Horse Pens 40 – Bouldering Mecca of the South

HP40 Signage on route 231 HP40 Signage and kiosk HP40 Climbergirl Buzzing up Wasp V2

I was in Huntsville, AL on business. After my last meeting, I drove down to HP40 (1.5 hours drive south of Huntsville). For a few years now, I’ve been reading in the mags about how crazy fun HP40 is, the sheer number of boulders, and the wicked topouts. I was so excited to be there, and to be walking around on SUCH A GORGEOUS DAY.

HP40 Concert Stage Enter the labyrinth of slopers! View from Lookout at HP40

I was a little concerned about the drive, being able to find climbing spots in the south can be rough when you’re far away from civilization. I was also a little nervous about driving around by myself (since the rental agency hooked me up with a 2007 Rav4, I REALLY stood out). I asked them to give me a beat up pick up, but they just laughed and then said, “We don’t have those, darlin’ !”.

HP40 Country Store & Restaurant HP40 Looking down from platform HP40 Looking up to the platform

So, the way it works at HP40 is that you drive up, sign a waiver, pay 3 dollar fee. Then you climb until you drop. It’s family run, and there’s even a country store and restaurant. When I bought my token tourist tee-shirts, I was rung up by a 10 year old boy! He said, “Ma’am can I see some ID?” when I gave him my credit card. Just cute as a button!

HP40 Mushroom Boulder HP40 Headless Hen Boulder HP40 Maze of Boulders

By the time I made it to HP40, I only had about 1.5 hours to mill about, so I ran from boulder to boulder. Getting lost in a maze of boulders, and their mossy alleys was a riot. At one time, I topped out just to regain my sense of direction! Every time I turned a courner, there was another trail leading to another cluster of boulders. Dreams do come true.

HP40 I caught a Wave ! HP40 Pine and Grooves

I didn’t have a crashpad, so I just clammered around on the easy stuff. The topouts are the crux in many of the problems as the boulders are all slopey and moss covered-so a couple times I’d just downclimb back down. Mantle moves are vital at HP40, as I quickly found out. A crash pad would have been great-as I felt a little nervous getting way up high and doing a mossy mantle unprotected.

As far as crowds go, it is easy to imagine a day where over 100 folks are climbing here-heck there’s P-L-E-N-T-Y of parking. If I go again, I’d shoot for another Friday as there were probably only about 10 people there.

People tended to spread out and work their own problems. I saw a lot of single boulderers with their own crash pad and no spotter. So, in that regard it reminded me of Wagon Wheel. But, I’m sure on the more crowded weekends things get more condensed like The Happies. And, it was fun to hear shouts of encouragement with a southern twang, “Get on Up It, Casey!”. What a riot.

On my way out I met two fellows (Jason and ?) who had been vollunteering at the farm for over a month. They help out and in return get to camp and boulder for free. They looked really strong, and had big grins. They just love it there, and it turns out they came out east from Bishop of all places! They said they missed Bishop, but were quite happy at HP40 for the time being. To me that speaks a lot to the quality of the bouldering, and climbing around this southern delight!

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