I just wrapped up another kick ass photography assignment shooting the 2017 Hueco Rock Rodeo bouldering competition for the American Alpine Club last week. Last year was my first year to shoot the event but it wasn’t my first Rodeo! This makes my 7th trip to this awesome bouldering destination.  The American Alpine Club once again put on a spectacular event. It’s always exciting to find out who the competitors will be, but like last year I did not know until a few days before. Then on the day of the event there are always a few surprises. This year I followed the Men’s Open Class. Everyone seamed to stay pretty close together but sometimes one would break away for a route and then reconvene with the group later. The atmosphere was relaxed and no one was taking it too serious although the efforts and hard work was definitely evident by the scorecards at the end of the day. In a competition involving individual performance it was great seeing the climbers spotting each other, giving beta, and congratulating each other as if they were a bunch of buddies on a climbing trip. There are always climbers that I may have not heard of or shot before whose performances end up standing out among the others. That climber was Keenan Takahashi. All in all this event was full of great competitors and each and every one of them were great sports and strong climbers.

**A side note to my fellow Wichita, Kansas climbers.  Get off your butts and sign up for this comp next year. I can’t believe I never run into anyone from the ICT down here.  This is one of the most nostalgic  bouldering events ever and the after party, beer, and camaraderie  is reason alone to come. Come on guys!

The Event:

So… the Friday before the event everyone starts trickling in for registration and earlier in the day the youth and recreational groups go out to compete. Vendors are putting up their tents and there is a more casual feel as people are meandering around. As I pulled up to the Hueco Rock Ranch to pick up my credentials I saw the big stack of pallets in the middle of the parking lot. This is a familiar site and  a reminder of the what’s in store Saturday night after the competition is over.  The inferno of a bonfire never disappoints and neither does the selection of DJs for the after party festivities. The AAC made another great choice by bringing back DJ Cletus Wilcox.  Him and the bonfire are synonymous with one amazing party. His music and soundtracks are the best. I digress…

So…that following Saturday morning everyone meets up at the Hueco Rock Ranch for coffee and breakfast  (pics) and final instructions.

The open class heads out first in a shuttle and the crash pads follow closely behind in a separate truck. Once the climbers are dropped off they have until 5 pm to finish up and hopefully send their hardest 6 routes as clean as they can. Sometimes the competition is so close the difference between first and second place is determined  by the amount of attempts. The open class competition was on North Mountain again.

In a sea of cameras and videographers there were a small but powerful group of men and women climbers that emerged who were competing for a podium spot in Saturday night’s winner’s ceremony. This event truly deserves all of this attention. These crushers are some of the best climbers in the United States. Any other sport performance of this caliber would be covered equally as well. The tight confines of routes like the Martini Roof and Diaphenous Sea can get a little tight with media and spectators but it is still an amazing experiencing.  Just as the Paleoindians traveled through these boulders thousands of years ago making record of their experiences so did we.  A good philosophy I honor while shooting an event like this is simply try to be a fly on a wall and have fun. I’m there to get good shots, not get in the way. We can chat it up at the after party. Now the reality is that the scene is so chill and laid back and everyone is having fun so it ends up being a pretty social event at times.

Click for:  2017 Hueco Rock Rodeo Results

Men’s Open Class: Daniel Woods, Keenan Takahashi, and Ben Hanna

Women’s Open Class: Kyra Condie, Molly Rennie, and Juliet Hammer

Mollie Rennie and Juliett Hammer

I followed the Men’s Open Class Saturday on the North Mountain and later in the day met up with the Women’s Open Class as they were working on Baby Face and Daily Dick Dose.

 The Score Cards:

Daniel Woods’s Score Card:

Tequila Sunrise (V12), Barefoot on Sacred Ground (V12), Loaded Direct (V12), The Rhino (V11), Diaphenous Sea V11, Diabolique (V13)

Daniel Woods on Tequila Sunrise V12

Daniel Woods on Barefoot on Sacred Ground V12

Daniel Woods on Loaded Direct V12

Daniel Woods on Diaphenous Sea V11

Daniel Woods on Diabolique V13

Keenan Takahashi’s Score Card:

Tequila Sunrise (V12), Barefoot on Sacred Ground (V12), Diaphanous Sea (V11), Dark Age (V11), Loaded with Power (V10) and Loaded Direct (V12).

Keenan Takahashi on Tequilla Sunrise V12

Keenan Takahashi on Barefoot on Sacred Ground V12

Keenan Takahashi on Loaded Direct V12

Ben Hanna’s Score card:

“Deans journey” (v10) “Left martini” (v10) “Loaded with power” (v10) “Loaded direct” (v12) “Diaphanous sea” (v12) “Theater of the absurd” (v10)

Ben Hanna on Left Martini V10

Ben Hanna on Loaded with Power V10

Ben Hanna on Diaphenous Sea V12

Ben Hanna on Theater of the Absurd V10

The Play by Play!

The throwdown started early in the competition Daniel Woods and Keenan Takahashi busting out Tequila Sunrise V12. I guess this is what they call their warm up.


Then the group congregated under the Martini Roof while fighting off the sun and dust. Daniel Woods put in some strong efforts on Esperanza. The rest worked on Left Martini. Some tomfoolery and bumping heads on the roof occurred too many times to count.

Daniel Woods working the tiniest holds on the most horizontal roof route Esperanza V14, Martini Roof

Nathaniel Coleman and Killian Ashley made some strong efforts on Left Martini but it was Ben Hanna that finally chalked up and smashed through it to mark it off his card.

The group then made there way up the chains to get on Barefoot on Sacred Ground V12…Keenan’s performance on this route was flawless and Daniel Wood quickly put the hammer down afterwards.

Kyra Condie

This year I followed the dudes and wasn’t able to get any bouldering shots of Kyra Condie, the Women’s champion of the Open Class. This group shot will have to suffice till next time:-)

Just a few yards back there was sendage going down at Baby Face.

Nathaniel Coleman on Baby Face V7

Killian Ashley on Baby Face V7

Molly Rennie on Baby Face V7

The ladies were quickly filling their score card with this classic Daily Dick Dose V7

Molly Rennie on Daily Dick Dose V7

Juliett Hammer on Daily Dick Dose V7

Back to Loaded with Power V10  and Loaded Direct V12

I hung back for a bit to shoot this send train of Killian Ashley, Molly Rennie, Elizabeth Ashley, Dan Urban, et al while they worked out some kneebar beta with the DEMO kneebar pads from Send Climbing

Then I met back up with Daniel Woods and Ben Hanna at Diaphenous Sea V11

For the finale Daniel Woods finished on Diabolique V13. I think he said the last time he sent this was when he was a teenager. Ben Hanna went around the corner to bag Theater of the Absurd V10

Then there was the afterparty!

*What goes on on at the afterparty stays at the afterparty:-)

DJ Cletus Wilcox

See ya next year!

For more pics: Jason Kruse Photography, @jkrusephoto, Facebook page