Tips For a Climbing Adventure in El Potrero Chico Mexico
"The little Corral" in Spanish, El Potrero Chico (EPC) is a stunning limestone destination in the northern part of Mexico, about an hour from the large city of Monterrey. EPC is known largely as a sport climbing destination with one of the highest concentration of multi-pitch sport climbs in the world. The style of climbing can vary depending on the crag, but most of the climbing is vertical or near-vertical with thin holds and sometimes delicate movement with sharp limestone.
Over Christmas and New Years, I traveled to EPC alone for around 9 days. I went with a goal of climbing as much as I could and having as much fun as possible. I believe I accomplished both.
One of my worries with going by myself was not having anyone to climb with. That worry soon disappeared when I arrived. Due to flights getting canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic I arrived at La Posada (a climber hostel with camping and private rooms) around 9pm. After setting up my tent in the dark, I was immediately offered beers from a group of climbers sitting at a picnic table. From this point forward I had plenty of friends and more then enough people to climb with for the rest of my trip.
Climbing on The Jungle Wall
One of the coolest things about El Potrero Chico is the accessibility, There is basically no approach to any crag that is longer than 15 mins, and the canyon itself is a 5 minute walk down the road from La Posada, the hostel I was camping at. I was trying to walk the line between climbing hard and enjoying all the classic, long multi-pitch routes. I would say I spent 5 days of the trip climbing long moderate multi-pitch routes and 3 days climbing classic 5.12 single pitch routes. I definitely was not going down there to waste time projecting a hard route single pitch route. The Majority of the classic long routes are within the grades 5.10a-5.10d. The longest and most adventurous route I climbed was Yankee Clipper, 15 pitches with an overall grade of 5.12a. But The majority of the climbing was 5.9-5.10, with only the optional last pitch being 5.12a. Because it was in the 90s during the week, we chose to start climbing Yankee Clipper in the very early morning as the route sits directly in the sun. Therefore we climbed the first 7 pitches in the dark to avoid the heat. I would recommend this route for anyone who can confidently climb 5.10c and wants a long multi-pitch adventure. The climbing is extremely grippy limestone with many pockets and cracks. It was pretty awesome to be utilizing lots of hand and foot jamming while clipping bolts.
Top 5 Route Recommendations
1. Pitch Black: 5.10+, 6 Pitches
2. Yankee Clipper: 5.12a, 15 Pitches
3. Off The Couch: 5.10d, 7 Pitches
4. Salty Dog 5.12a, 1 pitch
5. Treasure of The Sierra Madre: 5.10c, 7 Pitches
Relaxing by The Pool at La Posada
Accommodations and Food
There are many places to stay and eat within a 15 minute walk to the climbing. The nearest grocery store however is in the town of Hidalgo which is a 40 minute walk to the climbing. I recommend planning ahead and picking up groceries on your way in from the airport.
La Posada: This is where I stayed for most of my trip. It is a 5 minute walk to the climbing. The food is great, there are plenty of places to camp and they also have private rooms, glamping, bathrooms and showers. The pool is also beautiful and a great place to spend a rest day. This was a great place to hangout and meet other climbers, I would definitely recommend this place especially if traveling alone.
Rancho El Sendero: This is another climber hangout and a great place to meet people, It is about a 20 minute walk to the canyon and has a pool, bar, restaurant, bathrooms, shower and private rooms.
Finca Caminante: Though this place is around a 25 minute walk to the climbing, it is a cool and unique place to stay. All the buildings are made from eco-friendly materials and have a Biopool. This place has individual houses to rent along with a hostel. They also have a yoga room and host iowaska ceremonies in their mescal sweat lodge.
Checo's Restaurant: About a 5 minute walk from the canyon-Amazing Tacos, Burritos and Guacamole. Their flan is also some of the best I've ever had.
Leo's: A 15 minute walk from the canyon, great enchiladas and tacos.
La Posada: The only restaurant near the canyon that takes credit cards. Their burritos are awesome and they are the only place open for breakfast; so come here for your coffee in the morning.
- A 70 Meter climbing rope: Most of the routes there will require a 70 meter rope for rappelling, I never felt the need to do a double rope rappel though.
- Helmet: This is an area known for some rockfall so a helmet is a must.
- Harness, shoes, chalk: Duh!
- Rappel and Belay setup: ATC, Grigi, prusik, Teather, PAS, etc.
- At least 20 quickdraws, including alpine draws: This place is well bolted and with a 70 meter rope you can link pitches for more efficient climbing.
- A climbing guidebook: EPC Climbing, By Frank Madden, there is a fair amount of routes and information that is not on Mountain Project yet.
- Headlamp: I did plenty of climbing and socializing in the dark.
- Quad Anchor: In my opinion this is the safest and most efficient anchor to use in multipitch sport climbing.
- Locking Carabiners: You can never have enough.
- A small multi pitch bag: This will be really helpful on multi pitch climbs to keep your shoes, water, and snacks it. I don't recommend anything bigger than 20 liters. My choice is the Arc'teryx Aerios 15
- Clothing: Your standard climbing clothing along with warm clothing, it can be very chilly at nights and at the shaded crags. I would recommend a puffy and a hat.
- Sandals: Something nice and comfy after a long day in those climbing shoes
- A Portable Battery Charger
View from the top of "The Spires"
Flying into Monterey should be fairly easy from most places. As far as transportation from the airport to EPC both La Posada and Rancho El Sendero offer shuttle services from the airport to their locations. You can also find locals offering shuttles in El Potrero Chico Facebook Group. There are also taxi kiosks in the airport that are fairly priced and safe. I would not recommend taking an Uber though, the Monterey airport is anti Uber which can cause some complications when getting picked up.