Maysa Tsang, Hobbit in a Blender, RR 2006
Maysa Tsang on Hobbit In a Blender, Rock Rodeo 2006

For information on all Hueco Tanks Rock Rodeos please visit the
Hueco Rock Ranch website or call

2006 Rodeo Results
(point totals)

June 22, 2009

I must report with great sadness and anger the passing of Heinz Duerkop, long-time Hueco volunteer and icon of the Hueco front office. Heinz was killed by a cowardly asshole hit-and-run driver who ran him over from behind while Heinz was on his morning bike-ride near his home in East El Paso.

As of , his pond-scum killer has yet to be found. We need to catch this turd. Everyone is urged to do whatever possible to track down the killer. Anyone with information on the hit-and-run can call El Paso Police Communications at 832-4400 or Crime Stoppers of El Paso at 566-8477.

Heinz will be sorely missed. He was 67, but I always thought he was in his late 50s.
Heinz Duerkop Obit Photo

Among the many useful services he peformed at Hueco were the German translations of the various pamphlets and brocures.

$3000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest of conviction of the killer! Please go to the website for details. Only if we all pull together can we catch Heinz' killer.

Memorial services for Heinz were held on Thursday, July 9, 2009 at Mt. Carmel Funeral Home Chapel.

From his Obituary in the El Paso Times:

Heinz Duerkop, beloved husband, passed away suddenly Sunday, June 21, 2009, at the age of 67. He was born in Hannover, Germany, April 21, 1942. He was preceded in death by his parents Heinrich Duerkop and Marie Duerkop of Hannover, Germany. He is survived by his devoted wife of 43 years, Margot. Heinz was a member of the German Air Force, stationed in Fort Bliss, TX from 1991 to 1994 and retired in El Paso with the rank of Captain in April 1994. He enjoyed being with nature, hiking, cycling and learning about the plants and animals of the surrounding areas. He worked as a volunteer since 2000 in Hueco Tanks as a Tour Guide and was very popular due to his extensive knowledge and love for the history, plants and natural life of the Southwest. A million times I miss you, A million times I cry. If love alone could have saved you, You would have never died. In life I loved you dearly, In death I love you still. In my heart you hold a place No other can fill. Memorial Service and German Military Honors will be held on Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 2:00 P.M. at Mt.Carmel Funeral Home Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: NPSNM, El Paso Native Plant Society P.O. Box 221036 El Paso, TX 79913

Site of hit-and-run

From the June 22 article in the El Paso Times, written by Daniel Borunda 546-6102:

El Paso - A German air force retiree was killed by a hit-and-run driver Sunday Morning while riding his bicycle a few blocks from his home in far east El Paso, police said.
  Heinz Duerkop, 67, was described by neighbors as a friendly, active person who enjoyed traveling and volunteering at Hueco Tanks State Park.
  About 7 a.m. Duerkop was hit from behind by an unknown vehicle while he was riding a bicycle south on George Dieter Drive just north of Edgemere Boulevard, Police Spokesman Office Chris Mears Mears said. Duerkop was thrown from his bike and died at the scene.
   The vehicle, which was described by investigators as white-colored with possible front-end damage, had not been located as of Sunday evening, Mears said.
   Duerkop and his wife, Margot, came to El Paso from Germany when Duerkop was stationed at Fort Bliss with the German air force, neighbors and coworkers said. The couple stayed after he retired.
  "He enjoyed being around people. He was a wonderful neighbor," said Suzanne Splawn, who has lived next to the Duerkops for more than 10 years in the 11200 block of Thunder Cloud Drive.
  "They did everything together," Splawn said. "They would ride their bicycles together, travel together."
  Splawn worried that Duerkop's wife was riding with thim at the time of the deadly collision, but Mears, the police spokesman, said he believes Duerkop was riding alone.
   Though most of George Dieter Drive has a dedicated bicycle lane, the collision occurred on a section without a bicycle lane.
   The Duerkops would regularly travel in their recreational vehicle across the United States, Splawn said. Duerkop recently told neighbors that he planned to return to Germany.
   There was no answer at the Duerkop home Sunday evening.
   Hueco Tanks Start Park Superintendent Wanda Olszewski said Duerkop was a dedicated volunteer who for more than a decade helped educate scores of children and other visitors about the towering ancient rocks east of El Paso.
  "He was very professional but also very friendly," Olszewski said. "I think he cared about history, the Native American hsitory here. Over the years he learned more and more. He was part of the family at the park.

