The Circles of Hell
- 1 Before Arrival (Week before Hell)
- 2 Night Before the 12 (Wednesday Night)
- 3 Morning of the 12 (Thursday Morning)
- 4 Climbing the 12 (Thursday)
- 5 Night of the 12 and before the 24 (Thursday Night)
- 6 Morning of the 24 (Friday Morning)
- 7 Climbing the 24 (Friday Morning to Saturday Morning)
- 8 Changing lines
- 9 Immediately after the 24 (Saturday Morning)
- 10 Dinner/Awards/Party (Saturday Night)
- 11 Last Breakfast (Sunday Morning)
- 12 Disclaimer
- 13 Table of Contents
Before Arrival (Week before Hell)
Show Up Early
Best beta ever, especially for first-timers: take the entire week off and show up as early as possible. Every year after my first one I’ve arrived on the Saturday or Sunday before the competition starts. You can acclimate and get used to the lifestyle. You can help the vendors set up their tents. You can climb routes and talk strategy with your partner. You can give Barry a massage. Work with the community!
It’s worth mentioning that science says that by avoiding orgasm for 5-7 days causes a doubling of testosterone. This will maximize endurance, aggression, and athletic ability. Just saying. It’s worked wonders for the last few years, despite the annoyance. (It works for ladies, too…)
But really, walk through the different walls and explore the different areas. Check out some of your favorite climbs and test out some of the harder ones you think you might get on. Don’t go for endurance training, but it’s nice to stretch out each day and get used to the rock beforehand. Decide here where you’re going to place your stash. Learn where the sun will be at different times of day and get used to the altitude. Basically, acclimate.
Go climb/test some of the traditional routes and decide what you want to get on. Decide on what protection to bring during this period, and only bring that during the comp. You don’t need a full rack, and you can always learn what to take beforehand!
Go visit the [Ozark Cafe] in Jasper, because it’s a local landmark and tastes damn good. Get the Chicken Crispers and don’t laugh until you try them; get the curly fries. You’ll understand. Oh, and if you can eat a double-patty Excalaburger, you’ll earn eternal respect from me.
Also, go ask the staff for the carabiners for the competition. They look like this:
The point is that every climb 5.10 and under gets a pair of non-locking carabiners at the top. Someone has to go place them, so what the staff and volunteers and climbers do is pre-place pairs of them on the first bolt of each route. If you want to be a huge help to the staff and volunteers, go up with them when they place them and help them out. I do this during every year and this year we helped place roughly of them 150 up at the North Forty. Be that guy. Isn’t it nice to get to the top of a route and find that you don’t have to clean it? Yeah, that happens because of THIS.
Start organizing your gear and purchase your required food supplies. Ensure you have everything. Lay it on the ground and take sexy photos of it all for your Instagram/snapchat/masturbation/Facebook later. No you don’t need to be in those photos, but photos of you being sexy surrounded by 24HHH preparation gear is pretty awesome. You’re going to want to ensure you have all of your climbing gear, food, liquids, and other essentials ready before Wednesday night (for 12 or 36) or Thursday night (for the 24). You don’t want to be up late organizing gear and losing sleep because you’re packing your bag and killing yourself.
Lastly, DRINK FUCKING LIQUIDS. If you aren’t peeing every 30 minutes and it’s not coming out clear each time, you’re not drinking enough liquids. We were averaging up to 2 gallons each, each day leading up to the competition.
Night Before the 12 (Wednesday Night)
So you’re doing the 12 or 36. That’s awesome! I’ll see you here at the packet pickup! It happens sometime in the afternoon/evening and is usually really chill. The crowd is small but people have a lot of fun and talk. Long-time hell friends re-meet. I don’t remember, but you might even be able to get a free cup of beer. Orgies spontaneously occur. Okay, maybe not that last one.
The packet/swag pickup happens at a table sitting outside the trading post in the middle of the canyon. Basically, you’re going to receive your t-shirt for the year, and a bunch of other random swag. One year we got small backpacks. This year we got little go-bags which are really expensive at REI. In the last few years we’ve also received carabiners with the 24HHH logo on them. Special!
