Coming to Mexico, Daniel and I (Nick) were looking for two things: bolts, and a break. After five straight months of trad climbing, big walls, and alpine climbing, we wanted a vacation from our vacation. Well, El Potrero Chico gave us all that we wished for, and more.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
Dave's taste of the van life quickly ended, and he had to head back to NL to get ready for grad school in January.
Daniel and I dropped him off at the airport for his 6 AM flight home, and immediately departed for Mexico.
We drove for a day-and-a-half through New Mexico and Texas to reach the border crossing in Laredo.
Wednesday, December 14th, 2016
It was a three-hour affair to enter Mexico, then register ourselves and Wesley. Following some suspiciously detailed directions that Daniel found online, we were quickly introduced to the chaotic Mexican driving ethic...
Rule no. 1
There are no rules in Mexico
On the toll-free roadways, center lines are about as common as unicorns, the number of traffic lanes is determined by the width of vehicles, and unmarked speed bumps appear at random in the middle of 80 km/h highways. The toll roads are slightly better, but there is still the foreign "drive-on-the-shoulder-to-let-faster-cars-pass" ethic to adjust to.
Despite the culture shock, we arrived in Hidalgo by dusk, unscathed. Without any idea where to stay, we stumbled upon a friendly contact, Edgardo, who welcomed us to El Potrero with pizza and beer. We parked Wesley on an unknown patch of gravel somewhere among the precipitous limestone canyons. We finally collapsed in bed half-drunk and exhausted. Welcome to Mexico!
Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Our first priority was to find a campground. Easier said than done. There are five campgrounds to choose from near El Potrero, ranging from ritzy "La Posada" to simple and cheap "Homero's."
Cheap... perfect! We rolled into Homero's without a toddler's level of Spanish fluency, and tediously mimed and Google-translated our agreement for a 12-night stay. The total cost? $45 US each. Cha-ching
Daniel and I spent the next few days climbing single pitch routes and checking out the various local crags. Taking advantage of the liberally-bolted multipitch climbs, we took a jaunt up 'Estrellita' (5.10b). We simul-climbed, and were astounded to arrive at the top of the 11-pitch route in 75 minutes, even after having spent 20 minutes resolving a rope snag.
Sunday, December 18th, 2016 - Mike Arrives
On Sunday morning, we stepped out of the van after eating breakfast to see a go-kart-sized Nissan blaze into the campground, kicking up a cloud of dust and gravel in its wake. It blew past our van, drifted into a handbrake turn at the end of the road, and returned to pull alongside us. We peered inside... who could this maniac be?
After two delayed flights, Daniel's friend and past roommate from Montreal, Mike Garrison, had arrived. He had decided book an impromptu flight to Mexico to spend Christmas with us!
Daniel and I piled into the Nissan, and we peeled out to go for a climb.
We spent another two days climbing and hanging out with new friends around the campground. A local volunteer-run cafe, "El Búho" (the owl), hosted barbecues every Tuesday. With Mike (a seasoned Mexican traveler) around, the food and prices at the grocery store were demystified, so we rounded up some traditional Mexican fixin's and prepared a feast on the grill.
Most of the crowd at El Búho were climbers. We integrated easily, and made several more new friends.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 - 'Time Wave Zero'
Yes, 'Time Wave Zero' is one of the two mega-classic routes in El Potrero Chico (the other being El Sendero Luminoso). Six months ago, Daniel and I would have planned to wake up at 3 AM, then spend the entire day and part of the night climbing and rappelling the 2,300-foot route. However, after all of our practice climbing long routes, we decided we could afford to sleep in a little bit...
12:45 PM - Our first pass
The climbers ahead of us listened to me approaching for ten minutes. I was breathing loudly and steadily, feeling like a marathon runner. All pistons were firing as I blazed through a 5.9 pitch in five minutes to join Fred on the trunk of a palm tree. He and his partner David were happy to let us pass, and in another 15 minutes, I was at the top of pitch 18, 5 pitches below the summit, and completely spent.
Sweat beaded down my nose, my mouth felt like it was filled with glue, my shirt was pied with sweat stains, and my forearms were swollen to twice their normal size, almost too pumped to pull the rope through the grigri. We had already passed the two-hour mark, and I didn't think I could climb any further.
Daniel led to the base of the crux 5.12a pitch, where we took a rest on a ledge as two ladies ahead of us climbed. I couldn't help but get into a better mood, despite my exhaustion, as I listened to Jess encouraging Amy to send the pitch: "Your ass looks amazing from here Amy, you've got this!"
At this point, we had dropped our goal of completing the route in two hours, so waiting for Amy to lead the 5.12a pitch and for Jess to attempt the crux gave us a good chance to rest and relax.
Nick fired up the pitch with a couple falls and I followed quickly. In the last two pitches, we caught up to the girls and we all enjoyed the summit together. Us, after 5 hours, and them, after 12 long hours of climbing. They came prepared for the moment and opened a little bottle of champagne.
4 PM - Summit of Time Wave Zero
All in all, we didn't pick a good day to climb the route in two hours. It was 25 degrees Celsius, the route was in the sun all day, and there were five parties ahead of us that day. However, the climbing was really good quality and we made new friends.
On the way down, we combined ropes with Amy and Jess and we all rapelled together. Since Nick and I simul-rappelled first, Jess and Amy decended after us at every length of rope. Dispite their exhaustion, they very much enjoyed shaking their bums and seeking further compliments about them.
