The last Hueco trip report ended in Small Potatoes on North Mountain and the base of See Spot Run.
See Spot is a highball put up by Bob Murray in the early 80s and also climbed by John Sherman. They both did it without crash pads. Our crew, on the other hand, carried two Voodoo Highball 5000 pads plus a selection of medium and small pads with us; the Metolius Bouldering Shield and the evolv Ringer were constantly being used and moved around by practically everyone at the base of the line. Other teams piled their pads in too—I think in total we had 10 or 11 pads strewn along the base and several spotters on point.
Over the first few attempts, without warming up first, I fell back on the pads trying to reach the second move, which is a hand cross-over left with a foot hooked far out right. This move positions the climber from the right face of the 20-plus foot tall boulder to its prow. The move strained my leg.
Between burns, several people strolled over. I didn’t notice North Mountain being particularly busy as we walked in but it seemed like nearly everyone in the vicinity and them some walked over. Placing pads at the base of the problem acted like a magnet for anyone capable of pulling the grade. One by one they would come up, step in front of us and pull their way through the blunt edges via long pulls before topping out and then wandering off back to wherever they had been climbing before. After six or seven of these sends I started to think the line was no biggie.
The steep terrain and backward-slanting fall potential had me over gripping on the opening holds. I could feel the edges pierce into my fingertips and boot rubber setting onto slick yet positive foot chips. Midway through I jumped off. Spending the last few days climbing a mere few feet off the ground had me feel like I was suddenly solo-ing as I got further up the line. Plus, this was the first problem I’d been on at Hueco that had actual holds on it.
Finally, after yet another dude walked up and floated the line, I decided it was time. On the next go, I found myself midway through the line as “You got it Spaz!” was yelled up from the group below. I contemplated the next move, imagined the mound of pads and several outstretched arms below me, and convinced myself it was totally safe and continued up.
“It’s all jugs!” someone else yelled.
Two moves higher. I now had to reach back right and up to a chalked rail. Reach one—too short. Reach two—still too short. I thought again about the cushy landing—now 15 feet below—before poking my foot into a hole/edge straight below the right handhold and dropped my knee. Suddenly I had several inches more reach.
“It’s jugs, it’s jugs!” the chorus yelled.
‘Well, if it’s all jugs,’ I thought, ‘then there is nothing to worry about.’ High foot, reach, repeat. But then the jugs stopped. Stemmed on a slab a body length from the top I froze. ‘Well, can’t jump from here.’ Then I began to shake.
Ripples surfaced on the face at head level. Key-width nubs appeared near my feet. My hands were sweating. I quickly examined my wet, pink fingertips and thought of the chalk bag at the base of the problem. The height was reminiscent of topping out on Midnight Lightning, and the moves, as the crux was over and far below me, were now just a mental game.
Moving on instinct, I stemmed, stood up on ripples and pinched down on the small crimps. In the end, the spotters weren’t entirely misleading. I reached a jug to top out the boulder. Guess they should have just yelled ‘It’s a jug!,’ not, ‘It’s jugs!’
Photo:French climber, Alban, attempting a V11 just left of See Spot Run (Chris Van Leuven).