Friday, July 6, 2012

Mexico Trip report part 1


This past christmas, Cory Hall and I went down to Portrero Chico for two weeks of climbing.  This was my first trip outside of Canada/the U.S.  We started planning the trip in October, threw a few routes on our ticklist, and set off.

Initially, the trip started off poorly.  Our first flight was delayed, resulting in us landing 45 minutes after our connecting flight was scheduled to depart.  Magically, the flight hadn't left yet.  The attendant re-opened the doors for us and we narrowly avoided missing the flight (after sprinting a mile through the Houston airport).  The unfortunate result of our tight connection was that our bags couldn't sprint as fast as us and we were going to be arriving in mexico with our carry-on only.

Arriving in the Monterrey airport, we immediately bumped into a fellow climber from California.  He said his name was Daniel and that he was heading to Portrero as well.  He offered to split a cab with us and we gratiously accepted.  We lounged around in the Monterrey airport for a while waiting for our bags to arrive, while military personnel equipped with fairly large weapons milled around us.  When we realised that our bags weren't going to make it, we bid farewell to Daniel (who had his bags) since there was no need for him to hang around.

A few more hours pass, and the staff tell us that we should head to where we're going before nightfall, since our bags weren't going to make it to us that day.  We were told to expect our bags to be delivered by car.  Seeing no alternatives, we walked through customs and into Mexico.  At the taxi area of the airport, we were approached by a man asking us if we needed a taxi.  After informing him that we were indeed in need of a taxi, he told us it would cost $40 and that we were to pay upfront.  We gave him the money, he mumbled something about getting a receipt, the disappeared.  Dismayed, we spent the next 5 minutes thinking that we had just learned our first lesson about Mexico.  To our surprise and great pleasure, however, he returned with a friendly smile on his face.  He handed us a receipt, and pointed to the nearest taxi.  We piled in, spent a few awkward minutes with the driver, attempting to explain our destination.  It is important to note that we spoke extremely minimal Spanish.

The taxi sets off through rural Monterrey, and we drive for about an hour.  The entire time, we have no idea if we are headed to the right place or not.  Our faith was placed entirely in this driver we could not communicate with.  To our relief, he takes us right to the Posada campground, where we immediately meet Daniel again.  His taxi had gotten lost and we arrived at the campground simultaneously. 

We sorted out our camping arrangements, and teamed up with Daniel for our first venture into Hidalgo.  Hidalgo is a 1 mile hike from the campground, but often locals will pick you up and drive you into town.  Our first trip into town is the only trip we weren't picked up.

Daniel was smart enough to have brought a phrase book with him, which proved infintely useful.  We strolled into a deposito (convenience store) and asked the clerk about a poilot (chicken) place we had heard of.  Excitedly, he exclaims that the food is great, but a long way further into town.  As we're leaving, he calls to us that he will drive us there.  He closes up his shop for us and motions to his car.  As we're piling into his car, he tells us his name is Pedro, the spanish version of Peter.  We travel with him to the chicken place, and each order ourselves an entire chicken for about $4 a piece.  Assuming we have seen the last of Pedro, we bid farewell to him, but he had other plans with us.

In true Mexican style, he drives us back to his house, and welcomes us to his kitchen.  We sit down at his table and begin eating.  He continually brings us various spices, herbs, drinks, and other condiments.  I was blown away by his friendliness.  He had just welcomed 3 dirty travellers, who he just met, into his home, without being able to fully communicate with them.  After regailing us with a tale about his UFO sighting out in his backyard, we bid farewell to him once again.  He told us we were welcome in his store and home any time we liked.

That night Cory and I slept on the ground, since we were without tent, sleeping bags, or sleeping pads.  Cory made a bed out of a borrowed rope and used his pocket rain coat as a blanket.  I managed to borrow a pad from a fellow climber for my bed. 

Yankee Clipper

Cold and sleepless, Cory and I rejoice at the sight of the sunrise.  We hooked up with Daniel again since his partner had not yet arrived from California.  Our bags were still nowhere in sight.  We set our sights on Yankee Clipper, a 15 pitch 5.12a (only one pitch of 12a though).  Between the three of us, we had two harnesses, one rope, 10 quickdraws, 1 helmet, and 2 semi-complete anchors.  We started out and simul-climbed much of the route with Daniel in the middle, Cory and I swapping leads.

Cory's homemade harness

Daniel Leading the 14th pitch (We stopped simuling here)

Me following the 14th pitch

Cory didn't have a belay device either, so he had to munter hitch all the way down

The next day, we decided we should head back to the airport to find out about the status of our bags.  We arranged a taxi (not an official one, but an unmarked car.  If the police stopped us, we were told to claim that the driver was our friend).  Outside of Hidalgo, the car pulls over in front of a house and a man walks out to greet us.  He opens the door, tells us to get out, points to another car, and tells us to get in.  Confused and a little scared, we get into the other car, thinking we are about to lose all our money as a best case scenario.  All works out for the best though.  We are taken to the airport, informed that our bags are already on their way to the campground, and head back.  At Posada, we are greeted with our bags and our gear.

Time Wave Zero

Resolved to make up for the slow start, we set our sites on Time Wave Zero, the longest route in the park.  It consists of 23 pitches, with the crux clocking in at 5.12a.  We decide to do it the next day.

We wake up at around 9 a.m., cook breakfast, and head for the climb.  We arrived at the base around 10 or 10:30 a.m and started up.  I took up the sharp end, and Cory and I simul-climbed to the 3rd class ledge.  Handing over the gear to Cory, he took the lead and we simul-climbed to pitch 21 in a single push.  At this point, I took the lead again and led pitch 22, which took us to the crux pitch.  On the crux pitch, I made a silly mistake and ended up falling.  Cory followed the pitch cleanly.  The final pitch was a 4th class scramble up the summit ridge and then we were on top around 2:30 p.m.  We simul-rapped the route and arrived at the base around 3:30 p.m, and we were back in the campsite at 4:00 p.m.  Our second climb in Mexico had gone smoothly.

Simuling the upper pitches

The final summit ridge

Cory and I on the summit

From here on out, I forget the chronological order of events, so the stories may not follow each other linearly. 

Black Cat Bone

One of the routes on our list was Black Cat Bone, 5.10.  Since Jungle Wall is perennially busy, Cory and I decided to wait until evening to run up the climb.  We left Posada around 4:00 p.m and started up the climb.  Unbeknownst to us, the climb needed a 70 meter rope, and we only had a 60.  We only realised this on the 3rd pitch, when I noticed that Cory had gone way past the halfway mark on his lead.  We knew that rappelling would be a problem, but figured we might as well continue to the summit and deal with the descent afterwards.  The climb went smoothly, with many more pitches being over 30 meters in length.  Once at the summit, we devised a plan to make the rappels. 

We would simul-rap to the end of the rope.  Cory would then walk back up the wall on his strand, which would lower me on my strand.  I would clip the rope into bolts as I was lowered.  Once I was at the anchor, Cory would find a stance, or clip into a bolt.  This would give enough slack in the rope for Cory to tie into my strand of the rope.  I would then put him on belay and he would take himself off rappel.  From his stance, he would pull the rope through the anchors, then downlead to my anchor.  Repeat this process a few times, and we were safely on the ground.

I'll type part 2 up Sunday night.  Hope you enjoyed Part 1

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