From base to summit to base, the entire climb took 7 hours. Much longer than we expected. However, compared to Jess and Amy's 15-hour time, we couldn't get too hung up about it.
And the rest is history...
Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 - A rest day
Along with Jess and Amy, we later befriended Alex and Holly, who were also on Time Wave Zero that day. Together, we decided to take a much needed rest day and visit local hot springs. Just as we were piling the seven-person crew into Wesley, our doppelgangers Darren and Nik expressed interest in coming with us. So we crammed them in too.
The drive was an hour long; after five minutes, Daniel realized he would be driving a party bus. As he and Mike struggled to orient us towards the hot springs on the treacherous back roads of rural Mexico, the rest of us partied like it was frosh week. Music blared as tequila was poured, and filming took place for an exclusive 'Panda' music video.
Daniel maintained his focus as he was twerked on, subjected to cacophonous music, and filmed. In good Mexican style, we finally arrived at the hot springs, and nine climbers piled out of the van like circus clowns.
Friday, December 23, 2016 - "No mas tequila"
Nightfall eventually descended. The hot-springs crew had separated for the day of climbing, but now something mystical was happening. Cosmic forces were drawing the legendary crew together once more.
7:30 PM - Rancho El Sendero
In two's and three's, we filled in a large table at the weekly Rancho el Sendero barbecue. Vegetarian pizza, pea soup, and habanero spiced tacos were on the menu. The piña coladas were excellent, but most people drank margaritas. They were served in gigantic, XXL at McDonald's sized cups, and filled to the brim with crushed ice, triple sec, fresh lime juice, and god knows how much tequila.
After satiating our appetites, someone called out a music request. Without anyone noticing, Amy disappeared. At the same time, Jess said something about how cold she was. A jacket was offered, then another. Both were accepted. Then, I offered my jacket, and Holly offered hers! Soon, Jess was immobile, bound in a fluffy straight-jacket comprised of no fewer than nine puffy jackets. We were giggling as she blundered around when the background mariachi music suddenly stopped...
This what they all been waitin' for
"Panda panda panda panda panda..." we chant as Jess climbs up onto a chair. The impressive base drums of 'Panda' start booming from a nearby speaker; vibrations threaten to dislodge Amy's recently connected phone. The surrounding climbers, at least 30 of them, suddenly all stare at our table.
Mayhem breaks loose - I notice Darren twerking up against our table. Daniel and Mike are waving their arms in the air like gumbys. Jess starts to unzip her outermost jacket, and we all start yelling.
Her second and third jackets come off. Some of the other climbers are standing now, a few awkwardly starting to dance. Someone at another table yells out "YEAAAAH GIRL"
Jackets number five and six hit the patio, and almost everyone chimes in with encouragement.
"panda... panda. panda panda panda panda pan..." The music rises up in a soft spoken, almost mumbled chorus, but everyone knows what's coming next.
Jacket number eight tumbles onto the chair.
Along with Desiigner's monotone voice, I scream some inane variation of "I got broads in Atlanta," and everyone at the barbecue, even the reserved Mexican hosts, start to lose their minds. Jess has stripped down to just her t-shirt, and everyone roars with applause.
The song fades away with soft electronic keyboard chords. Everyone gathers to high-five Jess, and collect their discarded puffies.
The local groundskeeper hops up onto a table, and announces a special deal on tequila.
We spent the rest of the night dancing around a bonfire, giving unbelievably satisfying climber's massages, taking body shots, and just generally disturbing the peace.
Eventually we all decided to stumble back to our campsites. While talking on the phone with Megan, I fell behind the group, and everything went dark. I woke up the next day with a ruthless hangover, a dozen inexplicable pictures on my phone, and a hole in the knee of my pants.
Saturday, December 24th, 2017 - Christmas eve
Recovering from my hangover took all day, but by evening I was ready to face the public world. Jess and Amy, and Darren and Nik had gone home. Those of us who remained went to La Posada for Christmas dinner. After the unexpectedly fancy and delicious meal, we headed over to Homero's, and joined in a dance-party-turned-limbo-contest.
Sunday, December 25th, 2017 - Christmas day
El Búho hosted a gift exchange. We showed up with two parcels that were disparagingly called out for being "classic dude gifts" - two bottles of tequila wrapped in empty beer boxes with duct tape. Hey, sometimes you get out more than you put in.
After a docile Mexican dance party at Homero's we said goodbye to Holly and Alex, and finally the legendary crew was dispersed. Like gasoline on dry grass, crazy Mexican fiestas sparked immediately, roared into a conflagration, and burned out before we even knew what happened. The next day, Darren, Holly, and Alex sent us this silent video:
Monday, December 26th, 2016 - Final day of the Choss Boys road trip.
Daniel and I decided to make our last climb a good one. Like old hands, we grabbed our progress-capture devices, quickdraws, and rope. Mike dropped us off at the base of 'Space Boys,' and we raced to the top before the sun had traveled a single degree across the sky. Twelve pitches down in the blink of an eye.
Too early to climb off into the sunset, Daniel and I rappelled the route, and accepted that the Choss Boys roadtrip would finish instead with a spicy feast at Homero's.
The next day, Daniel and Mike set off together to drive home. I caught my last glimpse of Wesley awkwardly parked outside a parking garage, too tall to fit. Then, I went to Guadalajara to see Megan, and spent two weeks in paradise.
Stay tuned, the Choss Boys aren't done yet...
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
Keep up to date with our adventures! Subscribe below to get an email for each new blog post.