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..
After almost losing our camera (left it on the plane) we hopped into an old red Chevy Suburban with “Magic Ed”, our shuttle driver and manager of the casita we were renting. It was a 45 min drive to Hidalgo from Monterrey.
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.
During our brief driving tour of Hidalgo we passed the town square while a Christmas celebration was going on. Santa was there on a trailer towed by a small pickup. He spoke quickly in spanish to the crowd through a bullhorn before erupting in a “HO-HO-HO”! Our first stop was the grocery store. I am fairly certain this was the most out of place I have felt in my entire life.
Loaded with groceries, it was time to drive to the casita.
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.
Made it.. Phew. The house was HUGE, we were totally overwhelmed. Thank god for a beer (even Tecate) after a long day of travel. (Robyn, Steve, Andy, Lauren)
Dinner and Carta Blanca under our outdoor patio. We must have consumed 45 avocados in these two weeks.
His name is Ted.
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.
Woke up to this… Yeah. That’ll do.
Funky green oranges growing in the yard.
A nice 3 min walk from our front door. Potrero Chico was developed in the 70’s much like a state park. After some hard economic times it has fallen into disrepair but is still a popular place for locals and climbers alike.
This road runs between the two major formations of El Potrero Chico. You can literally belay from the road in some cases. On the right is a swimming facility with about 500 cement BBQ’s.
View of the eastern summit from the swimming facility. To give some scale, the route Super Nova (5.11a) runs up the prominent grey streak. It’s 8 pitches and over 800 ft.
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.
Nice approach. This trail leads to the shrine as well as several classic routes.
What a great route. Steve on Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R).
Despite the fact that this hold (and route) really is this awesome, I had to encourage Steve not to smile so much. Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R)
Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R)
Steve working up the amazing Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R).
The crags on the left (east) side of the road. They always caught some impressive evening light.
A cool shrine in the Virgin Cañon.
Part of the shrine in the Virgin Cañon.
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.
Poke, poke, poke.
Robyn at the top of pitch 5, high up on Satori.
Andy following pitch 4 or so on Satori.
Getting off the ledge at pitches 3 and 4. Great climbing!
A little softness in the land of the pokey.
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.
Seconding the crux pitch of Satori. Great movement on awesome holds. A highly recommended route for sure.
The view from the top of Satori. The town of Hidalgo stretches out below and our badass castle is in the center and bottom of the frame (look for the blue pool and red roof).
Andy at the summit of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches). What a great route and a perfect warm-up for what was to come. This route also marked the longest route Robyn and I had done to date!
We found a little surprise in the summit register at the top of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches).
Taking the plunge.
It was actually much better than my face suggests… I am just a sissy.
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.
Steve brings Lauren up in their best rendition of a Patagonia ad.
Steve and Lauren work their way up the Grande Spire. Stunning backdrop. An amazing looking route!
Ethan on the summit pitch of the Chico Spire. A technical 5.10+ with mega cool exposure.
Robyn on Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+, 2 pitches)
Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+). The exposure on this pitch was absolutely awesome!
Hanging out on the summit of the Chico Spire (5.10+) as Steve brings Lauren up to the summit of the Grande Spire.
Andy working his way up the last pitch to the summit of the Chico Spire. Yeah, radical.
Steve enjoying some perfect Mexican limestone on a sunny day in El Potrero.
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.
“No YOU go first. HA!”
1–2–3–Here we go!
Andy headed back the other way. Such a fun day playing with physics.
Another day in Mexico. Andy’s guide skills came in handy as we set up this awesome tyrolean.
Steve smiles to much.
Robyn dangling in space as she crosses the tyrolean from the West Spire to the Grande Spire.
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.
The grounds of our new home had some really nice flowers including this rose bush.
Our Mexican palace. Living the highlife.
Rooftop beers after a great day climbing. Yes please! The summit of our objective for the following day (Space Boyz) is the 1,000 ft spire in the center of the frame.
Poop? or Chorizo? You decide.
It’s amazing how every sign you see and every food jar you buy are suddenly way cooler when they are in another language and in a foreign country.
How many kinds of hot sauce are at your grocery store?
The local grocery store. For the most part we got more and more comfortable in this place as the week went on. Slowing down, using our spanish to order meats, and asking locals if the peppers were hot or not.
This was one of the first “Mini Supers” near our house. We stopped in here on a few occasions and picked up an assortment of lagers that tasted the same with slightly different packaging.
There is a cement plant in the center of town. The local architecture is heavily influenced. Cement block walls are the norm.
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.
Robyn cruising to the top of pitch 5 or so on the super classic Space Boyz (5.10d, 11 pitches). Checkout the result of rockfall on the pavilion roofs below.. Yikes!
Robyn taking off on the sharp end of a 5.10 pitch of Space Boyz.
Andy seconding the money pitch. This 5.10d crossed two changing corners dihedrals before a spotless headwall with great exposure.
Wide shot nearing the top of Space Boyz (5.10d). Such a great route!
Robyn enjoying her birthday in style by sending the longest route of her life. 1,100 ft of pure fun.
Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy delivered and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!
Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy followed through and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!
Enjoying what would be the last of our sunshine for a while.. Steve in the living room of our palace.
The view from the top of Space Boyz looking East. Not a bad place to hang for a bit!
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.