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.

IMG_7235

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.

IMG_7336

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.

IMG_7271

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.

IMG_7329

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?

A Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Touring

Breaking into backcountry touring is exciting, sometimes scary, and full of unknowns. You may have spent twenty years on the slopes, but gracefully making your way up a skintrack is not necessarily a natural skill. With the uptick of users on social media and the repetitive pow shots put up by pro-skiers and pro-recreationalists alike, it’s hard to not load up the van (or in my case the badass go-anywhere Prius), and do whatever it takes (including post-holing in high avy-danger territory) to get those “sick pow shots, brah.”

But please, show some restraint, and just don’t.

First things first: Get the Right Gear

There’s a lot that goes into backcountry travel, including the massive investment in the right gear. While you can use snowshoes for the ascent and your skinny skis from the 90s for the descent, the whole fat skis, tech bindings, alpine boots, and skins can run you a pretty penny. At full retail, the whole outfit can easily surpass the $2,000 mark. Add to that the beacon, probe, and shovel and you’re looking at the price of a smaller used car with relatively low mileage. Best advice on gear? Set yourself up with pro-deals or learn to religiously scour your local thrift stores, Craigslist, or Ebay.

Then Get Educated:

IMG_6811Once you’ve got your set-up I highly recommend attending a Know Before You Go class. I’m fortunate enough to live in Salt Lake where we have one of the best avalanche forecasting centers in the nation. The Utah Avalanche Center puts on classes and regularly partners with REI to provide brief, information packed sessions to educate backcountry users on the dangers of avalanche terrain. If you’re in a more remote location there are tons of resources online. BCA has an entire series on YouTube about backcountry terrain, companion rescue, and how to read and dig a snowpit.

If you’ve done all of the above, have toured some low-consequence areas and want to expand your knowledge, you can sign-up for an AIARE 1 course which is an introduction to safe snow travel, how to dig a pit and asses on a basic level, and how to identify terrain traps.

Do Your Research:

15275664_1726509364343445_188834417626578944_nThankfully we live in a time where information is a click away. Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington/Oregon, Canada, and Idaho all have avalanche forecasting centers that provide daily, and sometimes twice daily, avalanche condition updates. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s important to keep track of storms and snowpack conditions. This might mean digging more snowpits than someone in the Wasatch, but if you treat it like a workout you’ll keep a better attitude and possibly save your life.

Find Good Company:

In Utah there are a handful of tours you can take on your own due to the low angle of the area’s slopes. But let’s be real. Touring is way more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Through social media and groups on Facebook I’ve found a solid group of people to tour with. So get out there, charge, and then get home safely.

The Importance of Passion

We know it when we see it. The girl with overactive hand gestures talking about the project she sent. The guy telling us about the backflip he landed at Snowbird’s terrain park. The research scientist detailing the minutia of their current experiment. The father with pictures of his kid atop the podium for the state track championships. And we smile with them, applaud them, cheer alongside them, and then wonder what it is in our own lives that brings us the same kind of joy.

I have known too many people to choose stability over passion. They turn down job offers, forgo van trips, and choose more economical majors in order to pursue the path most taken. Our FOMO is real in a more practical way than we realize. In some ways, we make choices in our twenties under the assumption that opportunities won’t present themselves later in our lives. So we purchase houses, settle with the corporate job, and begin saving and planning for children. There’s this lurking sense that if we don’t do it now, then maybe we never will.

Do we not trust ourselves? Because that’s what it is, right? If we take this van trip, quit our jobs, pursue a vagabond lifestyle, will we have the willpower to return to life as we know it?

The truth is, life won’t be the same. After a serious diversion from life’s inevitable path, perspective changes. You realize you don’t need that much stuff, simplicity is the key to happiness, and, you guessed it, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Our fear of change and growth keeps us from pursuing big dreams–the dreams we’re most passionate about. I’m no different. My job is stable. It provides a solid paycheck, and I don’t have to work most of the month. Right now, my lifestyle is pretty good. But there are things I’ve always wanted to do that I can’t pursue with this job. And it’s really, really tempting to stay in this career, for, well, my career.

But in my dogged pursuit for passion, I can’t settle for a job that doesn’t stoke my fire. The most inspiring people,to me, are the ones who break away from society–the artists, the non-profit starters, the dirtbag climbers living in vans. I’m inspired by people who pursue freelance careers, who sell all their belongings, who sacrifice their time for years of schooling in order to become whatever it is they so long to become.

Who inspires you? They are the people that offer a glimpse into what you value and the life you long to pursue. We’re inspired by the doers, the dreamers, and the go-getters. The people that said enough, and went on to pursue their passion. As corny as it sounds, we can’t let life go by without following our dreams. So many people get to the end of their lives only to wish they had pursued a career in fashion, or quit their job to travel the world, or started a non-profit in their favorite sector.

Logistically, it might be a nightmare. And in the beginning it might be scary as hell–the unknown always is. But I can guarantee you, it will be worth it.

*this post also appeared in Thought Catalog

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.

img_4965

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.

img_5565

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.

img_5567

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.

img_4975

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.

img_5577

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?

Confessions of a Part-Time Vegan

My name’s Megan, and I’m a part-time Vegan.

Wait. What?

You heard me. I consider myself a part-time Vegan because I’ve been convinced that a label is necessary, however, unfortunately, I fit no label currently offered.

Because when I go grocery shopping, I fill my cart with Vegan food. With spinach, and bell peppers, and fixing’s for black bean tacos. I choose to not buy food made from animals (with the rare exception of honey.)

But then when I’m at work (where I’m gone for days at a time) and I go out to eat with my coworkers, and there’s this incredible sushi restaurant a block from the hotel, I eat sushi. With cream cheese in the middle.

What’s even more, when I’m traveling abroad and stumble upon a restaurant that offers a local delicacy that involves meat from the cows that have roamed the fields around the establishment for the years of their lives, I indulge.

Am I making you uncomfortable yet?

Unfortunately, my friends, we live in a cookie-cutter world that is desperate to fill molds and find labels for everything. Feminist, Marxist, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Vegetarian, Christian, Crossfitter, Book-lover, Dancer, Actor, Writer, the list goes on and on.

And so we buy in. We fill out our “About Me” sections in listicles, naming off all the things we identify as. We check off all our qualifiers hoping that we can connect with someone else, somewhere else, who identifies with these things too.

The problem is, we are no one thing. And we aren’t even a conglomerate of all the things we have defined ourselves as.

My version of being a “writer” is much different than Stephen King’s version of being a writer. I write flippantly. Every other week, sometimes every other day. I can go months without writing, and then not be able to go days without it.

You guys. I have no standards!

Truth is, I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to be all of one thing when I’m a beautiful mosaic, cultivated from this confusing and brilliant world.

And maybe I’m crazy, but I think that’s OK. I think it’s okay to call yourself a writer even though someone has told you that in order to be a writer you have to write everyday for thirty minutes a day. It’s okay to call yourself a climber even if you climb once a week because that’s all the time you have in your crazy busy life. It’s okay to call yourself a feminist even if you shave your legs and take your husband’s last name.

And it’s okay to be Vegan one day and Vegetarian the next and eat meat the day after that. That’s the power of the present moment and the beauty of being human. We are whatever we are for today.

Cheers to that.

img_5189