February 24, 2008

I've been so disgusted with the idiotic closure of the north side of Mushroom boulder that I could not even motivate myself to update the website, much less go and shoot photos of the moronic "Closed to all recreational activity" signs. Sometime in the next month I'll grit my teeth and drive out there, perhaps for the last time. I'll also provide an in-depth analysis of the sad event, some interviews, etc. For now, in addition to the copy of the email from the Site Manager and my off-the-cuff reply (see below), all I have to say is "we told you so". We have seen this (and future closures that the anti-climbers have loaded and ready to deploy) for many years now.

Here's the December 22 official press release announcing the ban. "Merry Xmas!"

I learned of the closure in this email:
----- Original Message -----
From: 'Wanda Olszewski' <>
To: <>
Sent: Sat Dec 22 8:34
Subject: Fwd: Mushroom boulder closure


Closure of Mushroom Boulder’s north face was
implemented late yesterday afternoon. The reason for the closure is summarized in
the attachment, which is being distributed to visitors. TPWD did not make
the decision hastily; it is a response to strong resource protection needs at
that site, without intent to place blame on climbers.

There are no current plans for closures of other areas.

Wanda Olszewski
Hueco Tanks State
Historic Site


And my reply (have not received and answer as of 2.24.08):

Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. Been busy with illness and piano
practice. Thanks for including me in the notification.

A few questions and some comments:

* Are the east side roped routes on Mushroom (New Chataqua and GI Joe) still open?

* There are a few short easy boulders to the east and slightly NE of the NE
corner of Mushroom. Are they open?

Regarding blame - climbers ARE clearly responsible for the devegetation of the
north side, and for the lowered ground level. I've witnessed the steady decline
of those bushes on the north side over the last 20 years; it makes me sad. I'm
also sad about the thousands of cacti in the Franklins that were killed in the
2006 floods. These effects, while unsightly, will be irrelevant soon (in a
geologic sense.) Of course, closing the "backcountry" had the effect that I and
others predicted way back in 1998 - it concentrated bouldering activity on the
front side ... "I told you so".

If "they" (archaeologists and historians) really want to prevent erosion and
preserve artifacts - not just against damage due to climbing but also against
damage from events not caused by human activity - there are many better options,

* "They" could have put down a few feet of protection - gravel, concrete,
whatever -  back in the early 90's. The fact that there exists a rule that says
"thou shalt not put down anything to prevent erosion of sites under overhangs"
does not invalidate the worthiness of the idea.

* "They" could excavate, measure and catalog, and then return the site to
recreational status. When they whine "we don't have the money!", what they are
really saying is "People don't value the artifacts enough to pay for properly
studying them, but the free market does not know what's best; we do - and we want
to hog the site to ourselves, because our purposes are nobler than mere recreation"


July 18, 2007

By the end of the 80th session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Historical Commission gained control of many Texas State Historic Sites, but Hueco (for now) remains under Texas Parks and Wildlife.

House Bill 12 provides for:

* Transfer of 18 sites to the THC effective on or after January 1, 2008
* Removed the existing cap on sporting-goods sales tax revenue available for State Parks
* 94% of sales taxes on sporting goods will go to the TPWD, 6% to the THC
* The cap removal is not absolute and can be subject to legislative fiat
* Created a joint legislative task force that will make recommendations regarding the revenue

We are still very worried about the THC. Hueco is the gem they really want, and now that they will have $$ from the sporting-goods taxes, they will be more empowered. We expect them to come after Hueco again next year. We have lowered the threat level - but mainly so that we can raise it again when needed.

February 25, 2007

Please accept our apologies for not being able to provide any press coverage of the 2007 Rock Rodeo. Our reporter's daughter was a finalist in the Sun Country Regional Science Fair, held this year on the same day as the Rodeo, creating an unresolveable scheduling conflict. We are please to report that Jewell Crye won first place in the Middle School Physics and Astronomy division, advancing to the State competition in San Antonio.

For complete coverage of the 2007 Rock Rodeo, please visit the Hueco Rock Ranch website.

Picking the date each year for the Rock Rodeo is a difficult dark art. Rob Rice was off by one day this year - Sunday February 25 was the hoped-for calm, 67 F day between the powerful cold fronts that sweep through El Paso this time of year. February 23 was miserably windy, with 60+ mph gusts that toppled trees and construction cranes in El Paso, providing severe product-test conditions for the tents Friday night at the Rock Ranch. By Saturday morning, the front had passed, leaving only a cold wind that kept tips dry without sending too much dust into the eyes of the competitors.

