Slapping Sweet Southern Sandstone Slopers!
If that isn't the slogan for Horse Pens 40 than I don't know what is. HP40 is a densely packed bouldering field located in northern Alabama. Supporting some of the sickest sandstone in the world this should be on everyone's bucket list.
Warning: if you have a soft ego and can't handle failing miserably on V3's then I would suggest you stay at the gym and play on plastic.
Horse Pens 40 Bouldering is dedicated to the southern way (literally that's what the guidebook is dedicated too) and this means that nothing will come easy. If you find a soft problem in the park please leave a comment below telling us about it. The words "soft" and "Horse Pens" rarely end up in the same sentence. The previous sentence was actually the first occurrence since the paleo age...
Seriously though, Bouldering at HP40 is tough (some would say sandbagged), but that's part of the fun. You won't find any straightforward crimp ladders or jug haul roof problems. What you will find is the inability to top out, anything.
Climbing at HP40
Horse Pens 40 is possibly the densest boulder field in the South, maybe even the world. With over 300 documented problems with under a 5-minute walk from the parking lot you really can beat it.
The Guide book notes many rules and ethics of the areas. Here are some highlights:
The Southern Way
- life is primary
- bouldering is secondary
- spray should only come from a metal can
- Leave your Nylon and Steel Brushes at Home (this includes a toothbrush)
- Minimize you Impact (aka be respectful)
- Follow the Rules (WE ARE NOT ENTITLED TO THE ROCK)
- Don't be a Prick (don't be stupid)
- Keep your Spry to Yourself (again the metal can thing..)
- Ganja (do not interfere with other vistors of HP40)
- Beer and Other (Pack it out, SERIOULY!)
The above section is from the Adam Henry guidebook that can be purchased on Amazon or at the camping store.
Camping at HP40
Camping at Horse Pens is super easy and convenient, however, it is not free. The cost at the time of this post is $15 a night and this includes bouldering for the day before and after. It also includes water, showers, and multiple bathrooms. A camping store in open on site for all your last minute needs.
While some people might think this is too expensive I would consider taking to Mike Schultz (the owner of Horse Pens, more info in the link or the front of the guidebook) before you make any assumptions.
The Schultz family is dedicated to preserving the land and making it available to climbers and outdoor enthusiast for years to come. If they did not own the land it wouldn't be there. HP40 is a not for profit operation and the revenue generated by climbers helps keep the field open.
Last Minute Gear
The Camping Store located next to the parking lot at Horse Pens 40 is the go to place for anything from chalk to lunch. They even have a cafe that is open during the day if you are in need of a hot meal.
If you forgot to get food to cook over the campfire you can get some at the store as well, they even deliver firewood to your campsite!
Rentals are also available at the store including crash pads, chalk bags, guidebooks, and even rental shoes! This makes HP40 one of the best places to take a Beginner Climber in the south!
Getting to HP40 is relatively easy. Simply searching "Horse Pens 40" in most GPS apps will get you there. You will also find Red and Yellow signs directing you to the property when you get off the highway.
The map below will help you get there if all else fails!
The prime time season is typically from late October to early April. This is when the rock has the most friction and the rain typically decreases. Good temps can be found outside this timeline but climbing difficulty will increase.
Looking up the current weather for Steele, Alabama will give you the most up to date and accurate information about conditions.
Competitions and Events
Triple Crown is the biggest competition at HP40 and is usually around early to mid-November. This is a serious competition that brings a lot of pro climbers out to crush. There are categories for each level so don't be afraid to go and just be a spectator is also a blast.
Boulderween is probably the most fun event Horse Pens have to offer. It is the Southern Climbers version of Halloween: drinking, dressing up in climbing puns, beer, and bouldering. Typically the weekend closest to Halloween. All proceeds go to the SCC so why not go?
The Best Problems at HP40
Here is a list of the most Classic lines at Horse Pens. If you see it on this list and it's in your wheelhouse you have to give it a try.
Wrapping it up
Horse Pens 40 is an amazing boulder field in the heart of the South.
If you want to get beat up on top outs and have your ego annihilated then come have some fun!