18 murdered, dumped in portrero chico; climbers are fleeing


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Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 11:31am PT
That's the bottom line. Most of the problems in Mexico is just that. It needs to redo the way it allows business to function, make it more of a free market, capitalistic, less open to local corruption and wham! They have the skills, the desires and the resources to compete. Do that and I bet half the problems over there will disappear. Once they can chase the dream, the drug world wouldn't be so attractive. Right now because there is so little opportunity, drug smuggling looks real good.

Gosh Damnit!!! Do I need to run for f*#king President!!!

I have been advocating a policy like this for years on this forum. Bring manufacturing from Asia to Mexico and South America. You know what you get???

1. Less illegal immigration
2. Less transportation costs for goods.
3. More prosperity in Mexico, and less corruption, and less drug trafficking.

Don't make me come down there, Mexico!!!

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
You ex - military Hank?
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:09pm PT
The manufacturing went to Mexico for a while. Remember the maquiadoras ? Capital moved on.

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:09pm PT
It needs to redo the way it allows business to function, make it more of a free market, capitalistic, less open to local corruption and wham! They have the skills, the desires and the resources to compete. Do that and I bet half the problems over there will disappear.

Yes, maybe, but reducing corruption is one of the primary cruxes for all developing countries trying to increase prosperity amongst its citizens. It is much more difficult and complex than simply changing laws or policy. Once corruption has gained traction in a society, people lose faith and become jaded towards its political and economic system. The people engaging in corruption have a strong vested interest in the status quo, and are generally resistant to positive change.

If it were as simple as changing the way government allows business to function, then you can be sure that half of the problems (or more) for the entire Third World would disappear.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:26pm PT
The manufacturing went to Mexico for a while. Remember the maquiadoras ? Capital moved on.

It needs to be gov't subsidized. Yes, I said it.....

And Yeah, I think Hank is former mil.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:47pm PT
Ex-scout member : I would never allow my children to join that backwards bumfuct organization.


I hear ya, the Boy Scouts of America is nothing but a bad influence on boys.

They should be banned for their homophobic ideas. Gays are a better role model for humanity than those BSA as#@&%es!

Social climber
Feb 4, 2013 - 02:25pm PT
I was watching some TV documentary yesterday about the cartels, and they were interviewing a "hitman" for the cartel in Sinaloa. He said he'd killed 15 people so far. They asked him how much, and he said $200 each (only in pesos). The interviewer mentioned that's not much and he replied "here, it is plenty". So if you have kids who are willing to become hit men for only $200 I don't think there is ANYTHING that will improve the situation.

Trad climber
Out and about
Feb 4, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
I don't think there is ANYTHING that will improve the situation.

Eliminating demand would immediately improve the situation.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
Eliminating demand would immediately improve the situation.

John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
Feb 4, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
In antiquity, IIRC, tossing bodies in the well, was a way to punish the larger public of the area. No one will ever drink from a well - from which dead have been pulled out - again. In antiquity, that could doom a town.

Can't find much on the interwebs to support it, but google offers:


Archaeologists from Israel say they have have stumbled onto a Neolithic murder mystery after two bodies were found dumped in a well dating back 8,500 years.

Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority unearthed the ancient well in the Jezreel Valley, south-west of Nazareth, after it was discovered by road maintenance workers.

But they have no idea how the skeletal remains of a 19-year-old girl and an older man came to be dumped deep down the 26ft well, and suggest that it may be a case of murder

'What is clear is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well it was no longer used,' said Yotam Tepper, the archaeologist in charge of the dig.


Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Feb 4, 2013 - 03:28pm PT


Feb 4, 2013 - 04:04pm PT
Musicians are usually just a bunch of womanizers and that's about it. Really, extremely sad. :(

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Feb 4, 2013 - 05:01pm PT
Video of the band playing

Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Feb 4, 2013 - 09:10pm PT
canyoncat - that's how it works, kids are used as hitmen in Colombia too. They start out as neglected or homeless children, which is a widespread social problem. It's partly a result of the war, which created millions of displaced people and broke up families. The participants in the fighting were generally men, and their numbers got reduced, leaving orphans. Another thing is that rural Colombians don't formally marry as a rule, and the father sometimes just walks off. If there is an extended family, that's one thing, but many millions of them are displaced and that's not an option. There's also just a lot of bad parents. For whatever reason, there's a lot of kids down there living on the streets or ignored at home and on the streets all the time anyway. The paramilitaries and guerrillas use them as lookouts and pay them, giving 8 or 10 year old homeless kids the best opportunity they've ever had. Eventually they graduate to a certain age and are given a gun, and a sense of power few 12 year olds would have. Since they come from poor displaced communities, where no one paints their house because its too expensive, its an attractive option, and this is very prevalent and the way the armed groups have recruited for years. (Freddy Rendon Herrera was just convicted of this, recruitment of minors, for about 150 teenagers under his command)

About 3 years ago, there was a guy in a wheelchair who used to hang out in front of a particular store a lot, was either a lookout, or suspected of being one, since a young boy of about 10 years ran up and just shot and killed him in broad daylight. This was about 2 blocks from my office in Apartado. And from my work I know that a large % of the victims of the conflict have been teenagers. The farc like to recruit adolescents so that they can indoctrinate them, which is slightly different. In any event, kids have no fear and will do what they're told, and can be taught to accept it as normal. When they get older they have seen so much and been desensitized.

One last story: an apartment I used to rent was above a fried chicken place like KFC. These guys were up at 5:30 AM to fry all the chicken for the day, and the smell made me feel sick to my stomach, that's how I woke up every day until I moved out. A year later there it is on the news, the same fried chicken restaurant, I am subscribing to a youtube channel of a news station from there. It turns out that one of my neighbors, on the same floor but I didn't recognize him or know him, had decapitated his wife in their kitchen, with a kitchen knife. I can post the link to the news story if desired. I attribute this kind of psycho behavior to things seen or learned at a young age, although I don't know anything about the guy. I guess this could happen anywhere, but the homicide rate there is extremely high. (Ron mentioned MS 13 before, they're from El Salvador and I have the same theory about them.)

A couple of awesome movies from Colombia about Medellin, the capital of our department. The first is called Vendedora de Rosas, its about street children and there is a youtube version with english subtitles. The second is called La Sierra: Muerte en Medellin, that's about the AUC paramilitaries, who turn out to be about 16 years old, and is a really scary documentary. It starts with an older guy who says, "We're in the hands of armed teenagers. That's the problem." A third movie would be "La Gorra' which is just about gang violence. All these movies are in a similar style, that reminds me of Spike Lee.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Feb 4, 2013 - 10:05pm PT
So i had a real good chat with my brother-in-law yesterday during the Super Bowl - he is from Guadalajara and he is a smart guy.
I didn't realise it but the last three times he has went down he has flown.
He says it is like Russian Roulette right now - but it is better then last year.
South of Monterrey area not to bad - Monterrey and north real bad. That is also what the locals will say and think about their prospective areas.
He says, like i was saying, nothing is written about it in the Media - they kill you if you write about anything.
We would have never heard about this killing if it was not for Potrero Chico - it is not in the papers or on the news here anywhere - nobody even knows about it in this area.

He was telling me cartel violence is spreading and changing - his brother, who lives in Guadalajara, has been robbed twice in the last two months - they remodeled their home and it made it a target - the first time they busted in at gun point and robbed them and the second time they just cleaned everything out when they were gone.

He told me a story about a Mexican guy he works with who has some bullet scars - he is from a town close to Monterey. He was driving into his town and the Zetas were there - just randomly shooting at everything and anyone who drove into town - he got hit in the back a few times.

He said the new freeway from Reynosa to Monterey is incredible - 10 hour drive now and pretty safe - but from the border to Monterey or Saltillo is just to dangerous.


Trad climber
estes park
Feb 5, 2013 - 02:11pm PT

Rock and Ice responds, and makes some good points too.

