I spent the past two weeks climbing in Jasper, Arkansas, with Tommy and Tristan. Despite rain followed by sub-zero temperatures, difficulty finding gas stations at 3 a.m., and having entire walls missing from the guidebook, we managed to tick off a few of the over 400 routes.
Welcome to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR) where camping is $5 per night and climbing is $5 per day (plus tax), and very few people—often it was only us—climb during the end of December and beginning of January.
Tips for HCR:
- The weather in January is quite variable. I heard it could be anything from 16 to 60 degrees outside. I never saw 60, but it did get into the 40s one day. Unfortunately it was also 35 degrees and raining for three days, never got above 20 degrees for the next couple days, and sub-zero nights forced us out of our tent and into a cabin. The lesson: bring warm clothes and rain coats, not just your water bottle and a pair of jorts.
- During the offseason (aka all winter), if it’s cold and/or rainy, it’s 222.2 percent worth renting a cabin for $95 a night. You get a heater that supposedly cranks to 86 degrees, a shower, a wood stove, one pullout couch, two beds, a mini fridge, a microwave, and a porch for about $25 per night if you split it between four people. No reservations necessary: After New Year’s, we were the only group staying at the ranch.
- HCR is perfect if you like bouldering and bouldery sport climbs. The crux for most routes is right off the ground, leading to easy climbing after the second bolt. Stick-clipping is often advised.
- There is a four-star, overhung 5.6 with the biggest jugs I have ever met. Climb it.
- Several areas do stay dry in the rain, but be careful when climbing on wet sandstone. Unlike granite, it becomes soft when wet, and holds break easily.
- Try the nearby day hikes to frozen waterfalls along the Buffalo River as a rest day (or when it’s too cold to climb).
- There is a lot of goat poop. Everywhere. Especially in the goat cave where it’s at least a foot thick. Bring a tarp to set your bags and extra jackets on, and wash everything when you return home.
- Chasing and/or catching the goats roaming the property is forbidden.
Originally published January 11, 2015, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com.