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Lions in a Field of Lions

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell is an endurance rock climbing competition and festival in Jasper, AR, and ever since Mack competed in it for the first time three years ago, I’ve been looking forward to this event every year. The festival lasts a full 4 days with food, camping, music, swag, games, competition, and a ton of hanging out with a bunch of dirtbags. Teams of two have the opportunity to choose between a 12 hour and 24 hour event. The premise for 24HHH is to lead routes clean - with no falls or hangs - for points. The event begins with roll call (and sometimes those team names are hysterical and almost always inappropriate), teams showing off their costumes, and then the competitors are led in the climber’s creed (this one is from 2017). Once the formalities are over, a shotgun is fired and the climbers spread out to the east, west, and north walls by 10am. And while they’re off killing themselves, me and some friends hung out, bouldered, played games, got tattoos, ate, and took naps. The competition ends at 10am the next day.

The climbing community is interesting; it can probably be compared to surfers and skaters - dirt bags and hippies mostly, kind of like social outcasts. I mean, that’s pretty dramatic, but if you think about it, that’s how it seems. A stereotypical climber lives in her van, owns like three shirts, eats granola and peanut butter, and probably hasn’t showered in over a week. Even if you’re not that kind of climber, that’s what happens at an event like 24HHH - we are all sleeping in tents, hammocks, and cars, cooking beans over a fire, not even thinking about showers or a change of clothes, and embracing the suck of wrecking our bodies for the sake of a sport. It’s awesome.

I never plan on competing in the 24 hour comp. Maybe the 12 hour one, but honestly, I don’t think my body could handle it and I’m ok with that. Having Amy and Macy to hang out with was really great (both their husbands were competing), but I also knew people from all over the state, whether we’d met at previous competitions or at climbing crags or gyms. It’s just one big party with these people.

abby tran