Seven week trip to Mexico with a sneaky stop off in Red Rocks? Oh go on then!
Part 1: Red Rock CanyonFirst stop Las Vegas, home to bright lights, blaring casinos and Red Rock Canyon with the most vibrant rock I’ve ever seen. Renowned for its trad, sport and bouldering, it’s a climber’s paradise. A recent finger injury dictated the need for easy trad lines but gear placements and building anchors was enough to challenge me. Apart from a few f-ing and blinding moments on the rock, it was good to be back on trad. Note to self to get more done in 2016. I even found myself contemplating buying a size 6 cam, not that it would be particularly useful back home in England.
After 10 days I had finally found my trad head again, felt less anxious about my tweaky finger and had caught up with an old friend. Time to head off for the real adventure, vamos a Mexico!
Part 2: MexicoFor some, Mexico is known for violence, corruption, beaches and marijuana. My experience however was none of that, except for maybe one. Stepping into the country I have to admit I was a little naïve, the Petzl Roctrip video was pretty much the breadth of my knowledgepart. I wasn’t quite prepared for the warmth and generosity of the climbing community, the variety of climbing and sheer quantity of awesome crags. Not to mention the potential that remains undiscovered.
Potrero Chico in the North of Mexico was the first stop. Multi-pitch sport climbing heaven, where access to the rock is faster than access to the supermarket. With classic routes like Estrellita, Space Boyz and Yankee Clipper being no more than a 10minute walk from the campground of La Posada plus the ease of bolts, you could be up and down a 400m route in time for lunch. It was the perfect place for getting in the mileage, although I quickly learnt there’s only so much abseiling I can handle in one day!
The social scene at Potrero is definitely what makes it. Thanks to La Posada posse of Canadians, Americans and token Aussie girl Emma and the incredible guys that run the not-for-profit café El Buho for introducing me to the game of Hot Coal!
Arriving at La Posada in Potrero Chico.
With the finger holding up, it was time to head for some harder stuff. Together with some of our new Potrero family we headed North to the beautiful canyon of El Salto. Word had it, El Salto was home to some of the best climbing in Mexico, the psych was high! And it certainly did not disappoint. Even before we got to the climbing El Salto already impressed, with an eerie mist settling in the canyon and Spanish moss hanging from the trees it was a far cry from the desert landscape of Potrero.
The variety of climbing was incredible, from long tufas at Las Animas to the steep powerful routes of Tecolote Cave to the technical wall of La Boca, all sitting amongst virgin rock waiting to be developed. We had the privilege of checking out the most recent of walls, La Saborosa, thanks to Alex and Connie Catlin, a super couple who have given so much time and effort to developing these beautiful places. Not to mention at the same time raising a beautiful family-you guys are an inspiration! Big shout out to the other legends, Dona Kika and all her family, Ulric Rosseau, Eva and the crazy Italians too!
Me on Hole in the Universe 5.12b (7b), Fitness Cave, Potrero Chico
With the help of our new friends we headed south to Guadalajara, home to Andrea and Fernanda Rodriguez, two of Mexico’s strongest female climbers, who took us in like family, literally. The two sisters introduced us to the rest of their family and hosted us for the next few days. We went to El Diente, a beautiful area of granite boulders and climbed the crimpy sport routes at Centinela. A word of warning if you plan to go, be prepared to have your fingertips shredded!
Lee Marchuk on the technical wall of La Boca, El Salto.
Then we went to the beautiful, rainbow walls of Ixcatan. Hidden away in the canyon were stunning technical, powerful climbs. After a night camping out under the stars and a minor vehicle breakdown we headed for Mexico City.
The classic Maga Galactico 5.12a (7a+), Los Sacos, Ixcatan
Couldn't have picked a better camp spot! Bruno Garcia cranking down on his project at Jilotepec.After a rest day strolling the streets of Mexico City, eating tortillas in every form possible, we headed to Jilotepec. A crag tucked away in the Dexcani Mountains that was host to crimpy, conglomerate climbing. After hauling our bags up the forest trail with nothing but a few photos on my phone to know where we were, we were glad to find some climbers and tents under a huge overhanging wall. Turned out this was Mexico’s strongman Bruno Garcia, the same guy we happened to have watched a video of that morning. After being told we could pitch our tent next to theirs, Bruno and Martin then proceeded to tell us they had already put quickdraws in all the classic routes as they had friends from Brazil visiting too. Sweet! It couldn’t have been simpler! Too good to be true, I got on Freseni, a classic 5.12b and after a foot slipped on my on-sight attempt I tried to repeat it, but it was too crimpy for my niggly finger. I admitted defeat, rested, belayed then headed back to Mexico City for a few days rest and ice before the final crag of the trip.
After a days travel and some testing of my Spanish, we finally arrived at the Procopio ranch. Don Procopio and his tribe of 15 kids own the ranch at the entrance to El Chonta and sort you out with burros to take your gear up to the cave. We arrived as darkness fell and the cave became alive with the sound of chapulines. It felt like the jungle. With towering shadows of rock surrounding us it was hard to get to sleep, too much excitement! The next morning was incredible. No matter how amazing the photos of Chonta had looked, none had done it justice. I was in heaven! With stalactites hanging left, right and centre it was made Sikati Cave look like a slabfest! With psych that was off the scale it was time to get ticking. Mantis, Amate Amarillo, Guerrera Cosmica, Tegrillo, Reina del Sur to name but a few but a flash of Ataxco was the icing on the cake! I think the grades were a little soft but I was definitely in my element, steep endurance routes were what I was made for.
Felipe Alvares hanging out on Revelacion Cosmica 5.14b (8c), El Chonta.
With the trip coming to a close I couldn’t have asked for a better finale: mind-blowing routes, new friends, old friends (Mathijs your surprise visit was amazing, you absolute nutter!), river washes, camp-fires and sleeping under the stars. Times like these remind me just how bloody amazing life is!
Ataxco 5.13b (8a), El Chonta
Thanks for reading!
-the 3RD ROCK team