You’ll also receive your folding plate and camping spork and metal 24HHH camping cup. Remember that sustainability initiative I mentioned earlier? Yeah, you’re going to use them! There’s the spaghetti dinner, the hotdog dinner, and the pancake breakfast. They don’t give you anything to eat this with, so if you show up to receive food and drink ever and you didn’t bring your gear, you’re fucked. Also, they love to hand out beer at this thing, so you’ll need that metal cup. This year they served 27 kegs of local beer. Let that sink in.
If you’re signed up for the 24 too, you should pick up your 24 swag as well. Yes, if you do both competitions (12 and 24 == 36!!), you get double the swag!
If you’re climbing the 12 or 36, take your stashes up to the stash locations you’ve picked out (you scouted them earlier, right?). That way, it's there before the competition starts. Especially for the 36, you’re not going to enjoy lugging up your stash for the 24 AFTER the 12, right? Take it all up there once for both comps.
After packet pickup you need to be sleeping. Eat a hearty dinner and crash as early as you can, you’re going to need it. If you haven’t already packed your gear, then you made a huge tactical/logistical mistake. Good luck!
Morning of the 12 (Thursday Morning)
Eat and Prepare
This competition starts at 7:30 now. You need to be present at 6:30 for roll-call. If you couldn’t arrive before Wednesday morning, you are able to pick up your packets and sign-in during this time as well. If you aren’t present for roll-call, your score isn’t counted and you are disqualified. All of this occurs, for the 12, at the cement pavilion up above the western campground and behind the bathrooms. If you end up at the trading post, there will be someone there who can point you in the correct direction.
You should arrive in-costume, wearing your harness, draws clipped to you, roped tied, and be taping your fingers during roll call. Also, enjoy the names of the teams, the more humorous the better!
Some people take their rope/shoes/packs of food up to the wall before the competition starts and leave it at the place they’re going to start. This means that when the competition starts, they immediately run up to the wall without having to carry everything on their back simultaneously.
Personally, I’ve always just carried my pack up for the 12. Normally it’s fairly light and there aren’t huge crowds during the 12, so you can stroll up and be just fine. Plus, going up to the walls at 6 AM and scouting routes in the dark is a total pain in the ass, since sunrise is at 7:30 AM.
Climbing the 12 (Thursday)
So, it’s started and you’re now reading the guide. Good, here’s now to win: read this in advance next time.
But really, climbing the 12 is really quite enjoyable. It’s pure climbing at its purest, and it lasts from roughly sunrise to sunset. Go up, go down, repeat. Don’t ever stop and don’t ever give up and you’ll have a blast! Eat, drink, be merry.
Only the west side is open, so don’t bother crossing the canyon. This is the reason the meetup for the 12-hour is at the pavilion… because it’s right in the middle of the west side of the canyon’s crags.
It’s worth mentioning that you might be doing the 12 in an effort to qualify for the 24 next year. I believe, unless the rules change, that means you need 60 routes each. The first year I did more than 100 routes in the 24, I never even left the North Forty. That means you can easily just go to the areas with the highest concentration of climbing and easily attain you 60 routes. This is my suggestion if you’re trying for 60.
Relax, but go hard
During the 12, for some reason it always feels like the walls are empty and everything is open with no lines. Halleluiah! Just climb and make a good time and you’ll be fine. Without any special tricks, 60 each is extremely easy and you’ll be fine. For this one, you can even get away with tying a new knot each time and wasting tons of time sitting around joking and staring at the opposite sex. But it’s still a race, so please do these things so I look that much better at the end, comparatively.
For fake bonus points and mad respect, do 120 routes each, which is an average of 10-per hour each hour for the entire time. It’s worth mentioning that as of the time of this writing, there is no bonus points for climbing each of the hours of the 12, so if you’re doing the 36 I’d advise achieving your goal quick and painlessly, and then quitting early to have longer to rest before the 24 starts. Two years ago I did 64 routes in the first 4 hours, and quit. It made the last 8 hours of the 12 quite fun! And then this year we did 120 routes in the first 9 hours, then quit… until we walked past two more open 5.7’s which we decided to knock off opportunistically for a total of 124 each. If we did it, you can do it. And I think the hardest we did in the 12 was a 5.10a? Also, if you do about 120 tall routes or 130 shorter routes, that’s roughly one vertical mile. Almost no one ever does a vertical mile in the 12. Be a badass and just do it. Aim high, shoot higher!
