Go back to Mexico.
Despite weather forecasts calling for rain, we rolled the dice and found ourselves in a cab heading for El Potrero Chico late on a Wednesday night. Knowing that we’d get there well past the closing times of Hidalgo markets and even La Posada’s eatery, we brought along some basic dinner ingredients from home: tortillas, canned beans and chicken…much to the astonishment of the Mexican customs officers at Monterrey airport.
After a predictably late wake up on day one, we finally made the base of Pitch Black at 11ish. A spectacular looking line (6 pitches, 5.10+) that is almost as fun to climb. Crux comes on pitch two. Bring a single 70 meter cord but not an inch shorter. We rounded out the afternoon with some post climb margaritas (& puppies – which go well with margaritas it turns out) at Edgardo’s trailer.
Puppies and margaritas.
An uncharacteristically early wake up on day two and a pre-dawn hike up to Timewave Zero
, a 23 pitch line that clocks in at 5.12 or a more reasonable 5.11- with about 30 feet of A0(ish). This arguably is the
moderate line to do in EPC. Despite having scouted the approach three years earlier, we screwed up near the base long enough for another party to arrive. We were hoping to time our start so that we’d hit the 5.11- section on pitch two at daybreak but the two guys were eager to launch and so we let them go first. They eventually figured out a way through the crux and were kind enough to provide beta from above as I struggled through the same section also by headlamp (summon your inner sporto for the gently overhanging moves).
Above, we found a long section of 5.9/9+ climbing that sort of blends together in my memory but it never really seemed monotonous. The daybreak revealed cloudy skies but with little wind and much humidity conditions were sweaty. Somewhere below the route’s midpoint we met a team rapping down the route after their post-Thanksgiving dinner, all-nighter climb. Now that’s a fucking drive (and what have you done after eating turkey?). Our two teams were linking pitches and moving mostly at a steady pace when our companions ran out of water and decided to bail just above the midway mark.
We were left alone with a steepening route. The two 10+ pitches were not too bad but we were getting pretty tired. Then came the 5.12 pitch – we knew it was not a bolt ladder per se but the mandatory free climbing felt as hard as anything on pitch two. I took an airy fall before figuring out how to exit the ladder. One more pitch and we topped out on the windy ridge socked in thick clouds. It took us about 3 hours to rap the route – a long but smooth process and we finally pulled the ropes on the ground at 6 pm (happy not to need the headlamps). We were down in the canyon early enough to enjoy some margaritas at Edgardo’s along with one of our route mates. We tried to climb something the next day but our fingers and toes were hurting too much; not to mention the conditions had become cold and wet. Instead, we drank the remaining day away and went home satisfied.
Shirley on top of Timewave Zero. Click photo for a quick video.
The EPC of four or even three years ago is no more. Very sadly, our friend Ed is gone. Fortunately the violence seems to have abated for the moment (no army patrols in the canyon, no checkpoints at the gate) and so the Potrero is once again a “scene.” We are happy that with this trip we have gone through the bulk of our (doable) EPC wish list since we’ll probably take a little siesta from the place for a while.
Back in our happy place – another trip to El Potrero Chico. Look, the gate got repainted. Overcast but things stayed dry (Nov. 2015).
El Potrero Chico (Nov. 2015).
Hiking into EPC. The black streak just right of the yellow lamp post is the route Pitch Black (6P, 5.10+). Edgardo’s margaritas and pizza oasis is the trailer on the right (Nov. 2015).
Pitch Black route is just left of the black water streak. Note the climbers down low on it (Nov. 2015).
Shirley starting up Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Pitch 2 of Pitch Black and what we thought was the crux of the route (5.10+).
Views from Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Shirley topping out on pitch 2 of Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Leading pitch 3.
Pitch 3 of Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
There’s a weird (unnecessary) “via ferrata” at the traverse atop this pitch (Nov. 2015).
Lower reaches of the Jungle Wall as seen from Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Pitch 4 – this is the 2nd 5.10+ pitch on Pitch Black but it felt a bit easier than pitch 2 (Nov. 2015).
Shirley on pitch 4.
Views towards Hidalgo from high on Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Leading pitch 5 (Nov. 2015).
Looking back at Shirley from the pitch 5.5 belay…I screwed up and belayed from a rap anchor (Nov. 2015).
Unknown climber atop the gendarme that is the top-out of Dope Ninja and Snot Girlz routes (Nov. 2015).
Shirley topping out on pitch 5.5 of Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Shirley topping out on Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Timewave Zero route climbs the left hand side profile of the El Toro formation; Jungle Wall is the frontside of El Toro. Views from Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
70 meter cords are mandatory if you’re going to do single rope raps down Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Unknown climbers low on Space Boyz as seen from Pitch Black (Nov. 2015).
Edgardo’s new puppy girl. Think her name is Sheila (Nov. 2015).
Apparently puppies go well with margaritas – gracias Edgardo!!
El Potrero Chico (Nov. 2015).
Traditional Thanksgiving dinner in El Potrero Chico. Just like the pilgrims of yore, we sat with our hosts and dined on fried chicken, rice, tortillas, salsas (verde y roja), and did shots of home-distilled mescal while being less than thankful for the (pinche) weather.
Timewave Zero route is the vegetation free, whitish streak that starts on a triangular buttress on the lower left. Summit of El Toro (top of route) is socked in clouds (Nov. 2015).
Shirley charging up to the base of Timewave Zero in the predawn hours on our day two (Nov. 2015).
Shirley finding her inner sport climber on the first crux of Timewave Zero right before sunrise (5.11- bulge on pitch 2).
Once through the crux, Shirley took a nap.
Pitch 6. After handling the bush in the photo and only noticing the yellow tape on it afterwards, we were wondering what kind of rash we’d be getting…so far, all good.
Starting pitch 10 (and combining with 11).
Views from low on Timewave Zero (Nov. 2015).
Pitch 11 into 12 – right below the bivy ledge. The terrain steepens above (Nov. 2015).
Pitch 12 right below the bivy ledge (I think…).
Pitch 15 into 16 (Nov. 2015).
Another pair of pitches – think this is 17 and 18 (Nov. 2015).
More views from Timewave Zero (Nov. 2015).
Nearing the top of pitch 18 of Timewave Zero (Nov. 2015).
Leading pitch 20 – 5.12a or as we say 11- and (awkward) A0 (Nov. 2015).
The mandatory free climbing near the top of pitch 21 (Nov. 2015).
Shirley topping out on the summit ridge (pitch 22) of Timewave Zero (Nov. 2015).
Shirley on top of Timewave Zero. Click photo for a quick video (Nov. 2015).
Shirley happy to be about half done with the rappels (Nov. 2015).
Sad. On a ledge partway up Timewave Zero.
Happy to be done just as it got dark (6pm).
The 20+ rappels (rope pulling) took their toll on my delicate skin…Doctor Chopper prescribes two shots of mezcal and to harden the fuck up buttercup!
Enjoying our Casa Chica at La Posada (Nov. 2015).
Go back to Mexico