climbing, camaraderie, camping, not to mention the goats...
Our very own Sidney Trujillo, Director of Events and Marketing, and a regular attendee of Hell, explains her “why” -
“After going the first year, I was hooked. I want to go every year. One of the reasons it’s so fun is because there are SO many familiar faces (#summitsquad), but there’s the sense of being in a “climbing world” - camping right next to each other, everyone’s a climber, everyone’s hanging out, so it’s easy to make friends and relate to everyone.”
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s talk about Hell.
Sidney describes it in one word - “wild”, she says as her eyes light up and with a smile spreads across her face.
Another familiar face who can be caught at 24HHH every year is Bryan Prater, Director of Operations for our Oklahoma gyms. You can catch him competing in cut-off jean shorts, crushing, and if you know him, being the life of the party. How does he describe the comp?
“Horseshoe Hell is the most messed up climbing competition you will ever do, your body will hate you, your friends will question your sanity, and your fingers will hurt so bad the simple act of running your fingers through your hair will be excruciating.”
The day begins when everyone gathers at the trading post to meet for sharing of the rules, an oath and roll call. Sounds official until you realize everyone is dressed up.. And I mean DRESSED UP. Everything from power ranger costumes, to Barack Obama masks, to lederhosen, to the tackiest thrift store items to you can find. It runs the gamut. If you didn’t dress up, no worries, there’s a “haircut” station where they can help spruce up your look - creating fanciful mullets or receding hairlines, or maybe just buzzing a “24” onto the side of your head.. or chest hair. Once the rules have been read, its go-time. Off with a *literal* bang via a shot-gun start, it’s finally time to climb.
Being a seasoned veteran, Bryan walks us through a typical weekend in the life of a competitor. “When you first arrive, you pull into the canyon and you just see a sea of tents and people walking around having a good time (get there early if you want a good camping spot!) The first days are spent drinking beer, catching up with teams you saw the year before, sharing climbing stories and talking about your upcoming trips, then drinking some beer talking with the different vendors about their cool gear and drinking some more beer, then making dinner. Then try to hydrate cause you made the mistake of drinking all that beer. Once the comps over you'll lay down in your hammock and probably have the most uncomfortably-gross and most-deserving nap you'll ever take. If you get the opportunity to shower before your nap, DO THAT, but chances are the showers are gonna be too full to get a spot in. After the comp is over, the next day or two are going to be spent sharing your horrible experience with total strangers over a few beers. And then there's the after party. I can't talk about the after party... it’s something you just have to experience yourself.”
It’s called “twenty four” hours of hell right? So are competitors really climbing for 24 hours?? The short answer is.. Yeah, kinda! The premise is, the more routes you climb, the more points you get, with the goal being to climb at least one route per hour, in a twenty four hour period. David Michener, GM of our Plano gym (another annual competitor and friendly familiar face!) explains, “some teams don't climb for 24 hours. Some stop, or try to at least once every hour, but every time my partner and I have competed we climb the entire time. Buuuut since you have a partner you are really only climbing 12 hours and belaying for 12 hours. Plus some time walking from crag to crag.”
Bryan breaks down his beta - “it’s really important to keep eating throughout the comp. If you wait until you get hungry, you'll start to crash. Just keep shoving stuff your face. Since you have to lead every route my usual advice is to climb 4 routes back to back then have your partner climb 4 routes back to back, that way you can milk your rests. But you can always find your own beta that works best for your team.”
Whether you came to climb and compete, or just to spectate and chill, you definitely came for a good time.