If you’re doing the 36, my deepest advice is to avoid doing too much damage to the skin on your hands in the 12. You’ll need every last ounce for the 24! Pull out all of the tricks you can. Tape, gloves, superglue, light touching, hand jams… Conserve! It’ll hurt either way, but you’ll be much better off like this. My partner ended up trashing his hands in the 12 as bad as mine ended up at the end of the 36. This is one reason we stopped when we did.
For advanced techniques on the fastest ways to climb possible, see what I write below about the 24-hour competition. I’d rather put it there since it’s the most likely place everyone will be reading. I apologize for that minor inconvenience for the people only doing 12-hours. You still kick ass!
Night of the 12 and before the 24 (Thursday Night)
TLDR; Okay, so here’s the simplest advice you can take to win in the 24: Check in, get your swag, stash your shit if you haven’t yet, GTFO and sleep. But really, don’t leave because you miss all of the fun!
You’re going to want to attend the festivities the day before the 24. There’s the free haircuts! If you show up to hell, and don’t get a haircut, you’re a total sellout. Grow your mane for a few months and let them have creative license! It’s like roulette, only better! The best haircut which is made at the competition wins a prize. This year a dude with a sweater’s worth of chest and back hair won because they styled it well. One year my partner won because he had a handprint on his head. Let them go wild, it’s part of the fun! (I’ve done it multiple years as well!)
You’re going to want to get your swag, your t-shirt, etc. Check out what the vendors have and try on some shoes. Do some demos for gear! There’s music and beer and people and you’ll make friends!
After the orientation and indoctrination to the psyche of hell sets in, up at the pavilion there’s a hotdog roast for everyone, including the people finishing the 12! They hand out free beer! Bring your plate/cup/whatever you get in your swag to eat/drink with. Congratulate the 12-ers. Or, make fun of them. Or, notice how dead they are and you’re going to be doing twice as much tomorrow. You’re so fucked.
After the hotdog roast, in the recent years we’ve had a showing of Reel Rock. It usually starts after the 12 has decidedly completed, and lasts a few hours. Each year I think to myself “is this worth the lost sleep?”, but of course it is. It’s Reel Rock. And except for then they have stupid videos about people being morons in boats, and causing my partner to sing their anthem the entire comp, it’s usually really good. Oh, and I think one year they did some sort of segment on 24HHH, then showed it at the next 24HHH, but the riots which ensued and general disgrace with which 24HHH was portrayed are not to be mentioned further. (But it was kind of cool hearing the Reel Rock announcer talking about 24HHH.)
Morning of the 24 (Friday Morning)
Sleep in! I promise, you can arrive at 9:55 and everything will be fine! Just relax!
Please follow the above advice if you don’t mind making my competition easier. Thanks! But really, each year I keep hoping I can sleep in and savor a few extra hours of sleep, but invariably I end up waking up at 7:30 in the morning and losing a ton of extra sleep. Since I stayed in a nearby town, this year once we woke up at 7:30 and grabbed our gear, we had a wonderful 30-minute breakfast at the Ozark Café in Jasper. Ozark French Toast with Bacon…. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. I said GRABBED our gear, it should already be ready-to-go with ZERO setup time before you even wake up. Be prepared to start the moment the alarm hits. Oh, and good fucking luck sleeping the night before the competition. I sleep like a baby each year after the 12, but I can’t sleep before the 12 starts and I certainly didn’t sleep before the 24 during the years before the 12 existed.
Get up and cry
But you will want to wake up early. You need to go stash your stash if you haven’t already. You definitely need to take your bags and rope up to the wall where you plan on starting. You need to show up to the roll-call at 9:00 AM. For people who didn’t arrive until after packet-pickup ended on Thursday night, you can pick up your swag and sign-in at this point (8:45!). Don’t skip over this paragraph lightly. Remember to take your gear up to the wall early, so when the competition starts, you can just lazily walk up with your partner and start (without having to lug it up in a rush and get tired). If you’re taking your gear up to the wall from the lodge, it takes about 30-45 minutes to do it and return, relaxed (we usually go up around 8:15 to 8:25). Don’t rush before the competition even starts!
