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.

Because Mexico!

I don’t know about you, but this month has been painful–politically, emotionally, and mentally. I’ve felt exhausted by the negativity on my news feed, the reports on NPR, and the wonderful winter weather threw my work days into a tailspin. With all this mental exhaustion I’ve barely had the chutzpah to get myself into the gym for a solid workout. One day I went to the climbing gym, went up to the fitness deck, and sat in my butterfly stretch for 30 minutes. So yeah, it’s been a struggle.

But all that’s changed! Because it’s February! And it’s time to get it together!

Plus, my husband and I are putting together a climbing trip to El Potrero Chico in April, and I have to be swol before I can even THINK about hauling myself up 12 pitches of 5.12 climbing…

I started with a little research on training for climbing. Climbing magazine has a pretty decent training section on their website as does Rock and Ice. I also found some great stuff at Training Beta. The main focus of climbing specific training is power and endurance climbing, however I’m not quite there yet. I’ve decided to spend the next month focusing on an overall fitness base.

This is what I’ll be shooting for every week of February:

Yoga: 30 minutes

Running: 20 minutes X 3 times

Arms/Abs/Leg Workout: 4 sessions

Climb: 3 sessions

And every session (besides a solid ab workout), I’ll follow with 10 minute abs (10 ab exercises each for a minute without resting).

I knew I needed to start small with the yoga and running because every time I’ve tried to become a runner or yogi in the past I’ve gotten overambitious and quickly lost interest and the wherewithal to keep at it. With this vague training plan I hope to start developing my base fitness, lose the layer of fat hiding my most precious abs, and have better endurance on the wall.

Hoping to start some kind of power/endurance circuit by the beginning of March.

Let me know what your trusted routines are! I’d love to incorporate them.

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