We drove by the road that leads to Hueco Tanks State Park and simply waved it off as being surely full... Then, since it was only an 8 mile drive, we turned around and decided to check it out, just in case. It was Sunday 4 pm. Maybe we would be lucky. We had tried to go there 3 years ago in January, but we got turned around, the north mountain being at full capacity despite the melting snow and freezing temperatures. The climbers, mostly visitors from outside on climbing trips for the Holidays, were trying to make the best of the bone-freezing drizzle. We turned around, knowing we would have our turn. And this year we got it!
Hueco Tanks is described by Mountain Project as *the best bouldering spot in the world*. There are 70 permits delivered each day for North Mountain and 60 are reserved at least 6 months in advance. You have to show up at the gate of the park early to try your luck at the other 10. Unless you are staying at the campground in the park, then you have first dibs at these permits. If you get there and the park is full, your name is added on a waiting list and if reserved permits are not claimed by 10:30 or so, then they start giving them to the climbers waiting. Quite the process... The other 3 areas of the park are accessible with a guide only and do not count in the 70 daily permits. There are volunteer guides and professional guides that can take you in these areas.
Hueco is also an historic site that is *very* well protected. You have to be ready to jump through a few hoops to climb here (watch a video before entering the park and listen to a litany of rules - repeated to you twice, once by the ranger at the entrance and then by the one at the interpretation center). But then, you’re in Hueco. And if you’re a climber, you have a big silly grin on your face. Because you made it to Hueco! You’ve seen videos of your favorite climbers tackling crazy hard problems here. And here you are. We actually got to watch Alex Puccio climb while we were here! What a treat!
We were lucky enough to hit it off with a local that had climbed here since she was a kid. She came to Mara and I when she saw her climbing and told her she started climbing right here when she was her age since her mom was an environmental scientist who spent big chunks of time here. She guided Mara and I through some amazing problems (some that she had created herself!). It made the experience even greater.
Huecos are these big round holes where water collects and one of the reason why this site was a sacred site for native people (the main reason why it is so well protected). There are many petroglyphs to be seen in the park and people still find artefacts.