terrain May/June 2021
It's been called the Burning Man of climbing competitions, an emotional rollercoaster of elation and exhaustion, pleasure and suffering - and that's just the wild parties that punctuate the event. At its heart, 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is a grueling competition where 450 climbers from around the world see who can top the most routes in one day. (For the less masochistic, there's also a 12-hour option.) The contest is a team format: one person belays while the other lead climbs. Points are awarded for each line cleaned - no falls and no leaning on the rope - with categories for all skill levels. Also, the scoring is based on the honor system. "Anyone could cheat anytime they wanted," said director/founder Andy Chasteen. "But you're only cheating yourself. Many people are competing just to finish, which is an accomplishment in and of itself." The sandstone cliff walls at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch feature nearly 420 routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.14. Chasteen and friends dreamed up the event while climbing there in the mid-2000s. "We stumbled on the idea one day while we were doing how we do, acting like goofy idiots," Chasteen joked. "There are so many routes, and they're in such close proximity, that we had the idea to invite some friends out and see how many we could climb in 24 hours." That idea has snowballed into a massive, quirky, inclusive event that attracts a couple thousand "Hellions" ("Lions" for short) who return year after year to compete or to simply spend a week letting their freak flags fly. "The fellowship is very strong. You're a Lion the second you set foot on the property for the event," said Chasteen. "I often argue that it's more fun to come and hang out rather than compete. A lot of people make this their annual vacation. These people have done an insanely good job at keeping the event pure." The atmosphere at 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is rock concert meets outdoor expo: music, food, beer, costumes, yard games, vendors like Patagonia and Black Diamond. Activities include a climbing film screening and a bouldering rave in the woods where hundreds of people climb, dance, and party to the wee hours of the morning. Have a wild hair? You can even get a free haircut or tattoo on site, the crazier the better. "One of the options is a tattoo of my face, which is really weird," said Chasteen. "There's probably 20 or so out there running around in the world right now. One of those gets you free entry into the event for life."
24 hours of horseshoe hell
jasper, ark. september 22-26, 2021
Photos by Lucas Marshall.Previous Page