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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mountain climbers carry on traditions at Beanfest

    Alex McIntyre
    Bean Master Austin Sobotka, hanging right, fights to keep his sock on during sock wrestling at the Isle of Ewe campground in the Cochise Stronghold during Beanfest on Saturday, April 16. The game, in which two people are hoisted into the air and challenged to remove the opponent’s tube sock first, is only one of several games during the biannual climbers’ festival.

    The height of Beanfest is not at the top of a mountain, but around the campfire with 50-plus climbers of varying ages, recounting or meeting for the first time, discussing their achievements, secrets and future plans.

    It’s a fairly small community. The climbers are the real ones who like to get dirty and dangerous and conquer every rock in and around Tucson. This year’s biannual climber celebration of the spring took place over the weekend.

    The first Beanfest—though before the moniker—took place in Bear Canyon, located in Sabino Canyon, according to Mountain Project. It was the ’70s, a time of recovery as well as suspense, and great things were born all around, including the mountain climbers of Tucson’s new ritual.

    You do not need to know anything about climbing to understand the point of Beanfest, which is a call for community in a select group of people who tend to only have a few partners they generally climb with.

    At its conception, a nasty rainfall interrupted a routine camping following climbing, and this group of climbers passed around a bottle of tequila to stay warm and ease their annoyance. Yes, at first, they just happened to be eating beans, then one of these guys embraced a tequila-inspired spiritual awakening and began anointing his friends with them.

    The small group was skeptical at first, but today, everyone at Beanfest already does—or should—know and expect what is to become of the magical fruit.

    There were only a couple of runners and hiders from the beaning, and once you get beaned, you are not to wipe it off. If you do, well, you’ll just get more edible goop to your forehead immediately.

    The fest is held every year at Cochise Stronghold, and alternates sides of the mountain range from spring to fall Beanfests. Each one is led by a Bean Master, who would have been appointed by the prior master at the last Beanfest.

    This year’s Bean Master Austin Sobotka, a philosophy senior, stuck to his goal of the weekend: just keep everyone alive and, of course, have fun and carry on this tradition that’s history he made available to everyone attending.

    He said there’s not much expected of participants; climbing is not even required as long as you show up with some food or drink to share with the fellow climbers ready to party, and as long as you are willing to submit to the beaning.

    “I had an awesome time at my first Beanfest, climbing and meeting some of the community,” Jack Lusk, a Raytheon employee, said. “I’ll definitely come to the fall one and drag my friends along, too.”

    It’s silly, it’s fun and the games that come about after a few rounds of tequila may seem risky to an outsider, but you must remember these people live on the edge, scaling mountains for fun, and that the Bean Master is there to make sure no one gets too stupid.

    What began as a campfire antic grew to a full weekend away from the real world for this community, and it is likely to keep going for another 40 years, until all of Cochise Stronghold is taken over by people with handfuls of beans and everyone else knows not to come near.

    What better place to be hungover than a beautiful reserve far from all your worries, with lots of other people stumbling around with dried beans on their faces?

    Follow Gretchyn Kaylor on Twitter.

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