February 22, 2007

We have been contacted by the THC, and are in the process of obtaining an official THC response to some tough questions. We hope to have those answers posted before the Rodeo on the 24th. Please stand by. Until then, we advise everyone to NOT relax. Politics is tricky business. Don't believe everything you read - even on this site - check and double-check and remain vigilant. This Access Fund link has useful information.

January 17, 2007
The latest ploy by the Texas Historic Commission is to have ALL "historic sites", regardless of the need for peace officers or recreational activity, transferred from the TPWD to the THC. THIS INCLUDES HUECO. Disregard the information from December 13.

This is VERY bad. We can't emphasize enough how much of a threat to access it represents.

Now that Speaker Tom Craddick has been re-installed, he is ready to wield his power. The transfer will not need to go before the Texas Legislature for a vote. An existing law from 2005, HB 2025, allows such transfers via "Interagency Agreement", sans public comment or review of any type! Disturbingly, five existing members of Texas Parks and Wildlife commission are retiring; many of them are opposed to the transfer. Governor Perry will soon appoint their replacements. Guess who contributed heavily to his campaign? Groups closely associated with the Texas Historic Commission.

In Texas Politics, as elsewhere, money talks. It would appear that Speaker Craddick received over $90,000 from John L. Nau (Chairman of the Texas Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, also heavily involved with Silver Eagle) and the Beer, Wine, & Liquor Industry in 2006, including $26,072 personally from Nau. In 2004 Craddick received $93,000 from Nau and the BW&L Industry. With $50,000 from Nau to the governor in 2006, no wonder we are losing the SHSs.

GET OFF YOUR PADS AND START WRITING AND CALLING!! It appears that the only thing that can stop the transfer is a new law that will specifically prohibit the transfer. See the December 12, 2006 entry below for names and addresses of two members of the legislature who might be sympathetic to preserving recreation at Hueco. Make it clear that TPWD is the best entity to manage not just Hueco, but ALL Historic sites. Texas does not need another bureaucracy!!

Points to mention in your letter:
* TPWD is is doing a splendid job managing Hueco ( we know - just grit your teeth and write it ...)
* Vegetation returning, no recent damage to rock art or archaeological sites
* Climber trash pickup days
* Climbers, birders, wildlife lovers and picknickers, not history buffs, represent the majority of visitors

Please refer to the Threat page for more information to include in your letter.
October 23, 2006
Todd Skinner died today in a rappelling accident in Yosemite. We are working on a Hueco-specific tribute and obituary; your patience is appreciated. Here's a few snippets of information we culled from the web.


August - September 2006
The "flood of 2006" left permanent scars on the El Paso landscape. In a single day in early August, El Paso received more rain than it usually gets in an entire year. Millions of dollars of damage was done to roads, homes and businesses. All of the arroyos in the Franklin mountains were scoured clean by roiling, crunching gully-washers, and many of them have new channels over 20' feet deep in places. The entrance road to Hueco was washed out twice and had to be resurfaced.

Although the rain was a big problem for humans, it was a boon to wildlife, including insects. Mosquitoes in August and September were the worst in decades. Vegetation is running amok, and the desert is brilliant green from horizon to horizon. Wildflowers choke the trails in the Franklins and the Organs.
Pete's family wants all the climbers who have expressed condolences and support to know how grateful they are, and how much it means to them. Letters and donations may be sent to:

Enriqueta Herrera Zavala
c/o Stephen Crye
8516 Mountain Ash Drive
El Paso, TX 79904

Pete passed away today.
June 3, 2006

A small number of visitors enjoyed a nice, relatively cool late afternoon at Hueco under cloudy skies with intermittent light thundershowers. Mosquito density varied dramatically - none at all in the Diaphanous cave, but at Asylum Crack they were thick and annoying. The cool early evening weather also brought plenty of reptiles, including this ~ 1meter  Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
May 27, 2006

