El Potrero Chico: A Sport Climber’s Paradise

For years, Potrero has been at the top of my list. It’s home to the second longest sport route in North America, Time Wave Zero, and the notorious El Sendero Luminoso that Alex Honnold free soloed in January of 2014. It’s the sport climber’s Yosemite, with more multi-pitch sport routes than a climb-cation could ever have time for.

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Thankfully, if you want to make the most of your climbing time at EPC, it’s easy and doable to climb in the morning and in the evening at different crags. We were there in April, which is not the best time to go, so we were continuously battling the heat of the day. That meant 6am alarms, mid-afternoon naps, and evening climbing sessions. With the pool at La Posada’s Campground, I couldn’t complain about downtime and lounging in the hammock above the pool. It. Was. Glorious.

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Getting to and from EPC is fairly easy. My husband and I flew to San Antonio, and hailed a greyhound from there to Monterrey. Since the ride went through the night, and there weren’t a lot of people on board, we were able to sleep pretty well. Once at the station in Monterrey there were taxis outside, and with a little bit of google translate help, we were soon on our way. Friends of ours flew into Monterrey International Airport, and the drivers there immediately knew where to take them. The ride is about 500 pesos, or $26.

I can’t speak about the other campgrounds, but there are quite a few you can stay at. We chose La Posada because everywhere else was pretty slow due to the off season. The staff were friendly and hard workers, and the pool was amazing. We were there two weekends and it picked up with quite a few locals coming to camp. We found the ideal camping spot for our two tents and three hammocks. Their website is a bit confusing about pricing, we ended up paying 130 pesos/night ($7) which included everything from showers to pool use.

While my eyes were set on climbing Time Wave Zero, I quickly realized it was out of reach for me right now. My husband and I spent a day climbing Space Boyz (5.10d) on the Jungle wall. This eleven-pitch, 1100-foot climb, demanded every ounce of courage and strength I could muster. It didn’t help that my shoes were half a size too small, either. I grunted my way up, and wasn’t able to carry my own weight. Coby ended up leading most of the pitches, and being the best sport about it. The top-out was the most I’ve felt accomplished in a long time.

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A few days later we went up a six pitch 5.10b, Dope Ninja, which included the coolest 5.6 traverse I’ve ever led in my life! I’d highly recommend this route to anyone headed down to Potrero. It’s also a great introduction to the type of climbing in the area.

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In terms of food, the market, La Mexicana, is a 45-minute walk from the campgrounds. The food (and alcohol) is super cheap. We bought a bottle of tequila for five dollars. We also bought 17 avocados for about six dollars. Each time we went down to the market we were either picked up by a passerby without trying, or stuck out our thumbs far enough to hitch a ride. The locals are incredibly friendly, often honking their horns and waving as they drove by. There is a restaurant at La Posada with a variety of Mexican food and dollar beer and tequila shots.

You can also check out (I highly recommend it) the Tuesday market. Someone described it as a “WalMart on wheels,” because there are so many things for sale. From milky fruity drinks, to usb chargers, to shoes, to produce, you can find nearly anything you’re looking for here. We had the opportunity to meet Raul Reyes who had us come behind his tables and take copious amounts of photos holding deep frier spoons, tostadas, and spices. Raul sold some of the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted.

There’s definitely enough in Potrero to keep you occupied for a lifetime; in our two weeks we barely touched the surface. It left us wanting badly enough that we’re already planning a return trip for next year.

To-Do List

I’ve learned in my life that if I don’t write things down they are soon forgotten in the no man’s land of my brain. If this goes for simple tasks like taking a package to the post office, or sending in official forms, won’t it transfer over to bigger, loftier goals I have?

I decided I don’t want to chance it. So here is the beginning of my to-do list. When I started thinking about everything I want to do it quickly became overwhelming, so instead of frantically searching the Google to find everything that should be on my “bucket list,” I left it where it’s add and will add to it as ideas come to me.

