It’s a muggy friday morning in the Ozarks. A leanly muscled man in cowboy boots, denim short-shorts, and a tank top that looks painted on is standing in the bed of a parked pickup, addressing a crowd of hundreds. “It’s hot, guys. It’s really hot,” he says, using a microphone plugged into a beefy PA system. “What do we need to be doing today?”
“Hydrating!” the crowd answers. “Beer!” someone yells.
Around him, there are nearly 300 rock climbers in costumed pairs: spandex stars-and-stripes wrestling singlets here, Kiss-inspired makeup and wigs there. A sweaty, oddly matched duo stands nearby, one in a Big Bird outfit and the other in a plush shark costume. The man in the pickup starts calling out the name that each team has chosen for itself. Dirty climbing puns predominate: Lichen Those Jugs So I Slab That Ass, Wham Bam Hand Jam, Tell Your Sister Thanks for the Loose Belay.
A reference to Black Diamond’s recent gear troubles—Does BD’s Recall Make My Rack Look Small?—gets a big laugh. So do Climb a Wall and Make Mexico Pay for It and First Auto-Belay Ascent of the Dawn Wall.
Every September, climbers from across the country gather here, at the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch—a private dude operation in northern Arkansas that also happens to be home to more than 400 established routes—for what has to be rock climbing’s wildest competition. The man with the mic is Andy Chasteen, the event’s 39-year-old founder. In a few minutes, the 11th annual 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell will begin.
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