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2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.

24-Hour Horseshoe Hell

by Joshua Ong

Jazz sax at night as the lights climb up.

After a long, hot day, the smell of sweat, chalk, and campfire cooking fills my nose. The cast iron sizzles with vegetables. Four of us — all climbers — dish out dinner and sit down to eat. After inhaling the food, we sit watching rock climbers’ headlamps rise up the sides of the canyon — the lights move like the curtains of a closing play. And just as the universe heard me say, “Its can’t get better than this,” the haunting lament of a jazz saxophone swept in across the valley.

Welcome to hell. Twenty-Four-Hour Horseshoe Hell, that is. Beyond Jasper, Arkansas, and tucked back in the hills, is Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. The place has some of the most pristine rock climbing in the middle of North America. Once a year, rock climbers, outdoorsmen, and partiers alike come together in a 24-hour-long rock climbing competition. Each climber and a partner climb as many routes as possible in the given time frame. A route is a single pathway to the top of the rock wall. Each route has allotted points based on how long and hard the route is. The team with the most points at the end of the 24 hours wins.

Past Jasper, past the main road, the way to the ranch is down a long, narrow dirt road through some of the most beautiful mountains in the Ozarks. The entrance overlooks the valley. I had been to the ranch previously but never before has the place seemed so alive. Down the dirt road is the “Outpost” where every climber picks up their tickets. The road widens upon the approach and both sides are lined with vendors — a granola’s dream. On that first night was a showing of a mountaineering documentary. The movie’s flickering lights splashed across the hill in front of the outpost. A few hundred climbers gathered to watch legends of the outdoors community push their limits in some of the coldest mountains in the world. As the movie ended, headlamps across the valley came on.

A sea of people. Lamps like stars reflecting on water.

We woke to the smell of campfire. And goat poop. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the outpost for the big start. People camp all over the valley and all meet at the outpost. As we arrived, people descended from all directions, dressed in every type of costume you could imagine. More and more people showed up and the costumes got more and more ridiculous. It’s everything from Brave Heart to Bladerunner. At 9:45 AM, the climbing teams gather around a pickup-truck-bed stage. Andy Chastine — founder of 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell — welcomed the crowd: “Why the hell are you here?” Then Jeremy Collins (a top climber who often wins 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell) rose to recite the Climbers Creed. The sea of climbers raised their right hands, faced their partners, and began.

I vow to push you harder than ever.
Where you stop, I begin. We are one.
This is our hour! This is our moment!
This is our dawn wall!

We are the clippers of bolts. We are the stokers of stoke.
We are warriors! We are lions! We are lions in a field of lions!

BANG! A 10 o’clock shotgun goes off. The competition has begun. People flood out to find their first routes of the day. From here on, climbers push their bodies to their furthest limits, 24-hours straight.

A few hours into the climbing, I went to the wall to check the progress of the day. Blood, sweat and tears have been poured out across these walls. A few hours in and people are already exhausted. The sun beats down hard, warming the walls, cooking the climbers as they go. Even being on the ground is exhausting. On the hour, every hour, Spartan-like battle cries rise in the valley. As night approaches, costumes have been torn to shreds. The climbers gear up to push through the night.

2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.
2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.

Support our Ozark Mountain sponsors! And check out the recipe below!

Bo and Tami Bandy

Victory Chiro

We’re Dr. Bo & Tami Bandy of Branson, Missouri. We’re a membership-style chiropractic office. Come in anytime we’re open, just like a gym! We’re also super family-friendly. Our passion is to see people be the best they can be!

Victory Chiro

Dr. Bo & Tami Bandy

417 337 7077
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Contact us today to see if Victory is right for you! Visit our office in Victorian Village just off Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. We want to give you the power to make good choices. Victory is Purposeful Compassion + Deliberate Affirmation = Victory Chiropractic!

Victory Chiro
Grandma's Goodies Cinnamon Rolls

Grandma’s Goodies & Gumbo

Grandma’s Goodies & Gumbo is the best of Southern Louisiana cuisine and the best of Iowa’s candy-making tradition. Located in Hollister’s historic Downing Street, our menu includes Spicy Creole Gumbo, dinner-plate-sized Cinnamon Rolls, Peanut Brittle and much more!

Grandma’s Goodies & Gumbo

Darla & Terry Mire

(417) 320-6175
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Visit us in downtown Hollister, Like us on Facebook, call us to order your Christmas candy. Stop in for a bowl of Shrimp Gumbo, a slice of cornbread, or a cup of Community Coffee. “We put love in every bite!”

