When you have cool friends they get married in cool places. That is why I got to make a four day trip to Monterrey, Mexico last month; my friends Mark and Norma got hitched in a small Catholic church, followed by a big fiesta. And, we got to climb too!
[story by Luke Mehall]
This was my fifth trip to Mexico to climb, but I haven’t made it down in a few years because of the Drug War, which hit close to home this year with the beheading of 17 members from the band Kombo Kolubmia, who were kidnapped by a drug cartel from a bar located in the town of Hidalgo, right next to El Potrero Chico, the big wall sport climbing Mecca of Mexico.
Things were tranquillo though, we had the towering limestone walls all to ourselves for a day and a half before we made it up in the hills to El Salto where Mark and Norma were married. Potrero, as everyone calls it, is a magical, if slightly polluted national park. Trash and graffiti litter the canyon floor, but above the tropical walls inspire. Paths of grey limestone lead a thousand, sometimes two thousand feet into the air, with cactuses and even palm trees dangling from the rock. In other places the walls are orange with streaks of black and grey. Some tiny tufas form in places, not prolific like other climbing areas in Mexico, but hints of what one could find if they adventure some more in what is a very adventurous land.
The Outrage Wall was the objective of my desires for this mini-trip. In previous trips it was just too steep, but now that I have a training ground for limestone in my backyard (The Golf Wall in Durango, Colorado) my body is more accustomed to this unique style of climbing. The Outrage Wall is epic! Orange, and gently overhanging for six hundred some feet it drew me in, and I wished to the Gods we had something like this near Durango.
We spent some time cragging, and checking out a couple of Mark’s new routes on the wall. Mark has a keen eye for new lines, and with the help of the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA) he also spends much of his time and energy replacing old bolts in Potrero and at other crags in Mexico. Some of the bolts he’s replaced made me grateful someone is looking out for the safety of others down south. Mexico is dangerous enough, bolts should be safe, thanks Mark!
Potrero was awesome, as usual, but the true memories were created at the very authentic wedding (Norma is Mexican) and at the other new area that Mark took us to after the big day. The wedding was in El Salto, located five minutes from what is my favorite sport crag I’ve ever been to. Overhanging limestone with tufas that look like faces, mushrooms and other things might see only while under the influence of peyote, I’d been dreaming about this crag ever since I visited it six years ago for the first time.
While we were practically there, Mark insisted we visit another crag for our last remaining day to climb together. I was hesitant, (not to mention hungover) but with faith in Mark’s taste in climbing, hopped on board to check out the new cave.
Typical to Mexico, we packed six of us into Mark’s Ford truck. A bumpy steep road with more memorial crosses than I can remember led us to the parking area, with a crystal clear river where people were swimming and driving a variety of off-road vehicles. We hiked up to the area, called the Cumbia Cave, and my eyes were drawn to a tufa, hanging ten feet off the wall, then many tufas and stalactites, hundreds of them! Immediately I felt like a giddy little kid, and couldn’t wait to hop on a route, any route.
It was already four in the afternoon by the time we started, but I’ll take those four hours of living with me until I die. The first route started with severely overhanging 5.10 climbing up stalactites that were attached only by the force of God. Knowing Mark placed the bolts I had faith in the route and when I was done I was on cloud nine. My dear friend Scott was belaying me, and when he lowered me to the ground I was simply speechless, I had nothing to spray, just excitement for Scott to experience what I just had.
I wished for many more days at this cave, but for now we only had another hour or two. I tried a few more routes, just as orgasmic as the others, overhanging bomber tufas, and though I was failing, falling and hanging, I could have cared less. It was pure and utter bliss, just like climbing should be.
This piece was originally published on the Deuter USA’s blog.
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About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle.