Saturday, April 4, 2015

Top Ten Myths about El Potrero Chico

Top Ten Myths about El Potrero Chico:

1)  You are crazy for going to Northern Mexico because of the Drug Wars

While it is true that Northern Mexico including Monterrey has had an increase in violence related to cartels fighting over territory, that violence has decreased in the last few years, and the violence is targeting towards those involved in the drug trade.  I have lived in Mexico in the winters for seven years and have never heard of a climber having any problems with the cartels or even criminals outside of things like shoes getting taken at the bases of routes.  The closest hit towards home in El Potrero Chico was a Cumbia band getting killed which was only mildly related to cartels as the band was sadly killed for disputes over playing in different cartel territory.  In general over the past few years I have noticed a decline in news stories about cartel violence around the Potrero area and a decrease in military presence.  There has also been an elimination of the past corrupt police in both Monterrey and Hidalgo where El Potrero Chico is located for new better trained and more well payed police such as those pictured below.

2) El Potrero Chico is full of loose rocks.

In El Potrero Chicos early years there was a lot more loose rocks on the newer routes.  Now that it has been in existence for a few decades things have cleaned up tremendously.  This does not mean there are no loose rocks.  I try to avoid cragging below long multi-pitch routes.  The tops of the routes have the worst quality rock.  Places like the Mota wall can be good to avoid on a busy day when there are many people above on the multi-pitch routes.

3) Don't drink the water in Mexico

This can be a hard one to convince people.  The water at the campgrounds comes straight from an aquifer coming out of the canyon and is super clean.  There aren't really any chances for it to get contaminated from fecal matter on the way to your campground. 

4) You need to know Spanish to climb in El Potrero Chico.

Sometimes unfortunately El Potrero Chico can feel like an American island in Mexico.  Many of the campground employees speak English and you are surrounded by other Gringo climbers. You can arrange your airport pickup ahead of time get dropped off in the American filled climber campground, and climb with Americans all week. When you are ready to leave your comfort zone in the climbers campground you can wander down to Hidalgo and torture the patient locals with your terrible Spanish.

5) You don't need to buy toilet paper for the climbers campground.

Somewhere on the internet I read this, and I have never seen a square of TP in a climber campground that wasn't already soiled with brown stains and in the trash can.  Yes it is asked to throw away your TP in the trash can so as not to jam the fragile septic system.

6)  El Potrero Chico's rock is like Thailand

While both Thailand and El Potrero Chico are limestone they are very different styles.  The majority of the climbing in El Potrero Chico is on less then vertical grey pocketed limestone.  Thailand's rock is known for it's steeper tufa climbing with giant features protruding from the rock.  El Potrero Chico has some of this tufa climbing but it is not prevalent.
This is not Potrero but a near by area the Cumba Cave that does have tufas
This is not Potrero but a nearby area the Cumbia Cave that does have lots of Tufas

7) There is a nice choice of restaurants and a coffee shop in El Potrero Chico. 

The guide books and many online sources lead you to believe this as it was true ten years ago.  Checos and Tamis cafe shutdown quite a while ago.  La Posada has a great restaurant for dinner that is now a fully enclosed building with wifi.  Edgardo Baca and his mother are in the canyon selling tacos and pizza during the peak climbing season.  There is also a great coffee shop in Hidalgo selling freshly roasted coffee as well as many local restaurants in town.

The Buho Cafe

8)  El Potrero Chico is best visited in January

While the weather can be cooler and sometimes wet in January it is the most crowded time due to the lack of other climbing areas in the States at that time.  November through March are all great times to climb and the further away from New Years you climb the less people there will be.
New Years 2015 Celebration with perhaps 500 climbers

9)  You don't have enough money to climb out of the country.

Once you arrive in El Potrero Chico you do not need to spend much money at all.  You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets for a few pesos to make your own food in the campgrounds our be baller and eat dinners at La Posada for $5 a meal.
La Posada's new Restaurant building

10)  The long routes of El Potrero Chico are big sport routes.

While this is close to true as they are for the most part bolted in such a way they leave the sport climbing category with their more serious nature of being way up high on a big limestone face.  The descents require knowledge in multi-pitch rappelling.  There were two fatalities in 2015 from rappelling accidents on multi-pitch routes.  There is also loose rocks to be avoided up high on the routes.  Knowledge of what to do when your rope inevitably gets stuck in the cacti on the side of the routes is also important.  This last myth leads to why you should consider hiring a guide with El Potrero Chico Guides if you don't have experience leading long multi-pitch routes.  We offer courses in multi-pitch techniques and guided climbs up the classic long routes.

For information on multi-pitch classes or guided climbs visit: