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sonso45


Mar 20, 2009, 2:56 PM
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Central Mexico Crags
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Shortly after my return to the good ol’ USA from a trip to climb Cerro Blanco in Durango, I was given the chance to join a group of friends touring a few climbing areas in central Mexico, a couple of which I had visited in prior trips. Aimee and Kyle Roseborrough had recently climbed the huge 650’ tall limestone cave known as El Chonta (aka Cueva de Hoyanco) with Jaime Velasco. They were psyched to go back and combine a family vacation in Taxco with more climbing. This time they were also going to visit another area, Jilotepec, a conglomerate rock consisting of basalt flakes, knobs and chunks in a fairly solid matrix. The rest of the crew included Carlos Garcia, Marta Puig, Andrew Burr and Peter Vintoniv. Great company for sure, but I was glad to be back to try some of the climbs that I didn’t get on during prior visits.

The Roseborroughs, Jaime and I met up in Toluca airport and drove to Taxco, a colonial silver mining town perched on a steep mountainside. Driving in Mexico is sure to keep you entertained, if you like bullfighting. At least that’s what I likened our drive to. As you drive along your lane, opposing drivers occasionally pass and come into your lane, either you slow down or keep going, using your car as the cape and the bumper the sword! Exciting stuff and thankfully no one had to face the “bull”. Another useful word to remember is “Topes” or road bumps that are found at the beginning and end of most small pueblos and even in some neighborhoods of the larger cities. Occasionally, they slip under the driver’s nose and anyone in the back gets slammed skyward only to be checked by the car’s roof. Ayyy cabron!



Arriving in Taxco with no hotel, we looked around a couple of places and we found a charming low cost hotel near the center of town. A beautiful place, Los Arcos Hotel was once a hacienda that had been added onto with a spectacular courtyard for gazing at the moon with Venus in tow. Another great advantage to staying here: it was only part way up the town’s extremely narrow crowded streets. Originally a Spanish mining center, the streets were laid out for horses and other draft animals instead of modern vehicles.



Next we had to rendezvous with Andrew Burr and Peter Vintoniv; they had flown to Mexico City and driven to Taxco seeking adventure! Before we left the USA, Aimee found a spot and pointed it out on Google Maps, at the Mirador (Viewpoint) just north of town. Incredibly, we actually met them at the chosen spot and on time! We drove to the first area in a convoy arriving at the rancho of Procopio Popoca and his many children, gateway to el Chonta. One great advantage in parking at his home is that he has several donkeys and mules to carry bags to the great cave. It is not a difficult walk but the amount of gear Andrew and Peter brought along is greater than ours; they will camp at the cave to save money. We all want to support Senor Procopio and so I eagerly take a load off and he eagerly loads it on the donkey. He has really been happy to see climbers and even gone to the extent of building a latrine near the cave. A bungalow and camping area are in the planning process on his land. A leisurely 40 minute hike with a 10 minute stop to reload one of the donkeys got us to the cave.



This part of Mexico is always warm so we were fairly warmed up on arrival. A curious story Senor Procopio related was about a deer that fell off the lip of the cave last week. A couple of climbers told him they were climbing and saw it fly by! Wow, it was a six point buck; his family made dried venison and he has the antlers. He also warned us about Jaguars in the area; cool!



Aimee and Kyle warmed up on Mala Fama’s first pitch, a 5.12a (18 bolts) in the middle of the cave at the very bottom. This route is huge, the rest of the 7 pitches go out the roof: 12c, 12d, 12c, 12c, 13a and 11a! It climbs straight up the longest portion of the wall and is one of two entry level pitches in the cave, the other 5.12a is Mantis, just left of Mala Fama. Carlos Garcia and several partners bolted this monster route for a total of 650 feet of overhanging climbing. I watched Aimee smoothly make her way up Mala Fama’s first pitch, easily swinging from tufa to stalactite and pockets galore! She made it look so easy I had to try it. Of course, it is very steep and I found out that she’s much stronger than me. I was just intimidated and nervous, yea right, so I fell a few times. Plus, I cried a little; even with Jaime’s encouragement and beta I flailed a lot. I did make it to the anchors where I took some good photos of Aimee on the route yet again. After that, I chose belay duty and watched the folks work harder and harder routes.



