merry festive new holidaymasyear tacoheads!
while the fire has seemingly been on the wane and there have been a pretty good chunk of folks who i'm assuming were quietly shipped in boxcars to a gulag filled with computers that are still using aol cd accessed interwebs...
still there are enough stragglers, misfits and gerontophiliacs still chilllin by the ones and zeros of this campfire, that i'd like to offer up this reportage of my recent visit to climbing's equivalent of a cruiseship.
and so a cheers to all of the holdouts: may the coming year bring nothing but useful friction [and therefore resultant growth! :) ]
El Potrero Chico: all aboard the cruiseship named the s.s. convenientclipup
[in three parts consisting of t.he h.ihgest h.ighs and t.he l.owest l.ows with nuts and bolts at the end]
part 1: la chica
so i started climbing with this chick [and i'm pretty sure she still receives that as the term of endearment it is intended as] six months ago... and so it was, that she also first touched climbing shoe to foothold, in this last late may.
ever since, it's been a wild ride: watching her lead things for the first time within months of that auspicious start and then seeing her, shortly after, push into climbing, albeit while seconding, hard tens and easy elevens, has been nothing short of remarkable.
so, when the southern albertan weather turned to shIt in early september and we still had fire in our bellies for climbing [and that fire wasn't sated by a long weekend trip to skaha], thoughts of airflights began to dance in our heads.
and so while i hadn't been there in quite a while, the thought of returning to mexico and the ease of the accessibility of the climbing at el potrero chico was hard to resist.
one rope and twenty draws being all you basically need for 1000' plus climbs is one hell of a shiny big m mcdonald's sign shining from the interstate... plus airflights were [relatively] cha-heap!
while there were other climbs that were had, here are some photos and words from the best of our personal good and the worst of our personal bad/ugly on the multipitch front:
t.h.h: dope ninja
this is kind of a funny climb... a bit of jungle mountaineering/scrambling... and super short cruxes...
but also amazing positions, great views and some sweet climbing made it one of the highlights of our climbing trip [even though there were other climbs that we did that were longer/harder/more consistent...]
t.l.l: yankee clipper
first note to future self: a 30 degrees celsius forecast for hidalgo and bringing too little water onto a climb that was made, i suspect by god herself, in order to create a rock shaped pan for optimum human frying, is, shall we say...
second note to future self: nearly transluscently skinned white folks, regardless of sun screen application, can develop heat stroke far quicker than one might previously have imagined possible.
on both points: duly noted and unfortunately first person confirmed.
part 2: los arquitectos
at this point we are going to take a short cultural and cdmx intermission between our climbing and epc bread sided sandwich...
that's because it'd be hard for me to goto mexico without going to mexico city...
how can one not goto a city filled with the resurgently world class food, drink, and design that has currently come to exist at this nexus of western hemisphere history, culture and power? [and i'm certainly not going to complain about the exchange rate either.]
t.h.h: luis barragan
the most important singular driving reason that we decided to head to mexico city in the middle of this epc trip was a mutual love that my traveling compatriot and i has for the work of luis barragan. as one of the most influential of the formative mid twentieth century architects, we were both keen to see more than just photos and were able to book visits to four of his works prior to arriving.
and they did not disappoint. while i've been fortunate to have travelled a fair bit in this life and due to my interests have experienced a number of stunning and impeccable pieces of architecture the world over, for me his personal home/studio and the capilla de las capuchinas are two of the most powerful wholistic experiences of sequential space that i have ever experienced. it was in short a huge inspiration and a reminder of what can be done in this artform when location, client, vision and execution come together.
t.l.l: museo soumaya
at the same time [and ironically enough on literally the same day that we toured barragan's studio] we visited the carlos slim funded newish museo soumaya... and while i try to keep an open mind, and i often tend towards the iconoclastic relative to established critical opinion, i have to say that this was exactly the opposite experience. i'm certain essays could be written on the ill considered space, botched detailing and slap-a-dash curation, but i'll stick with the following: it was the first time i've seen someone get angry over a piece of architecture, in the way that my design educated and passionately minded travelling partner was.
if a person is going to spend $800ish million on a space [and its surroundings] for one's collection of curios at least spend the extra time/manpower that it would have taken to finish getting the admittedly interesting conceptual drivers at least mostly resolved. one owes the collective that generated the wealth at least that. [don't worry: snobbishly trending critiques have now ended]
part 3: el general.
yes, many things at el potrero chico start and end with the general: kurt smith. while there have been a handful of major new routing players over the years [dane bass and majic ed to name two of the other most prolific multipitch creators], there is only one person who headed up the vast majority of the teams that have equipped and/or freed the 5.12+ multipitch climbs at epc. i did not realize this until i started to research potential climbing objectives, and so was surprised with how lengthy his list of long and hard climbs is:
afro juan [12c, 400']
battle royale [13c, 750', first complete fa: sonnie trotter]
devil's cabana boy [12d, 500']
el sendero luminoso [12d, 1750']
mi regalo favorito [13d, 1900', first complete fa: alex honnold]
roman holiday [13a, 400']
time for livin' [13a, 600']
the dude was a first ascent monster.
and so if we're going to speak of the higher highs of a trip like this, it's only fair that we touch on the lower lows as well.
