You learned about it in school right?  The pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock and met with the Native Americans for the first Thanksgiving dinner, right?  Well, Thanksgiving in Minnesota is COLD, and we weren't quite ready to give up on outdoor rock climbing and break out the ice axes and crampons...

Somehow about a dozen local climbers secured permission from their families to head south for Thanksgiving weekend to climb at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, in northern Arkansas.  With a forecast of between 45-70 degrees during the day, it looked like sending weather!  HCR is a great destination because of the concentration of high quality routes at almost any grade.  There's not a lot of places where a 5.8, 5.10, and 5.12 climber can all spend a week climbing 3 and 4 star routes, all within 10 minutes of their tent.  My car left the Twin Cities around 7PM on Wednesday, and arrived at the ranch 12hrs later, just in time to see the sun peek over the ridge and illuminate the cliffs of the North 40.  I linked up with my friends Aaron and Rhod, who'd driven down a little earlier than us, and we warmed up on a handful of 5.7s before tackling some harder 5.9 and 5.10a sport routes.  All too soon the sun started to dip behind the mountains again, so we cursed the short days and headed back to camp for the Climbsgiving potluck.

Dinner was delicious, if not at all traditional.  While there were turkey steaks and gravy available, there were also bratwursts, dried mango, beef jerky, bean salad, cheeseburgers, summer sausage, various pies, and burritos.  The Native Southerners (a friend's mom and brother that joined us from Louisiana) also brought gumbo, jambalaya, and birthday cake to round things out.  Everyone dug in around a roaring fire, but as the temps plummeted people drifted away to their tents and sleeping bags, full of food and ready for another day of climbing.

Friday we hit the East side of the ranch, starting on the classic Orange Crush, a 14-bolt 5.10a that commands the best view of the ranch from it's anchors.  My friend Emily joined us today, hobbling along in her plastic boot from a healing ankle sprain.  After Orange Crush we checked out a route that was new to me, Montezuma's Toe, a 5.8+ up a huge detached pillar leaning against the main wall.  It made for fun, if a little spicy, climbing, with a couple spots you definitely didn't want to fall, but I clipped the chains cleanly, nailing the onsight.  Even Emily in her boot was able to make it up this one, albeit on toprope.  We closed out our day on the Roman Wall, with a bunch of 10s, and watched stronger climbers conquer the 11s and 12s that run up the imposing roof in the middle of the wall.

Saturday was expected to be the best weather of the entire trip, and it certainly didn't disappoint.  My agenda was all about climbing some stuff I'd toproped the previous trip to HCR, and now wanted to lead.  First up was Lion Tamer, a 5.9- with a great bouldery start that I'd toproped at night this spring.  It went down no problem and we moved on to some other climbs.  I ended my day with Private Property, a 5.10a.  While I had to take to rest, I did clip the anchors, and I'm confident that next visit it will go down clean.

Sunday was even more beautiful than Saturday, but with almost 12hrs of driving ahead of us we packed up and were on the road by 730.  As dictated by tradition, breakfast was at the excellent Ozark Cafe in Jasper, and we were able to get some killer BBQ at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, which fueled me on the drive home.  We pulled in to the parking lot at home to find it was 7 degrees, a 63 degree swing from when we'd left Arkansas.  Sandals were a poor choice...
Our view as we left
This HCR adventure is my last rock climbing trip of the year.  From here on out it's all ice!  The main wall at the Sandstone Ice Park is already in, and from what I've heard some of the Twin Cities ice is close as well, so it's time to sharpen my crampons and tools!
Myself, Aaron, Emily, Brenda, Rhod

Here's a couple more photos from the trip: