This is a bit of a different style of post than what we’ve done in the past. With so many cool things going on, and so much to tell, I figured keeping a bit of a daily log would be the best way to capture all the happenings. I have a less than great memory, and I knew more stuff would make it into the final draft this way, plus it would save a bit of work once we got back home. So here it is. Sometimes short, sometimes under the influence, and mostly unedited. There are a gazillion images from the trip, so we are breaking it into two posts, one leading up to Christmas, and the other from Christmas to the end.
It’s hard to say what this trip really meant to Robyn and I in the long run. In fact, it’s still hard to comprehend. We were uncomfortable. We made mistakes (big ones) in our Spanish. We felt stupid and empowered all at the same time. We traveled to an amazing country. We saw things we have only imagined and we climbed higher, and higher and HIGHER than we ever have before. We strengthened old friendships and made new ones. It’s trips like this that really stand out as highlights in our lives together. We enjoyed every bit of it!
Day 1: Snow in Salt Lake. 6 inches overnight and cars spinning out all over the interstate. Ben drops us at the airport and 12 hours later I am at a booth using broken Spanish to explain that the we don’t actually know the location of the house we are headed to. They weren’t having that. It was about this time that I remembered that I left our camera on the plane. Too late..
We met Ed at the airport. He loaded us into his ’94 Chevy Suburban and we were soon on a one lane road speeding out of Monterrey, Mexico, a city of six million people. No passing signs and the 50 km/hr speed limit signs whipped by us in a blur as we passed stacks of semis at 100km/hr.
Standing in the local grocery store of Hidalgo, I knew the packages in front of me were food but had no flipping clue what it all meant. Grabbing randomly, we ended up with an entertaining assortment of colors and packaging; bags of unmarked peanuts, beans and peppers, chorizo, eggs and bread.
More broken Spanish, pointing, “No, we want the whole case of Tecate.” Como se dice “castle” en Español? Somehow “casita” doesn’t do this place justice. The grounds cover an acre. Manicured with pools, porches, balconies and wood fire grills overlooking El Potrero Chico, our climbing destination for the trip. We met Jorge, the caretaker, a giant locust looking bug we named Ted and a 3 by 4 foot Marie Osmond portrait in the hallway. Tomorrow we climb.
Day 2: Lazy morning and the cliffs finally come into view. WOW. Coffee and cereal for breakfast. Realized on this morning I had purchased heavy whipping cream instead of creamer – a little goes a long way.
Started the day at The Wave, a little blip of a wall at the base of the main eastern buttress. Despite its small stature, the routes maxed out our 70m ropes. As the sun approached we moved to the Virgin Cañon. It’s 75 F in the shade, but feels surprisingly dry. We enjoyed the best routes of the day to a serenade of gun shots and blaring music, as the locals moved in and the sun faded away.
Dinner at La Posada tonight, the climbers campground. Robyn and I ordered “la especial” as we sipped a Carta Blanca. Of our two choices of cervesa we prefer Carta Blanca over Tecate, and it’s only mildly influenced by the fact that they are served in forties.
Lauren made friends with a ferrel cat and fed him chicken from our plates. Back at the Marie Osmond Memorial Casita we planned our first multi pitch for tomorrow. Andy, Robyn and I will head up the 700 ft seven pitch (5.10c) Satori on El Torro. Met my first cockroach tonight. He was hanging in a drawer with my shirts. No sign of Ted.
Day 3: multi-magic. Today Andy, Robyn and I cruised up Satori (7 pitches up to 10c). The approach is quite literally across from the troll door entrance to our castle. Up the hill and 45 min later, we were sweating in the jungle at the base of this amazing wall. Robyn took the lead on the first pitch and cruised up a beautiful grey face filled with classic side pulls, pockets and cactus. Two pitches led to the base of a 5 pitch pillar of 5.10 on an exposed finger leading to the summit. Roosters, pigs, insane firetruck sirens and random vaquero serenaded us from below.
The Summit register. Signed our names, took some snapshots and a swig of tequila from an unmarked jar and began the rappels. Back by 3pm and it was Tecate’s and tortas on the roof followed by another night back at la Posada for dinner. Not a bad routine. I like this multi-pitch stuff. Thinking we may climb the spires tomorrow. We heard there is a tyrolean between the summits a few hundred feet off the deck.
Day 4: inSpiring Views. Today was all about The Spires. These pillars of rock stand 200′ above the slopes below and offer incredible 360 degree views of the El Potrero Chico massif and the surrounding mountains. Steve and Lauren headed up the south side of the east pillar. While Robyn, Andy and I headed up the north side of the west pillar. After one pitch both climbs move past a saddle that separates the two summits. The second pitches of both climbs were incredibly exposed and exciting. Steven and Lauren’s climb moved past an intimidating bulge and runout bolts. Our summit, moved past a beautiful slab and airy arête.
After seeing a picture of a tyrolean in one of the guides it was a given that we had to experience it for ourselves. After climbing the eastern spire, Steve fixed a line and trailed it up the west spire. We tightened it with a 3-to-1 and let Andy be the guinea pig. Crossing the tyrolean was certainly a highlight of the trip so far. Clipping into the line and swinging into space, legs dangling 200 feet off the ground was both dizzying and exhilarating. Not to mention that it made an amazing place to hang for some pictures.
Back to the castle for a bit and we were off to town to stock up on groceries for our Christmas feast. This grocery store visit was much more relaxed. We asked for help, we ordered meat from the butcher we and picked up several other necessities that we had overlooked during our excited daze of the first trip.
A deluxe meal prepared by all. Fresh guacamole, local tortillas, beans, cheese, grilled meats and several brews later.. Now it’s time to rest; a 1,000′ climb awaits when the alarm sounds.
Day 5: atop the summit of our longest climb ever, Robyn, Andy and I cracked a Tecate to celebrate Robyn’s 29th birthday. We trimulclimbed the first 400′ of the climb before a mix of single and double linked pitches led us to the summit. Aside from some afternoon winds, the weather was perfect and views sublime. This 11 pitch route was our longest to date but that will likely change over the next few days. Down by 3 pm and we were back on the roof eating local tortilla chips and salsa looking up at our high point.
Steve and Lauren returned successful from a multi of their own and we all enjoyed some chicken tacos and storytelling before a great night of sleep.