A flaming hot desert day— you know, when the proverbial egg can be fried on a rock—is my favorite time to visit Hueco Tanks.
The Hueco Tanks are regarded the world over as one of the best areas in the world for rock climbing. The formidable rocks, which seem to be arranged by pitch and toss, present an obvious but not daunting challenge. At best, I rank somewhere below amateur status as a rock climber, and might very well be a pro at stumbling, whether it’s up or down.
I can’t say I’ve ever made it to the highest point here. The enjoyment for me is in my clueless but ever-so-careful methodology, negotiating from one level of boulders to the next—not to mention the simple pleasure of breathing the immaculate, flushed air.
My improvisational drama comes when reaching an outlook offering an unobstructed view of the idyllic, wide-open space sweeping its way across the rugged desert floor to the Hueco Mountains, miles away. The fun part of Hueco Tanks is negotiating the often slick (and hot) rocks while also holding my camera in a safe position. One wrong move and not only do I risk tumbling and crashing, but so does my pricey DSLR.
Over thirty million years ago, an upheaval of molten rock from the earth’s interior created these four-hundred-foot-tall granite hills that seem to spring out of the Chihuahuan Desert floor outside of El Paso. There is an awesome, heart-expanding grandeur in this place.
Long before climbers discovered Hueco Tanks, Native americans were drawn here because its huecos, a Spanish word for “hollow,” trap and hold drinkable water— the most valuable desert commodity. Not much more than a century ago, Hueco Tanks held the only dependable source of water between the Pecos River and El Paso.
The Hueco Mountains rise in southern New Mexico and extend twenty-seven miles south into Texas, generally along the El Paso-Hudspeth County line just east of the city of El Paso. The highest point of the range is the Cerro Alto Mountain (6,787 feet).
Lying between the Hueco and Franklin Mountains, the Hueco Bolson, a dropped- down area four thousand feet above sea level, contains sedimentary fill nearly nine thousand feet thick.
If it is adventure you seek, or you simply want fresh air and an abundance of natural beauty, Hueco Tanks should definitely be added to your travel list. Far West Texas is far off the beaten path tho’ well worth the effort when you want to get away from it all.