Apprehension and stoke
These last few hours always feel like the calm before the storm. Every year there’s a huge sense of apprehension about what is coming, and I even know what’s coming! Some years when it starts, I think to myself “oh fuck me” as I’m running to the wall. This year I was all business, and after having crushed the 12, I was ready for what was next. This year, taking the 12 into account, we talked about how we felt a little decrepit and worn around the edges, but within the first 30 minutes we felt relaxed and warmed up and continued the crushing-streak.
Back to what you’re reading this for: If you aren’t there for roll-call, you are disqualified. You don’t start AT THE WALL at 10:00, you start AT THE TRADING POST. You must be present for the 9:00 AM roll-call and 9:30 AM climbers’ creed. Jeremy Collins, the one and only master badass, gives a beautiful speech each year (occasionally rapping, too). Pay attention to this man’s immortal words, for they might be the last inspirational words you ever hear. After the speech, there’s a lull and then the shotgun goes off. That’s the signal to sprint your ass off to the climbing area. Big-penis-points if you can get to the wall by 10:05; double-big-penis-points for girls (they like the penis, usually).
During the roll-call, you should be taping your fingers. You should be paying attention for when your team gets called. You should stare at all of the nearly-naked people of the attractive sex; maybe, take pictures of/with them (creepy ones).
Just remember, when you hear the shotgun, GO!
Climbing the 24 (Friday Morning to Saturday Morning)
Okay, so it started. You need to climb as much and as hard as you ever have in your entire life. If you’ve done this competition before, you need to do it even harder this time. One would think this is obvious.
It just went to shit
Whatever plans or strategies you had about where to start and what walls to climb and in what order you were going to do them just went out the window. It took me a few years to come to this realization, but no amount of strategy will really prepare you for the shit-show which occurs the moment the shotgun blast hits.
You need to run up to where you left your rope/bags. You need to clip into your rope (you’re still tying a knot?) and start climbing. Somewhere in there you might put some climbing shoes on. Your partner can do that while you do the first two pitches in your approach shoes. Who says they need to belay before you’re clipped? (Wait, you’re clipping the first bolt? [Oh god, we’ve got some work to do on you.]) After you switch and your partner is doing their two laps, you can put yours on. But, you say, what about all of the other stuff going on?
The main system
Here’s how it works. You have 30-35m of rope attached to a carabiner attached to you. The carabiner, by design, can’t cross-load so falling on it is a non-issue. The carabiner also can’t flow backward through the quickdraws either. Every time you finish a pitch, your partner unclips the belay device and starts pulling slack. You start climbing immediately. Yes, immediately. Yes, their rope is still there, so what? Once they pull all of the rope, they put you on belay when you are mid-route. After you do two laps, placing the quickdraws the first time and then re-clipping them the second time, you two switch. Wait, did I say draws plural? You’re clipping too much. See earlier in the guide where I discussed the time/math on clipping. When it comes to which bolt to clip, when you get halfway up or to whatever feels like a crux, toss a draw on. I’m not saying to avoid clipping when it’s necessary, just to avoid clipping when it’s actually unnecessary. For example, some of the climbs on the back of the Kindergarten Boulder were annoying to throw a quick0draw onto, and the hard 10’s we generally clipped every bolt except the first. Either way, the more you clip, the harder/slower it is to clean.
Once you finish your two laps, when you hit the ground, while your partner is taking off the belay, you’re simultaneously clipping the rope onto their harness for them. Once the belay is off, you start pulling the rope and they start climbing. You should be going in sets of 4 whenever possible, meaning whoever starts with the 6 draws places them, and the partner cleans and replaces on the next route and you get them back after 4 routes. Done like this, you never need to exchange gear, ever. Yes, that means you’re taking turns climbing 4-pitches at a time, each. Suck it up, it might suck to do that 4th, but then you get a nice long rest which should bring you back to full. If you’re new to hell, you should be climbing easy stuff anyway and 4 routes of easy stuff should never test your strength or endurance. You did train, didn’t you?