  • Run a marathon
  • Climb in Yosemite
  • Climb a big wall
  • Climb 5.13
  • Finish the John Muir Trail
  • Write a book
  • Write an ebook
  • Skydive
  • Learn to climb splitter cracks
  • Run the Leadville Ultramarathon
  • Run the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link-up
  • Live out of a car
  • Make the switch to Veganism
  • Donate my time and money to organizations I believe in
  • Become a successful freelance writer
  • Write an article for National Geographic
  • Climb the Getu arch in China
  • Climb in Patagonia
  • Ski in Denali
  • Backcountry hut trip through the Uinta’s
  • Uinta Highline Trail
  • Antelope Island 50k
  • Ski Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Climb in El Potrero Chico
  • Climb in Kalymnos
  • Trail run in Iceland
  • Visit (and climb in) Squamish
  • Ski (and climb) the Grand in Teton National Park
  • Climb Squawsatch in Provo
  • Get Yoga Teacher Training Cert
  • Complete WFR, SPI, and AIARE 2
  • Become a columnist at a major magazine
  • Become proficient in Trad climbing
  • Ski Mt. Hood
  • Climb at RRG, Hueco Tanks, Joshua Tree, Wild Iris, Tensleep, Rifle, Indian Creek, Cochise Stronghold, the Gunks, and everywhere in between.
  • Participate in Horseshoe Hell
  • Attend Burning Man

What do you want to accomplish in this one precious life?

El Chorro: Easy Living, Hard Climbing

My first international climbing trip was to El Chorro in the Andalucia region of Spain. It was a short, two-and-a-half-day stint that we squeezed between trips to Granada, Mijas, and other coastal towns in Benalmadena. At the time, my climbing skills were desperate and on half the climbs my husband was left to pull me up on top rope as I struggled to make my way to the chains. Despite my lack of skill, the region and attitude of everyone there drew me in.

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After we came back to the states and I slowly gained my strength and passion for climbing, I knew we had to make a return trip to El Chorro. The limestone is dreamy. The landscape is gorgeous. And the sangria is so good.

With my rockin’ flight benefits, we decided to head back to Andalucia for round two this past June. The second time around was much different than the first. I lead a route that I’d only made the second clip on (on top rope) the first time. We stayed 10 minutes from the crag instead of nearly an hour. And we were able to enjoy it with two of our close friends who’d just completed the Camino Del Santiago.

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From SLC it looks like the cheapest flying options would be a direct to LHR on a major carrier and then switching over to RyanAir and flying to Malaga from there. Or basically anywhere in Europe on a major carrier, but then RyanAir is the way to go. Although you have to pay for literally everything (even water), it’s cheap and it’ll get you there.

Once you’re in Malaga you’ll either need to hitchhike or rent a car. I’ve heard you can take a bus, but we weren’t brave (or smart) enough either time to figure it out. We rented a car through Malaga Car both times and were thankful for it. From the Olive Branch some climbs are accessible with fairly little effort, but you can access more crags (as well as the idyllic lakes) with a car.

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As for where to stay, the Olive Branch is definitely the place to be. You can camp for €8 a day. We didn’t even pitch a tent. My husband rolled out his sleeping bag on the ground and I hitched my hammock to a couple of sturdy trees. The hosts are so kind and they have a few adorable pups you can love on. The eating/lounging area in the house is a meeting place for people from all different countries nerding out over the guidebook, losing terribly in pool, drinking healthy amounts of alcohol, playing games, and rocking out on the guitar. It’s the best dose of dirtbag life.

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I’ve saved the best for last: the climbing. Limestone caves. Tufas. Dimples in the rock that are perfect for your fingers. Pockets. Single-pitch, multi-pitch, some traditional. Perfectly spaced bolts. And more than you’ll ever have time for (unless you move there–a serious consideration for us!). I would recommend going in the fall or spring, because in June we spent a lot of time chasing shade.

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There’s also plenty to check out in the area. We love Mijas (where Coby first professed his undying love for me!), and the El Caminito Del Rey which was cooler and riskier a few years ago, but has since been updated. Still cool, definitely beautiful and worth the few euros to check out on a rest day.

If you’re heading that way or wanting to check out El Chorro let me know! I might even jump on a plane and meet you there.

 

What’s the coolest place you’ve climbed?