Grandma's Goodies & Gumbo

Wilson & Co. Barbershop

Wilson & Company Barber Shop in Downtown Hollister, Missouri, is a favorite hangout. Owner Davy Wilson is an traditional barber offering straight-razor shaves, quality beard products, and plenty of time to sit back and talk fishing, faith, hunting and community.

Wilson & Co. Barber Shop

Davy Wilson

(417) 973-1621
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Davy doesn’t take appointments. Just come on in! “You are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t stop in for a cut!” says Ron Williams. Come in for some of the best shaves and haircuts this side of the Mississippi.

J Loehr Custom Engraving

J Loehr Custom Engraving

Jeff Loehr creates custom hand-made jewelry and engraves guns and knives. His Forsyth shop includes all kinds of jewelry, artwork, handmade soap and guns. “I can take your idea and turn it into a one-of-a-kind treasure.

J. Loehr Custom Engraving

Handmade Jewelry & More!

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Visit our Forsyth shop. Tell us your jewelry and engraving ideas. We would love to create an original piece for you. Be sure to read our blog posts on our new site as well. Don’t be shy. Come on over!

J Loehr Gun Engraving
faiths journey

Faith’s Journey

Faith’s Journey is one of the nation’s premier Southern Gospel groups. Led by Jonathan and Deana Edwards of Branson, Missouri, you can expect anointed singing, God’s message and an uplifting and encouraging experience. We perform nationwide.

Faith's Journey

Southern Gospel

(417) 425-7856
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Join us at God & Country Theatre on Branson’s famed 76 Country Boulevard, see us at Silver Dollar City. Visit with us at an upcoming church concert! Connect on Facebook. Sign up for our newsletter. Pray for us as we minister through song.

faith's journey
Christi Crosson and Kate Crosson

Enhanced Health

We focus on the internal health needs of our clients. We listen, looking deeper into problems. We walk a path with you to help you meet your health goals. Together, we can achieve health. Enhanced Health is mother-daughter team Christi and Kate Crosson.

Enhanced Health

Christi & Kate Crosson

(417) 320-6250
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Our services include weight loss, hormone balancing for men and women, thyroid management and primary care. Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Schedule an appointment to enhance your health today!

Enhanced Health Christi Crosson

Tompkins Wellness Center

Tompkins Wellness Center offers chiropractic, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory, emotional release and distance doctoring.

Tompkins Wellness Center

Dr. Wayne & Angie Tompkins

(417) 336-2620
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Call us with questions or better yet, stop in our beautiful, soothing office in Hollister, Missouri. We provide auriculotherapy, whole food supplements, food sensitivity testing, weight loss & detox programs. We take your health concerns seriously.

SNOWDEER by Randy Plummer

The Snowdeer Saga

SNOWDEER is the Christmas story of a young buck living in Doe Run. His Christmas wish is to pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. Plum Puddin’, SNOWDEER’s friend from Possum Holler, helps by taking the young buck’s letter to Santa.

The Snowdeer Saga

by Randy Plummer

(417) 231-5767
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THE ADVENTURES OF SNOWDEER, PLUM PUDDIN’ & PURPLE MOUSE continues the adventure! Friendships are forged as these lovable characters come together on a magical quest. As they stumble upon elves, talking horses and singing cats, you’ll discover the power of friendship!

Randy Plummer Snow Deer

24-Hour Horseshoe Hell Photos by Joshua Ong

Support our Ozark Mountain sponsors! And check out the recipe below!


Kom Hot Yoga

KOM in Downtown Branson is a fresh and contemporary state-of-the-art studio. Our infrared heat penetrates the body, not the air, allowing muscles to relax. People of all ages are welcome. Hot yoga heals body and mind.

Kom Hot Yoga Branson

Be Kom

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We offer many classes, including vinyasa fusion, power flow, yin deep stretch and power flow. Our instructors are passionate, caring and beginner friendly. Most classes last 60 minutes.

Experience confidence, weight loss, better flexibility and strength, improved breathing, circulation and more!

417 Pet Sitting

417 Pet Sitting has your tails covered when you are away from home – our team of background checked, licensed, bonded, and insured professional pet sitters come to your home and provide the affordable, safe, intelligent alternative to boarding or relaying on friends and family.

417 Pet Sitting

Amanda Brown

(417) 827-7387
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Visit our website now to schedule a free in-home consultation. A member of the team will come out and meet you and your furbabies, while learning everything they need to take care of your pets and home while you are at work, at play, or traveling.