So let’s recap: the only part of this entire routing where you aren’t doing something simultaneously and someone isn’t climbing is while the belayer is removing the belay. Yes, that’s it. Remember earlier when I said use an ATC? This is why. This is the single-point-of slowdown which cannot be optimized in any possible way. If you can make removing the belay faster, your team speeds up; removing the rope from an ATC is the fastest method I’ve found and I’ve tried many devices. In theory, the pair of you should only be on the ground together for 5 total seconds or less between pitches.
That switch, where one of you finishes climbing and it’s the partner’s turn: it’s just as fast as if you’re repeating the route. You’re unclipping and clipping into their harness for them while they remove the belay. You switch who pulls the rope. Done. If you’re fiddling with a rope-bag, you’re not pulling slack fast enough and you’re actually impeding your climber. Now does that make sense too?
In this way, you can do 4 pitches (2 each) on a 5.7 in under 3 minutes. Yes, you read that right. (I’m underrepresenting the truth a little, our fastest 4-pitch was 1:45 this year)
The real difficulty comes in switching to a new line. Hopefully the one next to you is open and you just step 4 feet left/right and climb the grid-bolted wall. The rope just naturally trails you on the ground, and you never have to worry about it. Some people bitch that you’re pulling from the bottom of the pile because you just pulled the rope down on top of you; it’s a non-issue with a 35m rope where one end is guaranteed clipped to someone else. Also, you might be pulling the rope down on yourself, on your partner, on other climbers. Shout warnings!!!!!!!!!!! Sometimes we might be 10, 20, 50, 100 feet away from where our last wall was and pulling the rope down still from the previous climb. It’s not nice, but it’s certainly fast because the climber can just start going on a new open line without waiting. This saves us time, and it saves every single other team time too. IT’S A RACE.
If you have to move farther than that, just pull the rope straight down and let it fall into a pile. As long as one of you is always clipped to it, it won’t end up with a knot. Just bunch it in your hands and start running to the next available line. Notice, nowhere have I said anything about switching clips or shoes. You don’t have time for that shit. And if you’re always alternating who leads each route the first time, you never need to worry about having the gear. You should only worry about switching gear if one person is always putting the draws up first. But if that’s required to be the case, then one of you is definitely climbing above their grade and if this is your first year that’s a recipe for disaster.
The fun and psychological and psychopathic part of the competition is finding climbs. If you’re going fast enough sometimes people will let you cut. Other times, while your partner is climbing, ask the other teams around you to get an idea of how many more laps they have remaining. You should have an idea of your next climb, and two backups in case it gets taken, before you finish cleaning the one bolt you’ve hung a draw on. Occasionally life smiles at you and another team next to you will finish at the same time. In that case, it’s great to organize a trade of lines. Note: did you read the rules? If you’re tied in and with shoes on, and another team is waiting for a line but ISN’T READY, you can cut in front of them. Just be sure not to cut in front of a line with multiple teams. But yes, cutting is legit and they can bitch, but they weren’t technically in race mode and forfeited their spot by being unprepared. And don’t feel embarrassed to ask if another team minds if you climb their route. Maybe you can offer to put their draws up for them or clean the draws for them in exchange. Sometimes others, especially as the competition wears on, are more than willing to let others go ahead. Just be polite. And if refuse, thank them anyway.
Be prepared to beg for routes, if you’re going north of 200 each. If you’re only seeking 100-150 pitches each, cajoling and begging isn’t remotely necessary. I consider 150-pitches each, at this point, relatively easy in terms of time management. Remember at the beginning where I showed that people waste half of their competition on shoes/rope/knots/bolts? If you are climbing with a cragging mentality, 150 is impossible. If you actually listen to my advice, 150 is a cakewalk. In 2015, I did 200 routes in the first 12 hours of the 24; and, that was without cutting or begging.
In some instances, it might be necessary to trade off duties and vary responsibilities. If your partner needs to eat, drink, pee, or poop, once you hit the ground start pulling your own rope and then start climbing. Once they return they can put the belay on. You don’t need a belayer if you aren’t clipped, what good would they do?