Feb 5, 2013 - 06:25pm PT
Perhaps Acapulco is better?


Oh, perhaps not.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Feb 5, 2013 - 08:03pm PT
Part of the corruption problem in Mexico stems from is the centralization of power in Mexico City. More autonomy to the individual states might have reduced the opportunity for corruption to take hold on such a large scale.

That Acapulco story is going to really finish the tourist business off in Mexico.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Feb 5, 2013 - 11:25pm PT
TNB: Traveler's Advisory: El Potrero Chico, Mexico


Jeff Jackson

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Edgardo Baca on Surfer Rosa (5.13a) in the Surf Bowl, El Potrero Chico, Mexico. Photo by Alain Denis.
Another example of the continuing disinformation occurred on May 4, 2012 when motorists on the toll road 85D—the favored route for climbers driving to El Potrero—encountered four women and five men hanging from a bridge over the highway. A banner strung up next to the corpses stated that the murdered were members of the Gulf Cartel: “… This is how I'm going to finish off every f*#ker you send to heat up the turf. But it's okay, here are your guys. The rest went away but I'll get them. Sooner or later. —Los Zetas”

Just a few hours later, 14 decapitated bodies were found in front of the Customs Agency next to the offices where climbers get their passports stamped. The severed heads were placed in ice coolers and dropped off in front of the Palacio Municipal, the mayor's offices, along with another dissembling message: “You want credibility that I am in NL? What will it take, bringing the heads of Zeta leaders? Or yours? … Continue to deny my presence here in Nuevo Laredo and you will continue to see their heads. I do not kill innocent people to submit work as you are accustomed … all dead in Nuevo Laredo are pure scums, in other words, pure Z. Sincerely, your father.”

Unfortunately, these assurances on the part of the cartels that innocents won’t be targeted have been shown again and again to be specious. In 2012, in Nuevo Laredo alone, nine bystanders were injured as the result of car bombs, and a casino and a popular nightclub were set on fire.

Another reason that reliable information concerning the drug war is so difficult to come by is that the cartels target media. Consider these examples, again, all occurring in Nuevo Laredo. In 2004 a journalist reporting on the cartels was stabbed 26 times. In 2006, the newspaper El Mañana was blown up by a grenade. In 2010 the offices of the TV Just a few hours later, 14 decapitated bodies were found in front of the Customs Agency next to the offices where climbers get their passports stamped.station Televisa were attacked. In 2011, María Elizabeth Macías Castro, an editor of La Primera Hora newspaper, was decapitated. A message was left: “For those who don't want to believe this happened to [María Elizabeth Macías Castro] because of [her] actions … Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Los Zetas.” Even bloggers and people who post on social media are targeted. For example, in 2011 a man and a woman in their early 20s were abducted, tortured and hung from a pedestrian bridge along with a sign that said they were killed because of posting web entries critical of the cartels. The sign read: “This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet.” Sure enough, within two months four people were killed after posting negative comments about the cartels. El Mañana was attacked again on June 10, 2012, and the paper issued a statement saying that it “will refrain, for as long as needed, from publishing any information related to the violent disputes our city and other regions of the country are suffering.”

The same kind of self-censorship on the part of the press, bloggers and social media is occurring all over Mexico. It’s no wonder some people believe that the violence is confined to those connected to drug trafficking in some way—but that belief is false.

Violence in the Area near Potrero Chico

The metropolitan area of Monterrey, situated adjacent to the Mexico 85/I35 corridor, is an important warehousing center for cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs bound for U.S. consumers. The isolated little towns and ranches of Nuevo Leon are also “treasured,” according to the Houston Chronicle, by drug traffickers as outposts and the region has experienced an uptick in violence concurrent with the ongoing cartel wars. In 2012 alone, according to Reuters, Nuevo Leon had become Mexico’s murder capitol, with 685 drug-related killings as of May.