Branson’s Center Stage Grille & Bar

Branson’s Center Stage is where everyone is a friend and most are like family. Homemade food, from scratch, including steaks and seafood! Daily specials by Chef Bill (Ann Margret’s personal chef)!

Branson's Center Stage Grille & Bar

Incredible Food & Live Entertainment

(417) 320-6079
Visit Our Site!

Come in for lunch or dinner. Try the specials. Book your event today. Our menu is American with a touch of amazing European fair. We offer mouth-watering desserts the the right way — from scratch!

Rod Phillips

Rod Phillips

Rod Phillips is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer living in the Missouri Ozarks. He has toured with Michael Martin Murphy, the New Christy Minstrels, and Jim Stafford, produced 14 albums, and plays 13 different instruments. He is also a published novelist.

Find Rod Phillips’ music on CDBaby. Connect with Rod on GigSalad. A performance with Rod is engaging, inspiring, warm, intimate, nostalgic and funny. Discover the mysteries and miracles of life through music. “Music is my life experience and expression.”

Rod Phillips Singer Songwriter
2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.
2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.
2017 Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.

[Horseshoe Hell Continued]

If you know climbing culture, you already know climbers love to party. Fayettechill, a local Ozarks clothing brand, throws a huge party at 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell for all those who are not on the canyon walls. Beer, lights and gear are hiked a half-mile into the woods to an enormous outcropping of boulders. Partiers follow by the dozens. The sound of drinking, dancing and climbing resound in the canyon, louder and louder. The electrifying sensation of the party, plus more than a few drinks, motivates people to climb harder and grab the attention of the crowd. As the party goes on so does the scrabble to cover more routes all over the canyon. Headlamps rise as the climbers push on. The temperature drops and the difficulty of the climbs increases.

The sun rises with hope — hope for the end of the competition. There is a mad dash to complete last-minute climbs. And then — BANG! BANG! BANG! — shotgun blasts end the insanity. Climbers once more come to the Outpost from every direction to turn in score cards. In they come, barely able to walk, hands like tattered rags. They are caked in mud, glad to be done. As the morning crawls on, there is quiet for the first time in the valley. My friends and I head for the Buffalo River, just a few miles away. There is something about the river that seems to rejuvenate even the tiredest soul

After 24 hours of non-stop climbing, folks are ready for food. We all come together at the outpost for home-cooked pasta. By now, there are uncountable new friendships happening; friendships forged in sweat and upon stone. Climbers are just glad to be done and gather to swap stories strong and victorious. We wrap up dinner as the awards ceremony begins. To collect a trophy, the winners must take a shot of whisky and plunge down a hill-long slip n’ slide. The sun sets behind us as cheers for the victors rise long and loud.

Second nightfall and the real festivities begin. As though there hadn’t been enough partying yet, this time there is one last, giant party to go out in style. The valley is filled to the brim with the sound of music and the smell of beer. Now’s the time to give all you have left. Even the old-timers show up. Climbers are understandably already crazy people. Throw in alcohol and beautiful fatigue and things go wild. People hanging from the rafters. Crowd surfing. Dancing as hard as they can until dawn.

All during 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell — in the mess hall — was the familiar rattling of a tattoo machine. A tattoo artist had set up, giving away free tattoos to all climbers. One particular design caught my eye and I decided to go for it. As the artist finished up and I admired the work, someone leaned in, “These are more than just tattoos,” he said. “Now you have a connection to a family. We are a family at Horseshoe Hell. Whenever you see someone with one of these tattoos, you instantly know you are family.”

Because that’s what this weekend is really about. A family. One big, ragged, dirty, hungry, passionate family. Each giving their all. Each hoping for the best. Celebrating one another. And humanity.

All at 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell.

Near Jasper, Arkansas.

2017 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell. Photo by Joshua Ong.

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State of the Ozarks Cookin’ — Spiced Crabapples

spiced crabapples

“Made a batch of yummy spiced apples! Thank you for the recipe!” — Ron Regehr, StateoftheOzarks Subscriber

Spiced Crabapples (Makes about 6 pint jars)
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
8 cups stemmed crabapples, pricked with a fork

1. Tie cinnamon stick pieces, allspice and cloves in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.
2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar, water, vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Add crabapples and return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 10 to 20 minutes or until crabapples are tender. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and discard spice bag.
3. Meanwhile prepare canner, jars and lids.
4. Using a slotted spoon, pack hot crabapples into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover crabapples, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

— page 161, The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, edited by Judi Kingrey and Lauren Devine, Robert Rose Press, Toronto, Ontario 2006