Eat and Drink
During your climbing, you want to be eating and drinking constantly. Whenever you change immediate areas (like walking 50 feet to the next line), whomever is not carrying the rope should stuff their face like a chipmunk and drink their bodyweight in liquids. Every hour you need to have at least a mouthful of food and at a minimum ¼ to ½ liter of water. Remind each other, too. Every hour there’s a yell, and if you hear a yell and having eaten or drunk anything since the previous yell, you need to double-up immediately. If you get behind on dehydration or calories, it’s quite possible you’ll never catch up. During the rotation, you should eat or drink when you switch belay, as appropriate. When you switch, tell your partner to eat/drink and start pulling the rope for them. Or if they pull the rope they can bend over and have a bite of their sandwich before putting you on belay. Climb with a mouthful of food (yay for choking!). Belay as such too. There are many ways to do it, but you should always be multitasking. There should never be a moment when one of you is idly waiting for the other. If you are ever waiting for the other person, you should be eating/drinking. If you have to wait for a route, eat/drink while you wait.
This mentality also follows for other things too. If you need to re-tape your hands, instead of stopping and slowing everything down, try to maybe tape one finger at a time between belays. Your partner might be able to do the first half of the climb while you tape a finger. Repeat for each pitch they do. It might take 30-45 minutes of alternating leads before you replace all four fingers of tape, but who cares? The fingers don’t all need to be all perfect at all times. But setting up a taping rotation like this won’t slow you down at all. There should never be an idle moment during the competition when you’re not making forward progress. Taping, adjusting shoe laces, eating, drinking, bathroom. Never stand idle.
DO NOT FUCKING STOP
With that said, here’s the bombshell of the 24. This advice is the most important advice I’ll write in the entire guide. This isn’t even advice on being unsafe. Are you ready for it? The more you pace yourself, the more likely you are to not finish the competition. If you have a goal of 24-48 routes each, you will fail. Flat out, you will fail and it will be the hardest competition of your life. If you have a goal of 500 routes each, you will wildly succeed. You might not get 500 routes each, for obvious logistical reasons, but you will certainly blow shit out of the water and have a great time doing it. In Dune, Fear is the Mindkiller. In 24HHH, Resting is the Competitionkiller. Whatever you do, DO NOT FUCKING STOP. Anything else you do is fine as long as you don’t stop. I can’t stress this enough: I’ve seen more first-timers laying on the ground sleeping at 3 AM because they were moving too slowly to maintain momentum, as a result of low goals, than I’ve seen first-timers crushing it at 3 AM because they had ambition. And you know what, your fitness level is not an indicator of success. Your mind is the purest and surest way to complete your goal in this competition. Undersetting your goal is the fastest way to have a bad performance.
For your traditional routes, in theory you’re only placing 1 piece of shitty-to-moderately-safe protection. Clean it every time and get your extra 10 points. This is one instance where the time is worth it. It’s also worth mentioning that the traditional routes are almost uniformly empty. You won’t have to wait for them, so if you really want to pad your score, be willing to nearly free-solo the 5.7’s in the North Forty. Want 30-40 free/easy routes each? There you go.
Where to Start
In past years, I’ve started all along each of the walls. I’ve started at Ren and Stimpy twice. I’ve started at The North 40 five times. When starting at Ren & Stimpy, I’ve worked my way right through the Prophecy Wall, Titanic, Doomsday, and over to The North 40. When I’ve started at The North 40, I’ve worked my way in the other direction, left along the wall. Once you’ve exhausted everything you can do on one side, you should cross the canyon. If doesn’t matter which side you start on, but except that crossing will cost you 30-45 minutes and tired legs. You do receive extra points for climbing on both sides of the canyon, though. In two years, I’ve finished on the East Side in the morning. It should be noted you can hit the 250-each mark without ever having to cross the canyon or climb a single 5.12.
