Potrero Love Letters Vol. 3

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

Well rested and recharged, we were at it again. Temperatures were still in the 90F range for our fifth day on the rock, but dropped drastically to the mid 70s by our sixth and final day.


While most of the other visiting climbers declared a rest day to evade the scorching sun we opted for an early start trying to beat the heat. We headed off for the Zapatista Wall where Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches) and Off the Couch (5.10d, 7 pitches) lie in waiting. The hike was long by Potrero Chico Standards, about 35 minutes, and followed a mining road before turning off up a scree and boulder hopping incline. It is important to note that one can easily tack on an extra painstaking 10 minutes if they cut short of the boulder hopping along the 3rd class ridge and head for the scree field, as we accidentally did. The trail is roughly marked by intermittently spaced red circles, so keep an eye out for those.

Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches)
A fantastic moderate with a short crux at P6. Tops out along the very scenic “Scariest Ride Ridge”. The route follows a prominent white stained arête and the base of the climb is marked “SAR”. Took us about 3 hours swinging leads.

  • P1 – 5.9, Fun run
  • P2 – 5.10b, more fun run with a short crux
  • P3 – 5.9
  • P4 – 5.10b
  • P5 – 5.10a
  • P6 – 5.10c, short crux and surprisingly, slightly overhung. Lots of fun side-pulls. Stay on the arête and be cautious of loose stuff if you head off of the arête.
  • P7 – 5.7, blocky run to the top

Satori (P1) - El Potrero Chico

P1 (5.8) – Satori

Satori (P6) - El Potrero Chico

P6 (5.10c) – Satori

Off the Couch (5.10d, 7 pitches)
Shares the first two pitches of Satori, cuts left on P3 and then heads up a flawlessly perfect face for four more pitches of intricate face climbing with thin moves, increasing in difficulty pitch by pitch. This route is fairly new, it was put up about a year and a half ago, and boy was it awesome. If you hike “all the way up there” to do Satori, don’t call it a day without trekking up this one – it only added about two hours of climbing and unequivocally rounded out our day on the rock. This was one of my favorite climbs in El Potrero Chico.

  • P1/P2 – same as for Satori.
  • P3/P4 – 5.8/5.8, linked. Traverse left from P2 and head up the start of a clean face.
  • P5 – 5.10b, thin and balancey face climbing.
  • P6 – 5.10c, more increasingly thin moves up the face to a traverse at an awesome flake.
  • P7 – 5.10d, thin moves with a few traverses. One of my all time favorite pitches.
Off the Couch (P6) - El Potrero Chico

P6 (5.10c) – Off the Couch


Pancho Villa Rides Again - El Potrero Chico

Pancho Villa Rides Again (5.10c)

As our last day to prance up and down limestone, we chose to return to the Mota wall for a climb that touted rave reviews from our fellow climbers, Pancho Villa Rides Again – a five pitch bolted route that follows a luring crack. This was hands down our favorite climb of the trip and should not be missed by anyone visiting the Potrero.

  • P1 – 5.10c, follow that crack and enjoy amazing hand jams and finger locks The crack tapers from hands to off fingers at the crux (fingers if you are lucky).
  • P2 – 5.10b, continue up the crack to a large flake before heading back left into the hand crack.
  • P3 – 5.10c, traverse right and then up to keep enjoying the hand crack until you pull some moves to clear a small bulge.
  • P4 – 5.9+, the crack opens up to a beautiful chimney and then exit right to a thinner crack.
  • P5 – 5.10a, follow the blocky rock to the top.

Pancho Villa Rides Again (P3) - El Potrero Chico

P3 (5.10c) – Pancho Villa Rides Again

Pancho Villa Rides Again (P4) - El Potrero Chico

P4 (5.9) – Pancho Villa Rides Again

Important note: be mindful not to trundle any rocks while on route or during rappel descent as this route is on the very popular Mota wall where rock fall can and will kill or significantly injure someone below.

Our last two days of climbing at El Potrero Chico involved quite varied and unique climbs, which seems to be a constant theme here. I have never been to an area that has routes varying so wildly from one another, which is what makes the Potrero perfect for any climber. There really is something for everyone – cracks, face, multi-pitch and single pitch cragging. I already have a ticklist for when I return to the Potrero and I haven’t even left yet. Though sadly the time has come to call upon “Magic Ed” to taxi us back to Monterrey airport where our flights home await us.

Sold on a climbing adventure to El Potrero Chico? Stay tuned for a quick reference guide by yours truly.

"Magic Ed" - El Potrero Chico

“Magic Ed” – El Potrero Chico

Location: El Potrero Chico – Hidalgo Mexico

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Raised in the ocean lined landscape of Southern California, Ilana now calls the rocky mountains of Colorado home. Ilana is a mother to an adventurous daughter, an accomplished rock and ice climber, skier, snowboarder, mountain distance runner, avid adventurer, and a Registered Trauma Nurse. A recent, near fatal accident in May, 2018, has left Ilana with a new disability; bringing her biggest life challenge to head, adapting to continue her pursuit of long, hard days in the mountains and share it with the generations to come. Ilana is the founder of Thrillseekers Anonymous, a seasoned event speaker, and 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 121 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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