Potrero Love Letters Vol. 1

El Potrero Chico, Mexico - Volume One. Climbing tales from El Potrero Chico, the limestone climber’s multi-pitch mecca.

Buenos dias amigos!

We arrived to some interesting weather in Monterrey, MX – rain and hail. This is quite unusual for an area boasting temps averaging 70F this time of year. Transportation from the Monterrey airport went flawlessly. We were greeted by “Magic Ed“, our driver, who has lived in the area establishing climbs in the Potrero since the late 80s. He also is the man responsible for putting together a guidebook of sorts that he updates on an annual basis, of which a copy was included as part of our taxi fare. At first sight, Potrero Chico seems magical. Its limestone canyons are massive and welcoming. Usually the area is packed with queues of climbers; however, many people have been staying away from Potrero due to fear of escalating violence. Restaurants that were once packed with hungry climbers now lie vacant and closed for business as of 2010. Jean and I did a quick grocery shop at the Carniceria to stock up on the essentials (50 eggs, veggies, instant coffee, etc.) and headed to La Posada, our base camp for the next ten days. La Posada is a popular place for climber’s to stay. In addition to a few rooms for let, they offer camping for $5/person and have several amenities that are unheard of for these two dirtbag girls – hot showers, kitchen facilities with stove and fridge, toilets and a very frigid swimming pool with a sundeck. We found a lovely terrace with a beautiful view of the Potrero to pitch our tents on. Our first night culminated with a 60 peso bottle of Tempranillo (5 USD) and socializing amongst the fellow La Posada campers.

El Potrero Chico Entrance

El Potrero Chico Entrance

Climbing day one was our crag day on the Mota wall (mota means marijuana in spanish) to get a feeling for ratings. I took it pretty easy, because my lungs were in agony but we still managed to get a pretty good feel for the ratings and I got to see my climbing partner’s eyes light up as she experienced limestone for the first time. The rain had let up; however, it was still cold and windy for the majority of the day.

DAY ONE – CRAGGING

  • Caguama Queen (5.9) – meaning Turtle Queen, climbs a face to a wide crack and finishes with some more face climbing.
  • Tlaloc (5.10b) – fun, balancey/technical face climbing.
  • Death of a Tradman (5.10a) – an aesthetic crack line involving no crack climbing but with exciting bolting
  • Rusty’s Crack (5.9) – Lead by Jean, a fun curving and discontinuous crack
  • Sleepwalkin’ (5.9+) – Jean lead this one. Should more appropriately be named DirtDustin’
Sleepwalkin' (5.9+) - El Potrero Chico

Sleepwalkin’ (5.9+) – Space Boyz is prominent gendarme in background

With day one cashed in, we headed back to the Carniceria to get more essentials – carne, salsa and Tecate Light, of course. We had high hopes of grilling but were too exhausted when we returned, so we ate at the restaurant at La Posada and saved grilling for our victory dinner the next day.

DAY TWO – ESTRELLITA (5.10b)

P10/P11 (5.10b) of Estrellita - El Potrero Chico

P10/P11 (5.10b) – Estrellita

Bright eyed and powered by two cups of java a piece, we headed for Estrellas Canyon where Estrellita was the plan. Estrellita is a 12 pitch must do for the area. It ascends a dihedral ramp to a breathtaking summit. This was a great multi-pitch for Jean and I to work on our communication and rope management where we got to practice swinging leads, making us an efficient team for the more difficult climbs to come. This was our first multi-pitch climbing trip together, so its necessary to mesh your styles and preferences together. The weather participated quite nicely and we topped out with plenty of sun in the day to safely negotiate the five long and somewhat wandering rappels off the back side of the wall into the adjacent Los Lobos Canyon. This was Jeans first rap decent of a multi-pitch so it was very exciting and of course, she did awesome.

Estrellita (5.10b, 12 pitches, 1100′)

  • P1 – 5.9
  • P2 – 5.9+
  • P3 – 5.9
  • P4 – 5.8
  • P5 – Third Class
  • P6/P7 – 5.7/5.8 (linked)
  • P8 – 5.10b
  • P9 – 5.9+
  • P10/P11 – 5.10b/5.10b  (linked)
  • P12 – 5.7
Estrellita (5.10b, 12 pitches) - El Potrero Chico

We were excited when our feet reached soil and quickly walked back to basecamp at La Posada. Before setting our gear down at the tent we saluted each other with a clank of our tecate lights. The night was far from over as we had some grilling to tend to. We puppy dog eyed our way to some firewood and a groundskeeper gave us some killer advice on kindling the fire – douse a wad of paper towels with aciete de comida (cooking oil). Jean’s determination left her with some rather slick paws after a 2 hour mission to get that fire going and boy did she. We rejoiced with some pretty amazing steaks and quite possibly the spiciest jalapeno pepper of my life. Tears of happiness later, we hit the sack.

Today is rest day one and we are enjoying the accommodations at La Posada, although quite eager to get back on the rock. Stay tuned…

Your favorite classy dirtbags,
Ilana and Jean

Location: El Potrero Chico – Hidalgo, Mexico

Article by

Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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