Any Hueco tale has to include Mike Head. Back in 1979, I thought I was the best climber in Texas. Yeah, me, but hey, we all had our youthful dreams. Then my buddy Nemo and I went to Colorado to do the<em> Casual Route</em> on the Diamond, and one of my newest friends, Dave Head, came, too. But he decided to hang out in Eldo instead of third-wheeling with us that day.
As Dave told it, he was looking for partners, introducing himself as Dave Head from Texas, and getting the usual questions about being related to Mike Head. That was the day he started to say, “Yes, Mike is my older brother.”
There were advantages to being Mike’s “little brother,” even though Dave is three months older and they had never even heard of one another. Dave got partnered up with local climbers, invited to dinner and parties, and given a sofa to crash on, but best of all Dave knew he had one on me and my raging ego.
“Yo Crumpy, guess what? You’re not the best climber in Texas. This guy Mike Head from El Paso is a whole lot better!”
Mike Head then started to get calls from friends saying, “Hey, Mike, climbed with your little brother last week.” I would love to have heard what Mike said to that.
Well, Nemo and I really scared ourselves on the Diamond—so much that Nemo quit climbing. After that Dave became my main partner and we were off to the OrganMountains in New Mexico for Thanksgiving with Bill Gooch and Goomba John in tow.
As we crunched cheap tacos and drank beer at Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, Bill mentioned this place he’d heard about named Hueco Tanks. So after raising our flag for more tacos for the last time we headed east.
We parked next to Mushroom Rock and I clambered around just in time to see this lanky guy cranking out Mushroom Roof (V8). The sight of so much skill and power shook me to my core.
I walked up to the guy and asked, “You Mike Head?” He smiled and said yes, so I introduced myself and I said, “Hey, I have
somebody for you to meet! Your long-lost little brother!” Dave soon joined us, and we all became best friends.
Fast-forward two years: I thought I had found the next new cool Hueco route. At this point nothing had been climbed on the Pigs in Space Buttress except for a corner we think Royal Robbins did in the 1960s. I had spied a series of huecos leading up to a ledge, from which a line of edges and cracks led up the skyline to the top.
I set off, bolt kit and all, and gave the opening moves a whirl, and they were immediately in my face—steep and scary, so much so that I really struggled to commit. When you have a rope gun on your team, it is easy to wimp out. And I did. I backed off and put Mikey in. Mikey could climb anything!
Sure enough, Mikey figured out the trick, engineered some pro and cranked up to the ledge, where he had the decency to put in a belay and bring me up. It was a class-move. He had shared the climb instead of just running it to the top. So<em> Pigs in Space</em> became a two-pitch route with a great airy belay, and I got to lead the summit stretch!