Climbing Crags: El Potrero Chico, Mexico
Article by Erin Capra
Photos by Varun Singh and Court Skabelund
Any climber living in New England knows the itch that comes from a winter of being stuck inside. In 2017, driven by the need to thaw out and venture up some real rock, myself and three friends headed down to El Potrero Chico, Mexico with our eyes set on Potrero’s longest multi-pitch climb Time Wave Zero. Before this trip, I had never climbed outside of New England, never climbed a multi-pitch route, and had no idea what I was in for.
Potrero is an incredibly unique climbing destination. It sits an hour north of Monterrey and its season runs from November to March, making it the perfect winter destination. Most days temperatures are 70-80 ༠F and it is easy to chase shade throughout the day. In addition to the fantastic weather, Potrero is known for its multi-pitch bolted sport climbs up beautiful limestone. The cragging is also great, but Potrero’s long lines draw people from all over the world. The variety is endless, from afternoon delight Pitch Black (6 pitch, 10+) to the day long epic struggle fest that is Time Wave Zero (23 pitch, 12a). Beginners and advanced climbers can all find their dream routes in Potrero.
Community Kitchen at Rancho El Sendero
The climbing speaks for itself, but what makes Potrero truly amazing is the atmosphere you experience on the ground. Being an international climbing destination, climbers from all around the world come to climb for the season.The camping and food are dirt cheap, so it is the ideal place to stay a while. It is easy to find climbing partners at the various campgrounds and everyone is welcoming and friendly. At the end of every day you can find climbers bonding over margaritas and their days’ epics. If that wasn’t enough, the community in Hidalgo is incredible. The locals welcome climbers and on weekends the canyon turns into a giant block party as music and drinks are shared while they watch and cheer the climbers in the clouds.
On our first trip to Potrero in 2017, we were focused on one goal: Time Wave Zero. We trained for the climb, planned our week around it, and I spent the days leading up to it worrying. On our last climbing day we summited the climb, but when my feet touched the ground, I was filled with relief instead of the stoke I was expecting. I am still glad that we did Time Wave, but it was hard spending so much of my energy focusing on one climb. My self induced preoccupation with Time Wave held me back from some other inspiring lines and experiences. After my first trip to Potrero, I knew that this place was something special and that I wasn’t ready to be done with it.
Summit of Time Wave Zero
As a climber, I have gotten used to saying goodbye to beautiful places and friends that pop in and out of my life as new adventures call. Shortly after our trip in 2017, three of the Potrero crew left RI and I had to say goodbye to my climbing partners and friends. I myself left RI for a while and spent my summer exploring climbing areas around the United States, loving them all, but nothing compared to the vibe in Potrero. Missing our crew and bracing for another winter of being inside, three of us planned to return to Potrero. For me, this time was going to be different. Without Time Wave hanging over my head, I was excited to get on as many climbs as possible.
As expected, this trip was incredible, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. With more multipitch experience and some simul climbing, I was able to get on more amazing climbs than last year, but what I will remember most from this trip is the days spent cragging with my friends and immersing myself in the Potrero community. We weren’t focusing on one huge goal, so we let ourselves have more fun and crushed because of it. We slept in, we ate tacos, we drank margaritas at the base of the canyon, we ate more tacos, we played with puppies, and we met many new friends to climb with on other adventures. I left this trip feeling more fulfilled than ever. As always, it was hard to say goodbye to friends both old and new, but it was clear that we had a tradition in the making. This time, we said goodbye knowing that no matter where we ended up in the world, we would always have Potrero.
About the author: Erin Capra has been climbing for 4 years and is a teacher at Blackstone Academy. Along with being a climbing instructor at Rock Spot Climbing, she also leads an after school climbing club at her school where she takes pride in introducing young climbers to the sport.