24 Horseshoe Hell Competition Trip Report - John Hardin

24 Horseshoe Hell Competition Trip Report – John Hardin

I don’t know why I thought 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell (24HHH) would be
a good idea for me to compete in. I’m not the strongest climber, or
have much endurance when attempting routes outside. If compared to my
climbing friends, most would wonder why they are willing to tolerate
me when going to Fosters, Obed, or other local crags here in
Tennessee. To begin, I’m slower than molasses running up hill in July,
and fear of falling always leads to a pump out, which then leads to
hang-dogging, which finally always ends with my dear loving friends
ridiculing me so harshly that I’m tempted to just cut the rope.
Unfortunately, I have always had a bad fear of heights which has
limited my climbing ability outside. If you get me in the gym
top-roping I’m usually found on 5.11s and occasionally a 5.12, outside
and on lead I’m a 5.7 climber at best. So why did I do 24HHH? I think
we have to ask why do I climb at all? I do it because I’m under the
firm belief that life is too precious to be unlived and for me
climbing is living. You should note that fear of losing ones life has
the capabilities of restoring purpose. I often see this rebooting when
reading accident reports of survivors who were lucky enough to have
played with the big cat and get away with it. I refer to it as the
view of heaven from a seat in hell theory. Beyond this, I also did
24HHH because when I catch wind of competition I have some type of
basic animal instinct of wanting to crush.

Thankfully, Josh Johann agreed to be my climbing partner after I had
signed him up and informed him that I had exercised all options and
had no one else but him. Even though he had said no to me 3 times
before this final request, I knew that Josh would agree as the guy
isn’t incapable of letting a friend down. I can only imagine what he
was thinking as I asked this favor, probably something along the lines
of “Why do I have to drive 9 hours to Arkansas just to watch you
hang-dog for 24 hours. Watching you at home is boring enough.” Josh
who is a 27 year old college junior brought along his 21 year old
roommate Tripp, a fellow hang dogger, who I affectionately describe as
being simple and pleasant as a breeze. Tripp was to be in charge of
bringing supplies to the front line so that Josh and I could keep
climbing without having to run back to our cabin every 4 hours. To be
honest that had me worried.

The drive was simple enough. Josh was cranky, and slow on the pedal,
Tripp was humorous, and to my astonishment remembered to keep
breathing. I was just wanting to get there to see Hell first hand. We
arrived around 6pm on Thursday and went straight out to the routes to
make our plan of attack. Josh and I looked at the rock determined that
is was there and then headed back to the cabin. On our way back we ran into
our Nashville friends and the people who allowed us to crash on their
cabin floor, Cody Goodwin and Jim Giordana. If you don’t know of Cody
Goodwin then allow me introduce him. The guy is an endurance freak who
loves to compete. If you are in a race with him chances are your going
to loose, so be sure to check that he is not attending any comp that
you are thinking about wanting to win. That includes, but is not
limited to: cycling, trail running, climbing, adventures races, and
watermelon eating contest. You have been warned. After greeting each
other we all returned to the cabin and then shortly after went to
dinner at the near by town of Jasper. I had a crispy burnt burger that
my knife could not cut through. We headed back to the cabin and fell
asleep in a comfy bed that was given to us because Cody’s friends had
not arrived yet and he was unsure if they would make it. FYI they made
it, but we kept the beds!!!

I awoke feeling fantastic, fresh, and free of lead climbing doubts.
After a solid breakfast of pancakes with blueberries supplied by Jim I
only had one worry and it was that I was becoming a mooch. I hate
mooches. However, I think I did the dishes to help cover this truth,
maybe not. As the race started a shotgun blast echoed through the air
Josh took off South back to the Cabin and I set pace North towards the new
area beyond The North Forty wall. After getting my climbing partner
back into action with me, we followed quickly behind Cody and Jim.
Both our strategies were to hit this new area and work our way south.
We were the first to the wall but so unorganized on which route to get
on that we quickly lost our advantage of being the first to the rock
and ended up waiting behind Cody and Jim. Strategy 2 was to let Josh
climb before me so that he could give me pointers while I climbed
second. We were moving fast, Josh took the first route and my heart
was racing with a nervous excitement. He did the max allowed per route
(2 pitches) and now it was my turn. I didn’t think, I didn’t hesitate,
I just did and confidently followed close to Josh’s speed for my 2.
The rest of the night would be the same except for one route that I
freaked on due to rain and climbing in the dark. I highly recommend
actually climbing at night before doing this comp, I hear that it can
help, although I would not know. I hit my low around 3am and could see
that Josh was worried that I was going to slip up. The truth of the
matter was that I was fine and had plenty of gas left in the tank. Our
pace had slowed significantly but we were still moving much faster
than the majority around us. After a day of arduous toil, and
excoriating the pads on my hands I was able to say I fought the good
fight. When finished I think I was close to 68 pitches, which was
just enough to win me third place at 24HHH in the beginners class! Of
course Cody and Jim took home 1st in mens intermediate and Josh was
just happy he didn’t have to watch me freak out. Fear be damned for Team Sasquatch know not of you.

I spent the rest of the night in a state of bliss. I drank, I danced
and then I drank some more. We laughed and talked about our
experiences of the comp. I watched a community of great climbers
celebrate the finishing of a hellish feat into the night. I went to
bed thinking of next years win!