Tuesday, January 29, 2013

El Potrero Chico 2

A year after my last trip, Jesse and I (this time with our friend Jon) went back to El Potrero Chico; the sport climbing mecca of Mexico. The last time was such an amazing experience we knew we just had to go back. All those bolted limestone cliffs, within easy walking distance from the camp, and so many climbs left to do, the decision to return was an easy one. However, this trip was tempered by sickness, some bad vibes and tragedy (luckily not personal).
On my second day there I caught a bad flu-like cold. For the rest of the trip I was very sick, especially at night when it got really cold in the desert air. I would shiver with the cold sweats, every bone in my body aching, fever running high. I woke up every morning wondering if I should pack it in and go back to New York. But then I'd stick it out during the day and eventually make up for a few moderate climbs in the afternoon sun. However, it was not a good way to be and I didn't get nearly the same amount of climbing in as the year before. My longest climb achieved was the 6-pitch Dope Ninja, and even that one we botched the last pitch because of some confusing beta. 

This lead to some bad vibes. I felt really left out when my friends went on 2 really long day climbs without me. I mean, who could blame them; I didn't expect them to miss out too. But nonetheless I was marginalized to the role of the sick guy who couldn't hack it. Some of the fellow climbers in our camp weren't much help in regards to support either. There were a few all-natural hippie-types who would say it was all in my mind, or that I was too stressed out from city life, or I must have chronic health issues. The fact is, sometimes people get sick. Lay off the conspiracy theories when it comes to the common cold!
Finally, tragedy struck on our last night when a local band was senselessly kidnapped and murdered after performing at a nearby party. Tourists aren't targeted, but northern Mexico is a violent region, terrorized by organized crime and drug cartels. I don't see how it will ever end.

However, I don't want this post to be all bad news. Among the hard times were many good experiences. My friends Jon and Jesse had a really great time and got to do a couple classic climbs. Below are some photos of one of the longest climbs in the valley; the 15 pitch Yankee Clipper.

Preparing for the belay at the base of Yankee Clipper.

 Rappelling off Dope Ninja.

I also did some sketching while I was grounded with the flu. Here are a couple of sketches I made, looking up from below. I labelled them based on the climbing routes on each mountain.

Finally, I met some wonderful people while down there. This one guy, Marco, was setting a new route called Pitch Black. He was up there every day and night, cleaning rocks off the route. Nice guy too. Also, met a couple of really funny guys from Scotland/England. They were such good climbers with a keen sense of humor. Climbing hard but drinking every night! Just being young and bumming around the Americas for an undetermined amount of time. And finally the local people of Hidalgo. Such warm-hearted smiles, giving people a lift into town (this one young guy who picked me up was smoking a joint while listening to The Doors - didn't speak a word of english). When I went to the town's only Pharmacy, the employees were blasting the Macarena and dancing behind the counters.

So goodbye, El Potrero Chico. You challenged me this year. I probably won't be back next year, but maybe someday. Adios!