Trip report - Potrero Chico, Mexico
Feb 25th-March 5th, 2006

This was our 5th winter climbing trip to Mexico. Potrero Chico is a huge crag of limestone cliffs over 2000 feet high about 45 minutes north of Monterrey, in northeastern Mexico.  There is a wonderful climbing scene there in the winter months when the temperatures are moderate enough to climb (way too hot otherwise).  This year, there were 4 of us in our group (me, Ethan, Steve and Park), meeting up with others we knew down there, as well as new friends we made.

We stayed at our favorite place, Quinta La Pagoda, where $20/night will get you a big bedroom with 2-3 beds (including a king sized) in a bedroom house with bathroom, living room with fireplace, and a kitchen. The view out the front door is spectactular:

Once you get a cab ride from the airport, everything is within 10 minutes walking distance from where you're staying: crag, beer store, little family run restaurants, internet access, cafe. Only other place to go is to the city of Hidalgo, about 3 miles away, on market day. We usually get a ride from the caretaker at La Pagoda.

The cool thing about climbing at Potrero is that the kind route setters have bolted these huge multipitch routes for us - clip and go for many many pitches and nice rap anchors with chains for fast descents. We swap leads which makes for very efficient climbing.

I got on two long bolted multipitch sport routes this time. The first was Space Boyz (11 pitches, hardest rated pitch was 5.10d), which climbs up the center of the cliff to the small pillar on top. Of course, we took the obligatory flex shots on the summit.

The second was Santori on El Toro (7 pitches, hardest rated pitch was 5.10c), which climbs up the first of the 2 pillars to the left of the orange scoop in the picture below. You have this long uphill approach that just drains you, then you look up and the first 2 pitches don't look too appetizing. Boring, vegetated, dirty. But it's only 2 pitches until you get up on the exposed pillar. The rest of the climb is excellent!

This year we had Steve with us, who is a harder (and 20 years younger) climber than the rest of us. Having a ropegun is great! He led some of the harder things that we couldn't, and we had fun top roping some more difficult 5.11's that we hadn't been able to get on before. "Use the Schwortz!"

This is a picture of Steve leading on Steel Pulse, rated 5.11a, on the outrageously overhanging orange rock of the Outrage Wall. This pitch is often used to get up to the various impossible looking 5.12 and 5.13 wildly overhanging climbs above. Very thin, excellent climb.

The overhanging orange rock area in the picture below is the Outrage Wall:

Of course, no trip to Potrero would be complete without climbing The Spires.  We took the standard 5.10 route up, Aguja Celo Rey, which climbs up the arete of the thinner spire.

There is an arch halfway up the climb where you can look through to the other side.

The thin, exposed second pitch up the arete is one of the best pitches in Potrero!  I'm so happy, I'm dancing my way up!

The only bad news on the trip was when my friend Park was hit by rockfall. Ethan was 100 feet up, leading a new route which hadn't been properly "cleaned" (there's lots of loose rock at Potrero and there usually is lots of rock trundling on new routes). A rock the size of a microwave oven came off and so did Ethan. The rock hit the cliff and broke into pieces, hurling their way towards Park. Luckily Park is an experienced belayer, and his reflexes kept his brake hand on the rope and locked off. Ethan took a 20 foot whipper but was OK. Park got hit in the shoulder with a softball sized rock. He was badly bruised and couldn't climb anymore and left a day early. Turns out he has a hairline fracture in his scapula. Luckily it wasn't much worse, I could have lost 2 friends. Here's what they gathered up from the remains of the rock that fell:

Here are some other pictures of the beautiful cliffs and excellent climbs we did at Potrero this year:

Me on the Mota Wall

Steve in the Virgin Canyon

Las Estrellas

The Upper Sense of Religion

And to end the trip, we celebrated the 50th birthday of my good buddy and climbing partner of 6 years, Ethan, with a bottle of tequila which we quickly finished off.

Can you find the representation of "5-0" in the picture below?

Every year we say we're going to a different crag for our winter road trip...and every year, we find ourselves back at Potrero Chico, lovin' every minute of it.

If you think you'd like to go to Potrero Chico (and you should!), I highly recommend Ethan's Mini-Guide to Potrero Chico.