Each year there seems to be a mass of people who collectively go to certain spots at the start. One year The North 40 was standing-room-only at the start, while this year it was a barren wasteland. Next year it’ll probably be the opposite because people read what I just wrote. Then you get into second- and third-order logic trying to do the opposite and it all goes to shit. One year at Ren & Stimpy I had to warm up on a 5.12a because it was the only thing available. Another year we had it all to ourselves. Either way, just have an idea of where you want to go and suck it up. And no one climbs Titanic, Doomsday, Prophecy, or Ren & Stimpy at night. That’s not sarcasm, it’s been true all 7 years I’ve competed. This is something you can plan on, but who knows how far in you’ll be at 10 PM.
Time is not your enemy
Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve done more than 50% of my routes in the last half of the competition in 3 of my 7 years. Basically, if you can hold it up, the mood slows down at night and if you step it up, the lines get out of the way and you can really make up for lost time after 10 PM. There is almost always more time to do more routes. In 2015, when Wayne and Everett did 260 each, they were only around 240 at 9 AM. They pulled out all of the stops and did an extra 20 in the last hour to win it.
I want you to know something which shouldn’t be a surprise, but it will happen so I should tell you. Everyone cramps. It doesn’t matter if you have the perfect amount of hydration, or if you have the perfect balance of electrolytes, you will get an overuse cramp. Mine cropped up about halfway through the 12-hour competition, and then in the 24-hour I only got a minor overuse cramp for about 5 minutes a few hours in. My advice is to just climb through it, though it can be quite disconcerting to have to climb while your muscles are doing something you don’t want them to do. The most common cramps which I and others have every year are usually in the brachialis muscle in the arms, and it causes your arm to flex and close. Your triceps should normally be strong enough to straighten the muscles easily, but it does get annoying. It usually manifests when clipping, such as trying to pull up the rope to make a clip. In years that I clip less, the cramps impact me less. They still happen. Be forewarned.
There are two check-ins during the competition to ensure your mental and physical integrity. At 10 PM and 4 AM (12 and 18 hours in, respectively) you need to report to one of the check-in locations. If you’re using paper scorecards, you need to turn in your first half at the 10 PM time also. They check your smile, ask you a few questions, and let you off. I’m a neuroscientist and think their checks are woefully inadequate, but they at least check some stuff. They are typically located at the Crimp Scampi area in The North 40, on the main path below the Titanic Boulder, and the also in the middle of the East Side somewhere (I forget where since I’ve never been there for the check-ins) (Next to the Magoo Rock sign?). One year Moosejaw cooked bacon at the 4 AM check in at The North 40. It was marvelous. This year they handed out hotdogs at 10 PM instead. Either way, you can’t rely on stuff like this and often they don’t announce it in advance anyway. Trust no one and nothing, be self-sufficient!
Reaching climax together
At the end, you need to get down to the Trading Post by 10:15 AM. My advice is to shoot for 10:00 AM. You are perfectly able to drop your gear at the crag, and sprint downhill with only your scorecard/app and check in. You actually have to be physically present at the trading post for roll-call. You can always go grab your shit after you check in. Every minute after 10:15 AM which you aren’t present costs you your two hardest pitches, each. So basically, unless you think you can rock out a bunch of 5.12’s in less than a minute each after 24-hours, there’s no way for showing up late to be advantageous.
Good luck and I hope your hell goes well!
Immediately after the 24 (Saturday Morning)
You just turned in your score, either by handing in the papers (annoying) or submitting your scores over the app with the Wi-Fi at the Trading Post. Congratulations! The vendors sometimes are around and greeting people. In some years there have been rewarding breakfast burritos. In other years nothing happens. Basically, from the moment you turn in your scores and check-in, you’re allowed to leave. There will be beer. There will be photos. No one will stop you and say “okay you can leave now.” It’ll feel very disconcerting that it's just…. Over. Maybe we can beg Andy for a little more *hoopla* and a little less “somber walking away”. (Maybe more DJ, hookers, and blow?)
Relax, greet your friends and talk about how it went. Congratulate everyone you see. Find your nearest staff/volunteer members and give them all oral pleasure (sexual or otherwise). Now you actually can leave and get some rest. A popular post-competition spot is the Ozark Café in Jasper, BEFORE you get to sleep. And as strange as this sounds, you won’t be sleepy at the end of the competition. You might feel drained, but you certainly won’t be falling over sleepy. It usually ends up being about noon before you really get to sleep anyway.