Peter got on Jaguar 5.12d (21 bolts), a long route with a crux jump from tufa to tufa, kinda what the route’s first ascensionist envisioned a jaguar might do if he was crazy enough to be hanging around in this cave! Of course, with some patience and a well-developed eye for movement, Peter was able to move through the crux without resorting to the jump. Dang he’s good.



The next day, after getting the redpoint on Mala Fama, I return to good wishes and congratulations from some very nice people when I offer myself as a belay slave yet again. This time, I am a happy belayer with a wonderful home movie playing in my mind’s eye. Happily, I take photos of Kyle working a 12+ made more difficult by broken holds before the anchor. He actually tunnels through a maze of tufas that cause some serious rope drag. I took this next photo prior to the rope drag/bummer moves.



Carlos Garcia was working a new project, a probable 13ish line that he and his friends Mauricio and Mariano were working. It looked very nice, wish it had gone down while we watched but it was fun to see. It begins with a roof, not the crux and the following photo is the highpoint so far.




Aimee nearly got the onsight on a route just right of Carlos’ new line, Amate Amarillo 12c. She missed the decent holds just below the finish. One of the coolest tufas in the world allows you to sit on it as if it were a saddle. It is overhanging by quite a bit, typical. First shot is Aimee; second shot is Peter being lowered from the anchors. Steep, no?





Yet again we leave our intrepid amigos in the cave while we leave for beds, great food and grog. One of Jaime and my favorite dishes turns out to be Pozole, sold just off the zocalo. This dish is pork and hominy stew with onions, chicharrones and avocado piled on top. I eat and make pozole at home but never like this. I steeled my nerves and dove in; by the way, chicharrones are fried pork skin. It tasted great. We all slept in and enjoyed the morning shopping and wandering about the labyrinth of shops and food stalls that are located all around the town. It felt like an Escher painting, walking up a stair only to find you’re at another location that seems to have popped up at a weird angle.



Finally we leave Taxco to meet our amigos at Procopio’s rancho and move back to Jaime’s home town, Toluca, to prepare for a visit to Jilotepec. We get to rest and enjoy a night on the town. I ask Jaime to find a local specialty: Pulque. This is a fermented juice of the maguey that was used by Aztec warriors for sustenance. It is still a favorite of some in central Mexico and since it doesn’t keep well, it has not done well as an export. Jaime’s father, Jorge Velasco, has always wanted me to sample this beverage of the gods in my previous trips but we just couldn’t get it together. Not tonight, we all agreed to try this historical brew
Jorge and his amigo from the coast, Vicente, joined us soon after we arrived. The natural pulque has a unique flavor. We all had a taste of the natural beverage then chose the flavored pulque. The Pulquero added lots of lime juice and some salt and blended appio (leeks). It tasted quite nice, very natural and smooth, unlike the original strange taste. Jorge, a large gregarious man, lit a smoke, although signs prohibited such, and proceeded to give us a lesson in pulque etiquette and introduced us to all in the bar. From what I can recall, the main lesson was that everyone had to have at least three tall glasses to fully enjoy pulque and we had to spill some for the Aztec god: Two Rabbit. The rest of the evening was short but nice. I think.
Next day, we made our way to Jilotepec and the pinnacles of Dexcani Alto, a community recreation area with tall encinos (oaks) shading the rock and filling the ground with crunching leaves. This is a popular place with picnic areas and cabanas, it’s guarded by a police substation and gate that is closed and monitored at night. When we arrived, there was one couple climbing there but the place is usually crowded on weekends. It is known locally for its well developed trail through the penas (pinnacles) and while there, several people wandered around and some spent time eyeing the climbers. We all started a few steps from the cars on a couple of warm ups, a 5.9 and a 5.11. Here’s Aimee warming up.



The rock is a conglomerate made up of basalt flakes, knobs and larger pieces. The matrix that holds this together is compact and hard although soft sections do appear. Weathering has removed much of the looser stuff but whenever climbing conglomerate, watch yourself and assume nothing is permanent. Even so, I don’t recall any holds falling off during the few times I have climbed there. Shortly after the warm ups we walked a few more steps to the highlight of the area, El Huevo (the egg). It is 50 meters tall and reaches an elevation over 8,500 feet! A couple of two pitch routes grace this large boulder but most are difficult single pitch climbs, some up to 5.14. Here’s Enrique on a 12d on the west face.



