Monday, April 14, 2014

General Mexico Travel Advice

Traveling around Mexico on a budget and still enjoying many luxuries one might not be able to afford in the States is pretty great.  There seem to be a few tricks though I have picked up over the past few years that make this go a lot smoother and cheaper.  I have been living the winter months in Mexico for the last six years and we love to explore different climbing areas and the long beautiful coasts of Mexico.
Surfing in Punta de Mita Nayarit, Mexico

Now we are a family of three.  My wife and six month old baby.  We need some extra comforts for the baby we did not value before.  Things like renting a car, hotel rooms, and airplane tickets.  These things in the States will often be hundreds of dollars, and they can be in Mexico also, but if you know where to look and play your cards right they can be just hundreds of pesos. 
The Family and a Crocodile

I think one of the sneakiest things about renting a car in Mexico is the liability insurance.  Internet search companies will give you the price with out the liability insurance.  This insurance is mandatory by law in Mexico and if you get in an accident with out it you are likely going to jail.  I have rented in the past without naively thinking my credit card covered this.  Apparently the companies are not supposed to rent to you with out this insurance some will and some will not depending on the city.  T|he point is that it increases the price by sometimes six fold.  A surprise for me the other day in Puerto Vallarta when I went to pick up my rental car and the $50 dollar Expedia price jumped up to $300.   I ended up calling all the rental agencies and Alamo had the least expensive insurance per day.  The collision insurance covering the cost of the card was then covered by my credit card.  This saving $25 a day.

As far as flights Viva Aerobus is by far the cheapest inter-Mexico company.  With an open schedule you can get $100 round trip tickets often in Mexico.  Things are always changing with their annoying hidden fees, but at the moment it is usually cheaper to buy on the phone then the internet as you don't have to pay for the expensive line they create while waiting to board the plane.  You might need a Spanish speaker for this, you also seem to need a Mexican credit card at the moment but that has not always been the case. Their website is
Taking some boat transportation in San Blas, Mexico

As far as hotels the only thing I have would say is planning ahead can often be more expensive.  If you are trying to schedule everything ahead on the internet you might not be able to find a lot of the cheaper hotels that can't afford to have a large web presence.  Books like Lonely Planet are great way to find the budget hotels and book rooms ahead of time.  One thing to always check is for Mexican holidays.  If you show up at the beach without a room at the beach during Semana Santa, the Mexican spring beak, without a hotel you are probably out of luck.  Also don't cross the borders on holiday weekends or black Friday which I have done and regretted.

Crossing the border is another great topic.  I have tried almost every way now minus swimming, though it would have been faster on black Friday.  The only gem of knowledge I have learned is when going from Laredo (US) to Nuevo Laredo (Mexico) by bus it is easier and there is more availability if you walk across and take a bus in Nuevo Laredo.  When crossing in bus into Mexico it is a big ordeal with the customs.  You have to get you bags scanned, and wait a big bus line.  You also might be waiting hours for this one bus that crosses only to wait more hours for another bus in Nuevo Laredo as you have to change buses after crossing.  The bus that crosses is used for just crossing. 
Cerro Chipinque "M" mountain flying out of Monterrey

If walking across you will have to cross Bridge number 1. It puts you in downtown Nuevo Laredo which is not my favorite place to hangout but there are many taxis waiting right there and it is not too far to the bus station.  It should be around 50 pesos to the bus station.

If you are looking for the cheapest way to get to El Potrero Chico without paying the $50 dollar cab ride you should be able to take a bus now.  From the main terminals there is a shuttle to terminal C which is where Viva Aerobus is located.  From there you can go inside and pay for a ticket to the main bus station of Monterrey.  From there a bus to Hidalgo.  From the Hidalgo bus station you can walk thirty minutes up to Potrero or behind the bus station and to the right near the Kindergarten there is a taxi company. Much more difficult then a taxi but it is possible.

Hopefully this little gems of travel advice can be helpful.  We have often had to learn by making many mistakes.  Travel in Mexico in general is way less stressful then the States because there are buses running everywhere at all times of the day. In general I don't see many other gringos traveling in Mexico accept in clusters in the few places they have deemed "safe" like Puerto Vallarta and Baja.  Get out there and eat some amazing foods you have never heard of and experience the rich cultures Mexico has to offer.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cumbia Cave: Land of Giant Tufas

Lots of tufas!
Lots of tufas!

The Cumbia Cave is down a bumpy road in Nuevo León, Mexico. It is located in an area called Las Adjuntas, which is where two rivers converge in a beautiful lush canyon famous for it's canyoneering adventure called Matacanes. The Cumbia Cave is on the way to the already popular area El Salto also known for it's amazing tufa climbing.

Rodrigo on some big stalactites on Cascabel 11a
Rodrigo on some big stalactites on Cascabel 11a

Nuevo León is loaded with climbing potential. With only a few local climbers bolting and a smaller number of US climbers then pre-drug war days it is overwhelming how much development of amazing climbing there is to be done here now. Another area which has huge potential is called El Diente which is ten minutes down a road from the city of Monterrey. It has everything for a great sport climbing area four stalactite caves, a 1,000 foot El Diente (the tooth), and an amazing two pitch tufa wall two minutes off the road pictured below. It is all on National Park land but unfortunately a mining company now owns the access road to this amazing gem.

A small piece of the amazing tufa wall that is currently off limits de...
A small piece of the amazing tufa wall that is currently off limits despite being in a National Park.

We found the Cumbia Cave while driving to another cave full of amazing tufas in the Chipitin waterfall. We decided the drive and hike was a bit to much for that cave though I think somebody could bolt a long adventure route there and it would be amazing. We started bolting the Cumbia Cave last spring and there are currently 15 routes from 11a to 13a.

Me on Celso Pina 12c jug fest
Me on Celso Pina 12c jug fest

With the abundance of holds and tufas at the Cumbia Cave we will likely be bolting many more routes. Just looking around a little last weekend I spotted another cave across the canyon. We also bolted an area called the La Cueva del Oso two years ago it is a little more remote and has the white dust of north facing limestone caves.

Fernanda on La Gripa 12c in La Cueva del Oso
Fernanda on La Gripa 12c in La Cueva del Oso

If anyone is interested in climbing or bolting in the Cumbia Cave this winter feel free to contact me for beta on getting there. There is some beta here:

Beta for La Cueva del Oso here:!cuevadeloso/c1wet

Joel transformed into a Tufa on Vasco Viejo 11d
Joel transformed into a Tufa on Vasco Viejo 11d

Rodrigo on the FA of Vasco Viejo 11d
Rodrigo on the FA of Vasco Viejo 11d


A Las Adjunatas donkey. Don't leave your food out while camping these guys are worse then Yosemite bears.
Credit: KRS-Grun

The river at the camping for the Cumbia Cave.

Steam rising on the river in Las Adjuntas in the morning.
Steam rising on the river in Las Adjuntas in the morning.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Climbing Devotion 11d R in El Potrero Chico

 Here are some photos from our climb on Devotion in El Potrero Chico. I had two great days climbing with Mike from Tennessee.  His partner wasn't able to make it at the last minute so he hired me as a guide. We climbed Yankee Clipper and then Mike suggested Devotion which had been on my list for a long time.  5.11d R doesn't always attract you to a route though.

I had climbed other routes with similar ratings in Potrero and found them not runout on the crux pitches at all.  With a few cams along this route seemed about the same.  We added a bolt on a pitch above the ledge as requested by Magic Ed one of the first ascensionists.  The route was definitely an adventure and overgrowing as it sees little traffic.  I think if more people start climbing it, it could clean up and be a classic line one day.

First light behind El Toro