The larvae have hatched; bring DEET if you plan to climb anywhere that is cool and sheltered from the wind. Intermittent thunderstorms continue, bringing insufficient rain to break the drought, but enough to keep the breeding-huecos full. Laguna Prieta and the East Parking Pond remain dry. The bees in Laguna Prieta near Stanage/Algerita have calmed down or moved somewhere else.
May 13, 2006
Thunderstorms earlier in the week have filled many huecos at the top of North Mountain, and they are now teeming with healthy, wriggling mosquito larvae ...
May 7, 2006
The climber density at Hueco has finally started to taper off, with the passing of Easter and the arrival of the heat-and-bugs season. Gnats are now a constant annoyance in the low-lying areas such as the East parking lot, but are not so bad up on the rocks, particularly in the wind-swept regions. Mercifully, the drought means few mosquitoes are present, although you will get bitten while climbing in the cool, shady caves that are attractive this time of year.
April 15, 2006
In previous years, by the time Tax day rolls around, the peak season at Hueco is over and one can gain entrance without a reservation. Not this season. Despite a months-long drought, record heat and the arrival of the gnats, climber activity combined with family groups is keeping the park at the unnaturally low limit of 70/day on North Mountain until late afternoon. Some local non-climbers, frustrated at being turned away after a long and expensive drive from El Paso, have been berating the Rangers, and sometimes angrily threatening them. Today, the TPWD staff placed a call to the County's Finest; a couple of squad cars made a few passes through the Park as a reminder that the long arm of the law can reach out and touch you even at Hueco.

March 16,2006
Despite some token rainstorms in January and late February, El Paso remains in the grip of a severe drought. All ponds at Hueco are bone-dry, and the ducks have long since fled. Although the lack of rain prevents mosquitoes from breeding (hooray!), years of dry weather have taken a heavy toll on the weaker trees. Now that spring is here, the dead trees stand out, and many of them have fallen over, blocking pathways.

The mosquitoes may be absent, but the bees seem to be more numerous than ever. Wanda told us that the traps the county set out did not capture enough of them to determine the percentage of Africanized genes. However, the county said the assumption is that Africanized bees have reached Hueco (because many hives have been found in El Paso County) , and advised the staff to treat the bees as if they are Africanized and be on the lookout for indicative behavior, including: more frequent, larger swarms, swarms in unusual places (such as under logs and in holes in the ground) and the tendency for the bees to follow people and take unusual interest in people. Bee experts advise that white is the best color to wear to prevent attacks.

CAUTION: There is a large, active hive at the NW end of Laguna Prieta, in the big tree just below Stanage On Holiday. I was unable to follow the trail through Laguna Prieta after several dozen bees became VERY interested in me - I retreated quickly, holding my breath, and was not stung. If you plan to climb Indecent Exposure, be aware that there is a hive behind the flake on the second pitch. You might want to consider carrying a StingShield with you.

Bees weren't the only things buzzing the Park today. John and Wanda report that the low-altitude overflights by Army choppers are becoming more common. This one was about 30 meters off the deck.

North Mountain, at least on weekends, remains "full" until after 4:00p in the afternoon. Many frustrated visitors can be seen sitting in hot cars outside the entrance, waiting for someone to leave and free up a slot.
February 24, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night before the comp, complete with lightning and hail - very unusual for late February in El Paso. The weather forced the Rock Ranch to bring the night's pre-registration activity into the barn, which has seen many recent improvements, including paneling and insulation. The forecast for Saturday is sunny and mild.
February 19, 2006
One week before the Rock Rodeo, excitement is building. Dave Graham, Chris Sharma and Jason Kehl have been sighted; we hope they enter, even though the RR is small potatoes compared to other comps. A Hummer with the Climbing Magazine logo was spotted near Warm-Up Boulder. Sunday started out cool and rainy, providing the first significant relief from the drought that has gripped El Paso for the last 120 days or so. People won't be the only life-forms observing the contest next weekend.

February 5, 2006
With the 2006 Hueco Tanks Rock Rodeo only a few weeks away, the Rock Ranch is a busy, happy place.
January 1, 2006
Sad news about a former local climber, Rich Lund. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail send by Donny Hardin:

"... getting ready to go to the Canyonlands on a trek within a couple of months ...I don't know if you remember my old original climbing partner named Rich? Well, he got really bad cancer and passed on 12/6/2005, so, his last request from me was to take his ashes down into the Maze of the Canyonlands, so, that's my task as soon as I can catch a boat ride down to Spanish Bottom in March ... jornada del muerto... Well, I'll stay in touch. Adios DonJuan de Canyon"

Rich Lund suffered from a particularly nasty form of bone cancer. The cancer was a result of a crippling leg injury sustained during a radical snow-boarding jump.
January 1, 2006
Although it has not rained for over 80 days, the main pond still contains enough water to provide some Hueco ducks with a relaxing swim after a fun-filled New Years Eve.


News from 2005

News from 2004

News from 2003

News from 2002

News from 2001

News from 2000