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Mexican Hiatus on Soaring Limestone Walls in February

(all pho­tos Jere­my Allyn and Mark Gunlogson)

No hay, no hay” the señori­ta keep say­ing, no hay” as we begged for more blan­kets. My Span­ish might have been a lit­tle rusty, but I usu­al­ly know what no” means. The hay” part I still have no idea, but it prob­a­bly referred to the fact that all the oth­er climbers and campers at La Posa­da had what was left of the blankets. 

That night, the sec­ond of our week-long rock climb­ing trip to Potrero Chico, Mex­i­co — the 2010 Moun­tain Mad­ness staff retreat” — was as cold as any of my worst bivouacs in the North Cas­cades or a friend­ly sum­mit day on Denali.

As Mex­i­co City set record lows, and snow hit south­ern Texas, our con­crete Casa Grande turned into an insuf­fer­able ice box. Curled up in the fetal posi­tion under a sheet and one thread­bare cot­ton blan­ket, I had every stitch of cloth­ing I had brought, and it was clear­ly not enough. We were bun­dled up in all the clothes that our part­ner Helly Hansen had pro­vid­ed us for the trip, includ­ing mul­ti­ple base lay­ers, soft shell pants, puffy jack­ets, wool hats, and soft­shell jack­ets with hoods pulled tight. This is sup­posed to be Mex­i­co…” became the mantra of the night. This is sup­posed to be Mexico…”

The next morn­ing I watched with a unique blend of agony, aston­ish­ment, and com­pa­ny pride as Moun­tain Mad­ness pres­i­dent Mark Gun­log­son put the drapes back up over the kitchen win­dows. What the…? Did you sleep under those?” Look­ing back I don’t know why I was so shocked. Twen­ty five years of for­eign trav­el, count­less Himalayan and South Amer­i­can expe­di­tions, and a youth of dirt-bag­ging it in Yosemite had giv­en him spe­cial skills. Insu­la­tion, man,” he said with a chuck­le. Insu­la­tion.”

Of course we were in Mex­i­co and it did warm up. By mid-week the sun and warmth that we so long­ing­ly hoped for those first few days quick­ly become things to avoid. Temps rose, limbs loos­ened, and cliffs were climbed in good style. 

With its bul­let-hard lime­stone, super long bolt-pro­tect­ed climbs, and fan­tas­tic (almost alpine) ambiance, Potrero Chico has become a world-class rock climb­ing venue since its devel­op­ment over the last twen­ty years. While most of the north­ern hemi­sphere is slid­ing on snow dur­ing the win­ter months, routes like Space Boyz, Time Wave Zero, and Sendero Lumi­noso draw tal­ent­ed and moti­vat­ed climbers look­ing for sun and a climb­ing fix- and there are plen­ty of mod­er­ates in the 5.8−5.9 range. The walls are huge and fun and every­thing is with­in walk­ing dis­tance. Cac­ti, Mari­achi music, tequi­la and tacos pro­vide local fla­vor. And the friend­ly locals are offer up smiles and a ride into town at every turn.

So, if you are look­ing to escape the win­ter dol­drums next year, take a 70 meter rope, 25 quick­draws, com­fort­able rock shoes, and fly south to Mex­i­co. We’d also be hap­py to set up a cus­tom trip there for you to join us with one of our guides. And I might be going out on a limb here, but along with your san­dals and swim suit, it might be a good idea to thrown in a down jack­et as well!