My Favorite 5.10
Pigs to Pork
Hueco Tanks State Park,Texas
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 Casual Route 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 Pigs in Space became a two-pitch route with a great airy belay, and I got to lead the summit stretch!
“So Pigs in Space became a two-pitch route with a great airy belay, and I got to lead the summit stretch!”
Later I came back with Dave Head and Mike Lewis and tried another line next to Pigs. I was bolder, partially because I did not have Mikey with me. There was no backing down or wimping out. I powered up to the Great White Hueco and cowered inside to recover and rebuild my nerves. The skies hailed a little, and the wind howled.
With impatient urging from Dave, I committed to the upper part. The temperature dropped even more as I frantically searched for a placement. Topping out, I had the selfish satisfaction of sending an FA, Pork Shuttle. Dave and Mike soon followed, and with smiles and a desire for celebration we headed out to El Rancho for margaritas.
So is my favorite 5.10 Pigs or Pork? Well, it’s actually what somebody else did with those two routes, linking Pigs in Space to Pork Shuttle, to create Pigs to Pork. I like it more because its sum is better than its porcine parts. It is a combined creative effort with several contributors.
I have always been a More-ist, believing that more is better, that just a little more—whether love, time, money or tequila can solve all problems. I believe in the team and community approach, that climbs are meant to be shared with friends, that it is more fun and that there are more smiles when everyone gets to play.
James Crump, the Godfather of Texas climbing, now lives in Colorado where he works as a consultant. As he is old, creaky and gravity-challenged, he no longer climbs, but buy him a margarita and he will regale you with tall tales of Texas climbing.
Hueco is known for its bouldering, but it also has world-class sport and traditional routes. Drive to El Paso, Texas. Take Highway 62/180 east for 35 miles, then turn left on Hueco Tanks Road. Pigs to Pork is on the Pigs in Space Buttress on the northwest side of East Mountain at the entrance to Comanche Canyon.
The Hueco season is November to March. Bees can be an issue on this route— get on it when temps are cool (50 degrees or near it) and bees are inactive.
To climb Pigs to Pork, start on Pigs in Space at the chimney with the big chockstone. Climb up to the Great White Hueco, pass the belay ledge, and continue on to Pork Shuttle to finish on a steep face.
The route has five bolts. Other pro is trad, using 1/8- to 1/2-inch wired nuts or Tricams (which work well in pockets / huecos) and a #4 Friend in a horizontal. Use many slings to minimize rope drag.
This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 211 (July 2013).