you see, i hoped to get on one or, maybe if i was real lucky, a couple of these climbs when we headed down.
so i get my fattish ass on a hangboard and worked hard in the months leading up. and i actually succeeded in getting back to being in as strong of bouldering shape as i have been in and, over the last year, i also managed to drop twenty pounds...
t.h.h: mini super, mota and mileski walls
and so to get used to his routes i jumped on a bunch of mr. smith's single pitch climbs [among a lot of other folks single pitch climbs as well]. these included hey buddy! you gonna eat that?, left-over man and cerveza on the mini super wall; sleepwalkin', pins and needles, motavision, fat boy slim and spies, lies and naked thighs on the mota wall; and permanent vacation on the milenski wall
and they were generally real nice. that guy picked sweet generally sustained lines and bolted them in what, for me, was kind of a new-school/old-school way [ie. you aren't top roping the cruxes at the same time as you are rarely risking anything overly significant in the way of fall length.]
that said, the only trouble is that they are also getting loved to death. it's not going to be much longer [with that being very evident on the mini super wall] that these single pitch climbs are going to end up polished and greasy very soon, if they aren't already.
ie. get there while the gettin's still good.
t.l.l: mother fUckin middle age
but with regards to hard multipitch climbs? didn't happen. as the title suggests, getting older is a bitch. while i'm not so old that i can't do most of what i could in my relative youth, apparently i can no longer do it all at the same time... ha! and this time drinking/work/a bit of heat stroke/and most importantly a very likely lack of ability, pushed the hard climbing off the list.
regardless: thanks to the general for creating a whole host of beautifully inspiring and convenient to access hard lines that brought stoke to at least this personís training cycles...
while the thing about middle age is that there are no guarantees... still, i hope there is a next time.
part 4: nuts and bolts:
ok. here's an, in part, politically motivated tourist guide... and so with apologies to the conservatives who can't escape leftish leaning politics on even a trip report... and brought to you with a soundtrack by run the jewels:
[Click to View YouTube Video]
while every country has it's own internal problems i have to say that between nafta and the war on drugs there are policies that mexico's neighbors to the north have contributed to the continued disparity in wealth and therefore some of the problems that resultantly exist in much of mexico.
not saying we created nor are responsible for the situation in its entirety... at the same time i'd argue our policies have contributed more negatively than positively, as a whole [and especially in the northern mexican states bordering the u.s.]
what does this have to do with the nuts and bolts of travelling? well, i've been in very few places where i received the level of appreciative service that i received in el potrero chico. and so while there isn't much we can individually do to right the wrongs of our too often short sighted and election cycle driven leadership, one thing we can sometimes do [if we are in a position to] is go visit, spend some money, and tip well.
especially thanks to people like julio, carla, edgardo, aly, herbie, et al our stay at el potrero chico was excellent.
with that in mind here are a few things that i'd personally recommend based on this last trip that took place between nov. 24 and dec. 9, 2018:
accommodation: while there are lots of places to stay and a quick web search will hook you up with lots of options, one i can personally vouch for is the potrero chico nature lodge inside of the park. if you're no longer 20ish and want to be inside the park on the north side of all of the climbing, and so therefore away from almost all of the noise and most of the aggregation of climbers, then these cabins are sweet. they are on airbnb and julio and carla are awesome people who will go out of their way to make your stay comfortable.
transport from the airport if you're flying: most places one might stay at have shuttle services from the airport. while you can get a taxi for $10 or maybe $20 less, taking one of the shuttle services is super convenient as they'll often include a grocery store stop for you and you don't have to worry about pick-up/drop-off times.
food: you'll figure this out while you're there 'cause it's all there and it's all relatively cheap. from edgardo's food truck to checo's to cooking meals with fresh food from le mexicana groceria, it'll be good and filling even if it's not always super gourmet.
partners: hang out at edgardo's food truck and/or hit up the epc climbers group facebook page. in general partners shouldn't be an issue unless you're completely out of season.
timing: generally speaking i personally wouldn't go to potrero between the second week in december and the second week in january. while i like my fast food, i don't like getting it dropped on my head, if'n you know what i'm sayin... as far as season start and end? sometime around mid october to mid march should keep you mostly unbroiled and if you chase shade and non-midday climbing you can push it beyond that.
termas de san joaquin: while the water is a little cloudy and the sulfur smell is hella strong, it's not every day that one gets to head into a turkish styled underground bath, with very few and, quite possibly, even empty premises. if you mention you are from epc you get a discount to boot. and most places can hook you up with a driver to get you the hourish drive that it takes to get there.
but most importantly?
please, don't be a doUche.
gas costs basically as much in mex as it does for its cousins to the north. groceries while cheaper, aren't 50% of can/usa prices and alcohol while also cheap [trust me, when i say i wish i would have planned my mescal buying a little better] still ain't free.
ie. when you see prices that are hard to believe, do the calculations and be aware of what it is costing the folks who are providing the services...
and when it's obvious that they are working for shIt, consider dropping a healthy tip.
all in all? while i have no desire to ever get on a cruise ship... still, i gotta say with regards to giant clip ups that are 5mins from the road and are almost always set up for single rope raps:
yeah, i sure can enjoy a good fast food burger when the time is right.
and when canuckistan is frozen solid? the time is right for a little dose of climbing on the s.s. convenientclipup...