I’m not quite sure what it was that got me psyched to plan a trip to El Potrero Chico… Was it the jagged limestone peaks of the Sierra Madres? Was it because Alex Honnold had been there? Or was it the rumor of a small white chihuahua named Scooby.
It was Scooby.
This is Scooby
Ben, Zach, and I threw our bags into the back of my mom’s Prius and sped off to Mexico. We were all skipping the holidays with our families for a three week climbing trip in another country. (Sorry family). Google maps predicted the drive to be nineteen hours. Oh, if only. I would love to say that our boarder crossing into Mexico was easy and relaxing, but quite frankly, it did tremendous psychological damage to all of us, and even with years of therapy and rehabilitation, we will never be able to truly recover. It was a true test of character and really made us question our life choices. The six lane highway at Laredo bridge was completely packed with cars that stretched for miles. It took us a grueling and painful 9 hours just to cross the boarder and get our travel visas. It is really funny how I thought that nothing could be worse than the DMV, but the Mexican boarder office takes the cake. And what horrible place would be complete without a screaming child? And this wasn’t just any screaming child, this child was… The worst child on the planet. This punk-ass toddler was running around, crying hysterically, screaming at the top of her lungs, stomping her feet, and clapping while her parents did nothing. I don’t want to talk about this any more. On to the climbing.
After 31 unfortunate hours, we made it to El Potrero Chico.
The front side
Our friend Mike had found us a place to stay in the middle of town right across from the climber hangout/coffee shop, The Buho. It was a small apartment that even had a bathroom and electricity, and enough space for our whole crew of 6. The main campsite in Potrero was super full, and it was so nice to have a place to stay that was away from the crowds of other climbers. And it was only $13 a person for the month!
Zach picking fresh oranges off our roof
On our second day, after being somewhat recovered from our traumatic boarder crossing, we tried Time Wave Zero 23 pitches (5.12a). 90% of the climbing is super easy, and Zach and I were able to simul-climb the first 8 pitches until we got rained out. We didn’t end up trying it again because the climbing wasn’t all that great, and there were so many people going to climb that route. Due to the huge influx of gumbies on the multipitches, we focused on harder single pitch climbing for the duration of the trip.
Zach helping me get facebook likes
The trip was a welcome change from our usual short weekend trips. We had more time to rest, explore the town, try some of the local restaurants, and practice our spanish at the local Tuesday markets. One of our favorite restaurants was “Faceburger”, which literally the kitchen of some families house. The burgers were as big as your face, and came with baskets of fresh fries. While it definitely was not the most authentic Mexican food, it was pretty damn good after a day of climbing. And I will admit that it was insane to watch Ben eat the whole thing… And then hustle back to our bathroom at a swift pace.
Ben onsighting his project
After a week climbing in Potrero, we decided to head up to El Salto for some cooler temps. We heard that the climbing was amazing, and decided to spend a few days in the mountains during Christmas. We left early in the morning to avoid rush hour, which thankfully made the drive only slightly terrifying. After miles of steep winding roads, and definitely not bottoming out on any speed bumps, we rolled in to Cienega De Gonzales. We set up camp in the yard of a lady named Dona Kika, which was a great chance to meet local climbers from Mexico City and Guadalajara.
The climbing in El Salto is world class. The Las Animas wall is the main crag with over 60 routes. Las Animas wall is huge wall of beautifully streaked, and incredibly featured limestone. It was all of our first experiences climbing on tufas before and it did not dissapoint. Although it was a new style to get used to, it was a blast getting pumped out of my mind and taking some big clean falls. The climbing in El Salto is so 3-Dimensional, it mades each route one-of-a-kind.
Zach climbing through a sea of tufas on Las Animas wall
The next day we hiked a little farther down the creek bed to check out the Tecalote cave. It’s super steep, loaded with stalactites, and has some really hard climbs. The routes were out of this world and just plain fun to climb.
Zach “using his head” to find a no-hands rest
On the right side of the cave, Ben and I climbed what was quite possibly the sickest 5.10 ever. It was called “Culo De Merin”, or “Merlin’s Asshole (a lovely name) and it climbed through a horizontal tunnel, and up into a cave. It felt like caving. We rappelled out of the cave with huge grins.
Ben nearing the end of the climb, high into the cave
Later that night (Christmas Eve), Dona Kika invited all the climbers to her families party. She had made hundreds of tamales, (which were by far the best tamales any of us had ever had), shared beers and maybe a little to much tequila. I would say it was a great night if some of the locals didn’t build a huge fire and BLAST music at our tents all night long until the sun came up; and the tequila didn’t help.
The El Salto Gang, Santa, and two random children
We headed back to Potrero to meet up with the rest of our Boulder crew of Max, Shannon, and Ben, who thankfully had an easier boarder crossing than we did. We climbed the next few days and got to spend New Years at the big climber party in one of the local campgrounds. it was really cool to see how many psyched climbers from all around the world come out to Potrero. There was even a DJ and even a mechanical bull. It was pretty fun, but we didn’t feel like staying up later than midnight.
Max about to get bucked off head first
We did end up hitting a bit of rainy weather on our trip, but we were still able to find places to climb. We got to get off the beaten path to check out some of the more obscure areas which provided us with some spiney jungle adventure. We checked out several of the overhanging walls at Potrero, and even an underground bouldering cave where your headlamp was the only source of light. It was really rad!
Up in the clouds in the Fitness Cave
El Potrero Chico is massive, and in our time there we were only barely able to scratch the surface of all the climbing. The rock is all limestone, but is featured with all kinds of different holds which makes for really interesting climbing. There is also SO much potential for new routes, so if you want to nab some FA’s, go to Potrero!
A view of El Toro from Upper Sense of Religion
After nearly 3 weeks of climbing, barbacoa tacos, and margaritas, we decided to end our trip with 2 more days climbing in El Salto. I definitely felt stronger since the first time we went, and was able to put down a route that had given me a lot of trouble. And Ben sent his first 13b! it was even during the hottest part of the day, unreal! It was a great way to end the trip with all six of us, and it was awesome to say bye to Zach and Shannon before they started their huge road trip.
Ben stemming between two gigantic tufas
I think I can speak for our Boulder Crew that the trip to Potrero has been hands down the best climbing trip we have ever been on. We got introduced to a new style of limestone, we all made a ton of friends from over the world, nobody got hurt, and nobody even got sick. I’m sure I will be back one day, but I also heard that Chonta Cave in Mexico City is even sicker.
The whole crew after our last day climbing in El Salto
Am I really going to conclude with a picture of a sunset? That is so chiche.