Saturday, August 22, 2009

Photo essay: El Potrero Chico (February, 2008)

To begin with, this trip was very nearly aborted by a turd: To fly to the Potrero from Toronto- which is where I was living at the time- Andy and I needed connect in Dallas, Texas. In the Dallas airport, he suddenly needed to go, very, very badly (this is kind of a running theme with Andy). Apparently defecation is noisy work, because he missed the last, then the final, then the really-final boarding call, and our flight took off without us. After pleading with the gate attendant for about ten minutes, he changed up our boarding passes so we could get on the next flight, but Jesus... quite close, and all for something that reasonably might have waited until we were on board. Luckily our ride in Monterrey waited around for us for the additional five hours it took us to land in Mexico. Anyway... the Potrero is a fantastic piece of rock. If you've not been, you're missing out. Here's why: 1) Hundreds of routes- some up to 2,000 feet tall- all less than 30 minutes from camp; 2) Cheap (1 USD/bottle) beer; 3) Blue skies; 4) Loud mariachi music at all hours of the day and night; 5) Good food, and 6) Cheap beer (again, because it was just that fantastic). Here's a shot of me walking towards the Potrero from camp.

The approach hike (photo: Andy McGuire)

The climbing is just fantastic, although rumours of loose rock are well-founded. For example, I remember topping out on Estrallitas, which is a VERY popular five or six pitch 5.9, to find a summit littered with jumbled heaps of boulders of every size (e.g. microwaves, baseballs, canteloupes, etc.). In fact, Andy very nearly killed the both of us high on Space Boyz (another extremely popular route) when he dislodged a giant block while tugging on a stuck line. Here's a couple shots of Estrallitas.

Andy atop Estrallitas (of note: The rat tail poking so cleverly out the back of his helmet. Andy was also the best man at my wedding, and this rat tail was his present to me. It's black here, but would be dyed platinum blonde for the ceremony. My wife was thrilled.)

Me, on top of Estrallitas (photo: Andy McGuire)

On rest days we walked into town to check out the local wares. The street market in Hidalgo is pretty fantastic. There was lots to buy, including grim reaper t-shirts for three dollars a pop, various religiously-themed salves and ointments, and this stuff, which Andy is eating, which the vendor purported to be pig face meat. Ahh, Mexico. Just wonderful stuff, really.

Andy and unidentified jerky-like product

And then there are those things that don't fit nicely in a narrative but which make the overall trip experience so much richer. For example: 1) The locals are not shy about trying to sell you cocaine; or 2) Although the rockfall risk is very real and quite serious, no one seems to think twice about partying right below the cliffs- in fact, even on 2,000 foot climbs we could hear mariachi music blasting from down below all day long. One upside of this is that there were always food vendors to buy from when we got back down- fried corn on a stick, lathered in butter, and rolled in chili sauce is one of my new favourite delicacies; or finally, 3) where else would you expect to find these little guys keeping watch over your camp?

Andy sleeps under the watchful eyes of the Nativity Posse. Freaky much?

The wise men. This picture may be a little blurry, but I think it gets the point across nicely.

All in all: Mexico definitlely comes highly, highly recommended. Oh, and you can drink the water at Cerro Gordo... which is a bonus, because there's not a ton of places in Central and South America where you can do this.

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  1. Damnh, based on the title "Rockclimbing is Awesome", I was looking for climbing pictures. Loved the tale you told (well written Andy!), but you wouldn't hurt my feelings if you put on....say....20 - 30 climbing pictures. LOL!

  2. I thought you were in med school? When do you find time to write trip blogs? Are you going back this year? I'm thinking Cuba.
    Cheers - Kevin