A couple years ago I started solo toproping as a way to climb outside when I don’t have a partner. I travel a lot for business and it’s a great way to squeeze in a day of climbing here and there. I’ve even done some multipitch routes solo. I still like climbing with a partner better, but climbing solo is rewarding in its own way.
This week I was able to visit Hueco Tanks, just outside of El Paso, for a day. I’ve always thought Hueco would be a great place to climb solo because the top of the mountain is easy to access (when solo toproping you start from the top) and many routes have bolted rappel stations. My goals for the day were: a) To climb a lot of vertical feet; and b) To check out some routes I haven’t climbed before.
I ended up having a great day despite sustained 40-50mph winds on the summit of North Mountain. I did about 11 pitches and 1300 feet of 5.10 or harder climbing – much of it while carrying a second rope – plus a lot of hiking and rappeling. As the video above shows, I used two 60M ropes so that I could string them from the top of North Mountain to the bottom and climb continuously for 300 feet. Here’s how it worked:
- Find the top of the route (usually the hardest part)
- Set up a rappel anchor using gear
- Rappel down on one rope to a mid-mountain rappel anchor (most routes at Hueco are 2 or 3 pitches)
- Set up the second rope (to the ground)
- Rappel to the ground
- Set up my toprope solo devices
- Climb the first pitch on the bottom rope
- Switch to the other rope and either trail the bottom rope or coil it and carry on my back
- Climb the second pitch to the top
- Move to the next route
The only snag came when I was rappeling a route on Indecent Exposure Buttress and spotted a large hive of angry bees directly in my path. Earlier this year a guy almost died on a nearby route after getting stung 300+ times so I stopped rappeling and climbed back to the top with urgency!
Here are the routes I climbed:
- Window Pain + P2 of Lunacy
- Purple Microdot – A great route that I’ve wanted to climb for a long time but haven’t because of the R rating. Turns out that the protection isn’t bad.
- Amplified Apples – This was my main objective but I had to cut it short due to bees.
- Sea of Holes (P2 only)
- Hueco Syndrome
- All The Nasties + Brain Dead