I got to climb one of the earliest lines bolted here to help Andrew get to the top, a line up the south aręte first ascended when pins and ring bolts were commonly used. I am happy to say they are still there but newer bolts sprouted nearby. The climbing is reminiscent of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. I don’t mean the rock quality, Jilotepec is much more stable. Like Camelback, the cleanest lines are those washed by rain, removing loose stone that results in stable rock. This route’s crux reminded me of the moves on a Camelback classic, Suicide Direct 5.8 (Herb and Jan Conn line). A challenging couple of moves through an overhang, studded with basalt knobs (Suicide Direct’s holds are not as stable) requiring finesse and the resolve to keep moving make up the 5.10 crux. A couple more steep sections interspersed with slabs get me to the top. The old iron ring anchor, one inch thick, and a new metolious rap hanger make topping out fun and safe. Andrew follows and remarks that it really is a fun climb although in need of new hardware; rainy season takes a toll on exposed steel in central Mexico.



Kyle and Aimee are meanwhile working the real hard stuff, Mas si osare un extrano enemigo 5.13c with many bolts and totally overhung; way, way overhanging from start to finish. Chris Sharma did the first onsight several years ago. Jaime and I flailed up it a couple of years ago, before the manky old bolts, some partially out of the hole and others plain old bent from holding huge whippers, were replaced. Kyle made a great effort and nearly got it. Peter also worked it and he gave it a good burn. This shot shows a professional at work: Andrew Burr shooting the 13c.



The Roseborroughs had to return home and missed the rest of our adventure which began with a visit to Ahuacatitlan (Land of Avocados), a seldom visited crag. We drove over the Nevado de Toluca’s shoulder and arrived sometime after noon for a nice walk to the crag. We met Carlos Garcia and Marta Puig at Las Animas wall. Unlike Chonta and Jilo, this stuff is mostly steep thin technical climbing on andesite with occasional sweeping overhanging sections. There are lots of small sharp edges and pockets like the rhyolite in my home area, Queen Creek. Unlike Queen Creek, the rock is very hard and stable. Also the countryside is awesome; we hike up a path through huertas (orchards) that have all manner of fruit but especially avocados!



There are several sectors here but this is an easy one to rendezvous and it’s shady in the afternoon. Peter climbed the first route, a hard 5.11, quite long and the crux comes high. Of course, it’s a nice warm up for our strong friend and only takes a couple minutes for him to figure the crux out. It is a typical line with a little distance up high between bolts, nothing dangerous just enough to make you work for it. Carlos (he’s been developing this area for 15 years) said that was the tradition here for a couple of reasons, one is the obvious machismo that used to surround our sport and the other practical. To steal the hangers, you have to earn the climb, no aiding between bolts here. Marta enjoys a ride on Peter’s warm up 5.11 through some gentle flora on the wall, showing us how to get it done!



The indefatigable Peter heads up a long steep 12b just right of the start of the wall with Carlos’ warning of a stiff runout to the anchor, to protect the hangers, of course. It is a colorful orange colored line that gets steeper as you go; long too. Cruising the initial part of the route easily, he slowly worked his way to the anchors after the final bolt by heading a bit left to a seam/crack that Peter described as a little loose. Ouch. We all relax after he finally clips the anchor. Routes follow steep rock surrounded by low angle greenery, here’s Peter on the way up the 12b.



As Andrew shoots Marta on the first 5.11, Jaime climbs the un-named aręte at the left side of the wall, a beautiful feature with another difficult finish. The final move is supposed to go left to a flat ledge but the flake that allowed this move is gone. A mantle seems possible from below but the wall above the shelf overhangs enough to push your head back as you try to mount it. After a few tries, Jaime decides to go straight up the thin overhanging face and makes it to the anchor. It was a hard 5.11 when I did it on a previous visit but Jaime calls it a possible 5.12 now. Great, does that mean I can add another 12 to my book since I’ve already climbed it in a previous incarnation? Here’s Jaime looking for the lost flake.