Dinner/Awards/Party (Saturday Night)
Arrive at 3:30 PM. Set the record for the fastest time down the slip-n-slide at 4:00 PM. Enjoy the after-competition carb-load spaghetti dinner at the lodge (It’s really good every year). After about 30 minutes of gluttony, including going back for seconds after the line dies down, grab your lawn chair and set it up on the kill for the award ceremony. Be ready to ride the slip-n-slide (everyone rides it).
Cheer like you have never cheered before!
This is the moment of truth. Teams get called to the front endlessly for all sorts of badassery and achievements. Cheer like crazy people! Free stuff gets thrown at the crowd (I’ve never caught anything in 7 years ). Enjoy the revelry and I hope you completed your goal! If you managed to finish the comp, meaning both of you climbed at least once per hour each hour, you’ll get your celebratory horseshoe! If you won something, enjoy the swag! Either way, anyone who has done 24HHH deserves immense respect for eternity. Other endurance races pale in comparison.
This award ceremony usually takes up to 2 hours, then there’s a small pause before the after party. If you haven’t turned in your gear demos or bought stuff from the vendors, now’s the time to do it. You won’t be in condition to do it after the party. Then go get changed into your party-animal-costume and be ready to drop the bass and the ass. (I wish that rhymed.)
Kill yourself, again
At the after party, there’s free beer! Bring your swag-cup you got with your swag from earlier, and enjoy! Dance like a maniac, find a single person of the opposite sex and have revelrous sex! If you’ve done it right, you’re both horny as shit from saving testosterone for a week, too! (You did follow the pre-arrival guide, right?)
I don’t know what time it normally dies down because I invariably have to leave before it ends, but it’s always a lot of fun and people dance like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, who’d think that people who just did 12/24/36 hours of rock climbing would party so hard?!
I love you all.
Last Breakfast (Sunday Morning)
Sadly, the last few years I’ve had to leave before the pancake breakfast at 9 AM. They’re great though! Bring your swag utensils. Meet up with people, take photos, and commiserate. People will somehow stumble into this after partying like animals just hours before. But obviously we are capable of missing sleep!
Well, that’s the end of the competition. People just start to dissipate. It’s like osmosis, where we slowly trickle back into the real world and wait for another 51-53 weeks for the next hell. And training starts today. Good luck, I’ll see you next year! I’m glad you succeeded in getting your goal because you followed at least 1 piece of advice in here: don’t listen to me! <3
Follow this guide at your own risk. I approach 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell each year with the knowledge and certainty that I will die at the Ranch. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean it literally. The techniques and information in this guide is liable and likely to actually kill you. Follow any advice or reasoning here within at your own risk and I am not responsible for your behavior or actions as a result of doing this. Accidents happen, rocks break, ropes tear, quickdraws fail, worn carabiners snap. If anything in here seems unsafe to you, then do whatever you need to in order to be safe. Your margin of safety is entirely different than mine. This guide is designed for moving as fast as literally possible while maintaining the basic-needs of rule-following and avoiding unnecessary risk. Some things we do are extremely risky, but we have thought through all angles to maximize safety outside objective risks. For your own safety, don’t try this at home, and please don’t actually climb like we do, unless you’re willing to actually die for the sake of 5 minutes saved. I accept no liability and this advice is entirely theoretical. Any nonconstructive arguments you want to make about this document will be kindly and thoroughly ignored.
Table of Contents
- Logistics and Equipment
- The Circles of Hell
- Before Arrival (Week before Hell)
- Night Before the 12 (Wednesday Night)
- Morning of the 12 (Thursday Morning)
- Climbing the 12 (Thursday)
- Night of the 12 and before the 24 (Thursday Night)
- Morning of the 24 (Friday Morning)
- Climbing the 24 (Friday Morning to Saturday Morning)
- Immediately after the 24 (Saturday Morning)
- Dinner/Awards/Party (Saturday Night)
- Last Breakfast (Sunday Morning)
- Videos and Stories about Hell