We meet again in Hueco Tanks

We Meet Again at Hueco Tanks


           Kai Stanton Holloway 

I'm back," I whispered to the boulders staring down at me. Hueco Tanks has overhangs, face, and slab climbs--everything you would expect in bouldering heaven and, in my opinion, the best v2 ever.

    As soon as we pulled into our campsite my brother and I couldn’t wait to get to the mountain and we both had one route in our mind. My dad, brother and I hiked up North Mountain treading on the same trail as three years before. Everything was how I remembered it. I walked past all the routes I had climbed when I was eleven. Could I still climb them now that I was fourteen?

    I walked past a pile of crash pads and there in front of me was Nobody Gets Out Alive in my opinion the best v2 of all time. We’re here, my dad told us. I unclipped my climbing shoes from my backpack and looked at the overhanging climb. Its chalked face looked back at me as if daring me to try and climb her.

    I stood there examining the crux of the climb where it went from an overhang to a vertical face. I remembered the key was a heel hook far to the left. I would also have to move both of my hands up to the bomber hold above so I could pull myself over the corner of the climb.

    I was at Hueco tanks where climbers from all over the world came to boulder the first time I came here. We were on a climbing trip out west, and Hueco tanks was our final destination. Nobody Gets Out Alive was the first v2 I had ever done.

    Now I was three years older and I had no idea if I could still conquer this climb I remembered so clearly from my past.

    My muscles trembled, as I walked over the sandy ground to the start of the climb my dad dragged our crash pad underneath the crux. I gripped the two starting holds and pulled myself up heel hooking the jug so I could thrust my hand out to the left but I felt around and but there was nothing to hold onto my hands started slipping and my foot fell of the wall I crashed down onto the sand below and stepped out of the way to give my brother a turn.

Climbing nobody gets out alive in Hueco tanks. We meet again in Hueco tanks climbing v2

    Why couldn’t I do it? I asked myself. well I can’t expect to do it on the first try, I decided. I watched my dad use under clings to make it to the crux but even he couldn’t make it on his first try. When it was finally my turn I smeared my climbing shoes onto the rock pushing myself farther out than last time I locked my finger tips onto the rock gripping it hard as I tried to move my feet up but I had gotten one foot stuck I pulled it free from the rock but by that time it was to late my arms started shaking as I tried to grasp an under cling I made the move but my arms gave out and I fell onto the crash pad my forearms were burning. Never hang out on an overhang; it will steal all the energy you were saving for the rest of the climb.

    Then my brother stepped up and started moving through the beginning of the climb. He grabbed the undercling and stared at the crux. He grabbed a side pull and fumbled for the heel hook, his rubber stuck to the rock. He had made it past the crux and was now on the vertical part which was easy; he moved through the remaining moves quickly and was at the top.

    How had he made the climb before me?. I would make it this time I decided stepping up to the starting holds I rushed to get through the first couple moves keeping my feet on the wall I was nearing the crux I’m going to make it I thought to myself moving my hand up from the greasy undercling to the bomber hold I bit my lip as my legs swung off the wall abandoning my tired arms with all the weight but I held on trying to score a foot hold way out to my left but my shoe slipped and my arms gave out under all my body weight. I had made it to the crux, what went wrong? It was like trying to get the water temperature perfect in the shower so close but not quite. I asked my dad what I did wrong “you didn’t get your foot out far enough to get the good lip so you slipped” he replied. I was frustrated but still happy for my dad and brother. I was glad they made it to the top.

    We had gotten onto the mountain late in the day because we hadn’t arrived at Hueco Tanks until four o’clock and it was already dinner time plus they closed the mountain at six. I begged my dad to let me have one more try but we had to get home before the mountain closed so I walked back down the path in defeat with Nobody Gets Out Alive laughing at me in the distance.

    That night as I slept in our converted school bus all I could think about was the climb. Why couldn’t I do it? Why could my dad and brother do it but not me? Those thoughts plagued me all night long. I woke up shivering. It was twenty four degrees out. The only thing that got me out of bed in that cold was the thought of another day of bouldering.

    That morning I ate my oatmeal fast while I thought about red rocks and bishop out of all of the places I had bouldered with it’s overhanging crimp climbs, Hueco Tanks was the hardest. My mom packed lunch, my dad pulled out our crash pad that we use as a mattress, and I clipped our climbing shoes to my backpack. It was going to be a day on the mountain, a climbers favorite.

    Never have I seen so many different license plates in one parking lot. I saw Alaska, Kentucky and even Ontario plates so many climbers from all over the world in one place.

    a car drove by that had eight crash pads on the back. They looked like they might fall off any minute.

        People have so many crash pads these days. I saw a couple guys carrying three. my little brother Zev said “look at all the square people”we all laughed. “But you sure need them if you're going to climb highballs,” my dad said.

Climbing bouldering in Hueco tanks. V2 climb boulder

    The temperature was Finally starting to warm up and I was able to shed my jacket. We hadn’t been able to wash the dishes after dinner because the pipes had frozen. We hadn’t come all the way from Maine to Texas for these kinds of temperatures. 

    My brother Zev knapped arrowheads as my dad and I warmed up by traversing the Icarus boulder but I was careful not to blow my arms out before I got to Nobody Gets Out Alive. I have always loved climbing. I started out climbing coconut trees before I was introduced to sport climbing and bouldering on our out west trip. I was at the top of my game when we arrived at Hueco Tanks.

Now, I was back. I grabbed my backpack and climbing shoes and began rock scrambling up to Nobody Gets Out Alive. I approached the chalked face of the climb. I knew the route so well I didn’t have to study it. I placed both hands on the starting hold, and I lifted my body up. "We meet again," I said, moving from hold to hold. It was very sustained, and I couldn’t waste any time. My arms were sore from yesterday, but I gripped the undercling and swung my body over the lip, landing a heel hook on the corner using the last of my forearm strength. I pulled my body slowly over the edge, putting my hand up in triumph! "It’s easy from here," I said to myself as I climbed the remaining distance to the top.

“First try” my dad shouted from below. I have conquered Nobody Gets Out Alive I thought to myself. “Let’s find a new route to try”. My brother shouted up to me. As far as climbing goes some days are better than others, I decided.

A video of Me climbing Nobody Gets Out alive V2 in Hueco Tanks, state park.


  1. Terrific post, Kai! I loved the video of your successful climb...but admired the rest of your determination and thoughtful analysis of your previous attempts just as much!
    Success takes on many forms....some are more subtle than others. Your problem solving and dissection of what Didn't work were ultimately as successful as your triumphant result! Kudos to you and your supportive attitude of your brother and Dad as well!

    Great post! I'm hooked on KaiOutdoors!!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind comment Suzette Springs. Im so glad you enjoy reading my blog Kaioutside.com. There will be lots of more blog posts coming soon.
      Thanks Kai Holloway

  2. Kai! What a great post. Ellie and I loved watching and reading. Nice perseverance:). Thanks again for celebrating Ellie’s bday with us in Punta Mita! Until we meet again…

    1. Hi Kai, I loved your account of coming back to this climb and succeeding on the second day. Great determination and great focus! I’ve just read most of your posts from Mexico. You and your family are true inspirations. I look forward to hearing more from you on your adventures.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Two Eye Catching MultiPitch Climbs in Potrero Chico Mexico

Winning my first 5k race, a race day to remember. Challenging course.