Peter and Carlos end the day by working a beautiful brown and black line, 13b, on the far right side of the wall. Clean rock and an overhung midsection with thin holds clearly appeal to them, and both send the route after a couple of tries. We leave as it gets dark to make the easily descended path before it becomes headlamp time. Another harrowing drive over the mountains to retrieve our things from Jaime’s bouldering cave and then we’re off to Carlos and Marta’s place in Mexico City. They live in an apartment located at an elevation of 9,000’ in a suburb of the city. Carlos points out his local crag from his apartment, Las Manzanas, several pinnacles surrounded by a gorgeous oak forest.
We awoke late yet again. The night before, we enjoyed a shower and great company. Since we are so close to the crag, we are happy to eat a big breakfast and start at the crack of noon, again. I love these guys. A short winding road uphill from Marta and Carlos’ home and we arrive at the parking area in 10 minutes. A nice path wandered through the oak forest until below the penas (pinnacles) we spied from their house. The crag turned out to be a compact volcanic rock with great friction and solid features but generally vertical. Peter likened it to the grit stone he climbed in England last year.
I started the party on a cool tower about 80’ tall on El Chango Cacahuatero, 10c. The crux turns out to be low on a sloper with awe inspiring grippy texture. I raved so much about it that Peter got on it after me but not until Andrew coached him on the desired effect he was looking for. Being a true adventurer, Peter grabbed my sombrero and the now empty caguama (liter of beer) in his shirt before launching up the rock. After a couple of poses with beer in hand, he left it on a shelf (momentarily) and finished the route; singing its praises as well.



We walked further along the path and found great routes everywhere, including another ten Marta pulled off. This also had a sloper but on a sidepull. She made a fine go and Andrew got some great shots of her on it. Next to it was a 5.12 with a short cruxy section that Peter only momentarily stopped to figure out then ran up the rest. I tried it and flew off the thin sharp crimpers that looked friendlier when Peter used them. My final route was a wonderful stem fest up a large chimney, canalon de los colibris (hummingbird channel). Fun, fun and easy for me since I have long legs and arms; I had a smile the whole way up. After a couple more routes, we had to leave the oak trees and song birds that so wonderfully completed the comfortable ambiance of Las Manzanas.


One thing I will not forget, besides’ Marta’s dinner and Carlos’ almond tequila, is the drive to the airport. We made one wrong turn on the toll road and it fed our stress level which was getting higher the closer to departure we got. After driving generally where we thought we should be, moving from likely avenue to unsigned boulevards, we arrive at the Mexico City Airport an hour or so before my flight to Houston leaves. In the USA, we are instructed to arrive at least 3 hours prior to our flight and arriving this late stresses me a bit. Hoping to be directed to the head of the line at check-in, I explain that I’m late but the folks just gently tell me “no hay problema” get in line. I arrive at my gate 30 minutes before boarding! I must remember that people are in less of a hurry in Mexico and more likely to be relaxed about deadlines for a good reason. After all, with great sunny weather, warm temps and a disposition to match, the people I have met in Mexico are always tranquilo (peaceful) and I feel it too after a few days there. After spending so much time in paradise, it must be my looming return to reality once again. Many thanks to Kyle for inviting me and Andrew for letting me use his photos.


squierbypetzl
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Mar 24, 2009, 12:52 AM
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Happy to hear you had a good time. It appears you had quite a trip. Great reporting and pictures too, loved the one with Martha (?) climbing alongside the magueys.


sonso45


Mar 25, 2009, 10:56 AM
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Thanks, Marta's photo and most of the spectacular ones, is an Andrew Burr shot. The trip was great fun. I want to visit Mineral del Chico and Los Dinamos next year.


rockgirlCO


Mar 25, 2009, 7:57 PM
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I sincerely encourage you to submit this to Rock and Ice as an article, and asking Andrew to submit his photos too.


sonso45


Mar 26, 2009, 6:50 AM
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Kyle has written an article for Climbing using Andrew's photos. I agree that we need to have more information and coverage of such a wonderful place. Thanks, though.


reno


Mar 27, 2009, 2:20 PM
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Nice write up, Manny, and great pics, too.


aimeerose


Mar 27, 2009, 9:07 PM
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Great job Manny! I wish we had as much space for the print version, but Que sera. Guess I just have to keep it concise. Thanks for the compliments.


Chinchen


Apr 25, 2009, 8:22 AM
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Awesome!


markguycan


Jun 6, 2009, 2:13 PM
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nice TR, MR. great pics and story.


daniel32


Jun 14, 2010, 5:13 AM
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great article, and the climbing looks superb!

