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!