One gruesome example was discovered on the same day that the editorial board at El Mañana stopped covering the drug violence. Somewhere between 49 and 68 decapitated bodies were found along Mexico 40 just southwest of Monterrey. The bodies are still unidentified because the hands and feet were also cut off and discarded.

Earlier in the year, in February, two U.S. missionaries were killed in the region by cartel members. Also in February, 44 inmates were killed in a riot at Apodaca prison which is close to the Monterrey international airport. Thirty-seven prisoners escaped including the leader of the Monterrey Zetas. On August 14, members of the Gulf Cartel invaded a Monterrey bar and gunned down 10 people.

The list of cartel-related massacres and killings goes on and on. Keep in mind that these examples are confined to 2012 and do not include violence outside of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. If you look at violence occurring in 2011, the situation is even starker. In July 2011, for example, gunmen shot and killed 27, injured 7 and kidnapped 8 people in a bar in Monterrey. On August 25, 2011, gunmen massacred at least 52 people at the Monterrey Casino Royale. According to witnesses, the gunmen stormed the casino and immediately opened fire, killing civilians, then doused the entrances with gasoline and lit them to trap people inside.
Once again, the facts suggest that the cartels act with impunity, and the idea that climbers will be exempt from violence is wishful thinking based on ignorance.
In response to the violence, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey has issued a traveler's advisory that warns against travel in Nuevo Leon. In addition, the U.S. consulate is "a partially unaccompanied post" with no dependents of government officials allowed. All officials are on a curfew that requires them to remain in the consulate neighborhood between midnight and 6 a.m. For more information check out this Crime and Safety Report for Monterrey. The report is pretty comprehensive. One item that seems pertinent is the kidnapping stats: "The U.S. Consulate General Monterrey was apprised of 17 kidnappings of U.S. citizens in 2011 in its consular district; all of those are unresolved. There were also 11 homicides of U.S. citizens that were the result of a kidnapping. These numbers do not account for unreported kidnappings."

In the case of Kombo Kolombia at the Potrero, it is still unknown why the band was kidnapped and killed. Most reports suggest that they were not involved with the cartels. Once again, the facts suggest that the cartels act with impunity, and the idea that climbers will be exempt from violence is wishful thinking based on ignorance. Foreigners have been targeted and history has shown that climbers are not immune. A parallel might be Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, John Dickey and Jason "Singer" Smith in Kyrgyzstan. The climbing team was abducted and held for a week after traveling to the region despite a U.S. State Department warning advising Americans to stay away. In this case, thankfully, the climbers were able to make a desperate escape.


I started climbing in El Potrero Chico in the late 1980s and I have spent many happy hours drinking beer, eating tacos and socializing with the residents of Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon. As a group, the people of Northern Mexico are perhaps the most hospitable, kind, compassionate and gentle folks I’ve encountered in all my travels. I’ve been welcomed into people’s homes, fed and housed on numerous occasions. In the 1990s and 2000s I wrote several articles extolling the virtues of this multi-pitch limestone paradise and after exploring many other climbing areas across the globe, Potrero Chico remains one of my favorite destinations. The infrastructure that has grown up around the climbing—the campgrounds, restaurants and guide services—have been affected by the drug violence and it makes me very sad to see my friends struggling. However, the idea that we should not report on the situation because it will adversely impact tourism (as some Internet pundits have implied) seems grossly irresponsible bordering on culpable, especially given the cavalier nature of some of the comments on rockandice.com and other climbing websites in response to the Kombo Kolombia story. Reporting on the very real violence and threat of violence to travelers in Northern Mexico is not “sensationalistic” as several posters have suggested. As always, the best way to remain safe while traveling in a hot zone is to educate yourself. I’ve laid out a brief, recent history of the Mexican drug war as it applies to travel in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. What you choose to do with this information is, of course, up to you.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. Please comment below if you have opinions or information to share.

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Feb 5, 2013 - 11:33pm PT
think I'll pass on Mexico with my two weeks of vacation this year. I hear that Peru is a more climber-hospitable locale.
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