I'm going to be in Central Mexico from 2nd-19th July and would be really interested to meet some people to climb with in the areas talked about here.

If anyone is in the area in July or knows any climbers in the area and could put me in touch I'd be very grateful. I climb up to 7a/7a+ or 11d/12a, and regrettably I don't speak any spanish.

you can email me at dan@engelside.co.uk many thanks!


gblauer
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Jun 14, 2010, 3:44 PM
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Manny, sounds like you had a lot of fun. Are you going to come East this summer?


shu2kill


Jun 15, 2010, 7:05 AM
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sonso45 wrote:
Kyle and Aimee are meanwhile working the real hard stuff, Mas si osare un extrano enemigo 5.13c with many bolts and totally overhung; way, way overhanging from start to finish. Chris Sharma did the first onsight several years ago. Jaime and I flailed up it a couple of years ago, before the manky old bolts, some partially out of the hole and others plain old bent from holding huge whippers, were replaced. Kyle made a great effort and nearly got it. Peter also worked it and he gave it a good burn. This shot shows a professional at work: Andrew Burr shooting the 13c.

.

Great trip report!! i really enjoyed it, specially since its from my country =)

BTW, do you know that Masiosare was "sculpted" by the bolter?? i have never climbed it, but i personally spoke with the bolter, Milton Jonathan Solano "Jonas". He said he had to modify or create 7 holds, including the stone bridge... according to him, everyone who has redpointed the route agrees that without the hold job, that route would be almost impossible.... its a 5.13c as it is right now!!! also, he mentioned that there are several people who claim the redpoint without using the improved holds, but he says thats because they dont know which holds he modified... some people know only 2 or 3, but he says there are 7 of them... i think masiosare is one of the most famous routes in Mexico, mainly because of how controversial it was....


sonso45


Jun 15, 2010, 8:10 AM
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Gail: I have no plans to travel far; thought the east would be humid! Where are you climbing?

Shu2kil: I got flamed after someone saw I hung my way up Massiosare, told me they enforced ethics in Northern AZ. Huh? I didn't put the route up, only hung. It is even controversial in the US!!! Jaime Velasco and I flailed all over it before the bolts were replaced, scary metal. Aimee and Kyle worked it but did not succeed; this trip anyway.


(This post was edited by sonso45 on Jun 15, 2010, 8:11 AM)


shu2kill


Jun 15, 2010, 8:22 AM
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sonso45 wrote:
Gail: I have no plans to travel far; thought the east would be humid! Where are you climbing?

Shu2kil: I got flamed after someone saw I hung my way up Massiosare, told me they enforced ethics in Northern AZ. Huh? I didn't put the route up, only hung. It is even controversial in the US!!! Jaime Velasco and I flailed all over it before the bolts were replaced, scary metal. Aimee and Kyle worked it but did not succeed; this trip anyway.

how can someone "enforce ethics"?? you can enforce the law, but personal ethics are just that, personal. that route is a classic, many climbers i know of dream about climbing that route in particular. and as the bolter said, he wanted to put up a fun line, one that people would enjoy and would want to climb.... i believe he was successful....


sonso45


Jun 15, 2010, 8:44 AM
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The route is a lot of fun and hard. I was just commenting on how some people think they are the police because they say so. In this case, he was ranting at me not to chip routes in northern AZ. Even though I don't chip nor condone it, the route Milton created is fine as it is. It is an old argument and if it is acceptable in Jilo, asi es!


shu2kill


Jun 15, 2010, 9:09 AM
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sonso45 wrote:
The route is a lot of fun and hard. I was just commenting on how some people think they are the police because they say so. In this case, he was ranting at me not to chip routes in northern AZ. Even though I don't chip nor condone it, the route Milton created is fine as it is. It is an old argument and if it is acceptable in Jilo, asi es!

it is accepted by some, and frowned upon by others... the fact is that the route is there, people climb it, and enjoy it from what i have heard. i hope i have the chance to try it some day... my grade is still very far from it though, but ill keep training...


gblauer
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Jun 15, 2010, 7:42 PM
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Manny, we are at the gunks every weekend. Come East! Gail


mrtristan


Jun 28, 2010, 10:27 AM
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Wow! Very cool rock. Have to add this stuff now to my "places to climb before I die" list...


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